I’m a sucker for fairy-tale romances that last forever and hearken back to a simpler time. After interviewing Marcie Dombrock, I wrote this account of her marriage to John, her knight in shining armor. I know all you hopeless romantics out there will enjoy it!
THE TRUCKER AND THE SOAP GIRL
Seventeen-year-old Marcie Phillips and Frances Welch, her friend across the street, were fed up with being jolted awake by the trucker who was renting a room in the Jensen house next to where Frances lived. The trucker’s post-midnight arrivals were announced by a very loud motor that kept running to keep the engine cool. On Halloween, the two girls exacted their revenge—they soaped the windows of the trucker’s car, then scurried away giggling.
Marcie would not have the last laugh. Seven months later, the trucker attended services at the church across the street, the same church where Marcie’s family lived in the basement by virtue of her parents being church janitors. The trucker took a fancy to the cute girl singing in the choir and asked Kenny Jensen, who was a friend of Buddy, the cute girl’s brother, to pass along a message. “So Kenny came over one day and said to Buddy, ‘John wants to meet your sister,’” Marcie remembers. “And they were both pretty disgusted about that.”
A meeting was arranged at a Ladies’ Aid sale and supper at the church. John Dombrock bought a brand new suit, complete with new socks, shoes and underwear for the occasion. It wasn’t new for long. “One of the ladies in the church poured coffee all over his brand new suit,” Marcie says. “I felt so bad for him.”
She also felt bad for herself, having immediately recognized John as the trucker whose windows she and Frances had soaped. “I confessed after going out with him for four or five months,” Marcie says. “It took me that long because I was quite embarrassed about it. When I told him, he said, ‘Oh, God, I never did get that soap off.’”
After their first meeting, John, who was still blissfully unaware of Marcie’s soapy alter ego, asked her for a date that Saturday. She agreed, on the condition that John ask her parents, who readily gave their approval for a “real” date. That Saturday, the couple headed over to the Wold-Chamberlain Air Field in St. Paul. “We were having a really nice time,” Marcie recalls. “ You could pay for airplane rides so we dared each other to go up in the plane. We both went for a ride, and flew over our neighborhood on the east side. When we came home, my parents asked what we did, and I said, ‘We went up in an airplane.’ My dad looked at John and said, ‘You did what?!’ They did not think that was a very good idea for a first date.’
A second date followed, as did a third and a fourth. Six weeks after Marcie’s high school graduation in 1940, the trucker and the soap girl were married and moved into a place of their own in South St. Paul. John continued trucking for the Noble Transit Company, regularly hauling a truck full of meat all the way to Chicago.
A year after becoming husband and wife, the happy couple moved to Baraboo, Wisconsin, where two of John’s cousins, who were also truckers, lived. “My mom and dad did not like that we decided to move to Baraboo,” Marcie says. “But it was a very nice little town and we loved being there.”
When the man who lived downstairs from the Dombrocks encouraged John to apply for a job at the place he worked, the Wisconsin Power and Light Company, John did, and landed the job. The new job necessitated a move to Prairie du Sac, Wisconsin, where John also began working part-time in the local theater. “The lady who owned the theater bought another theater in Chilton, Wisconsin, and she wanted John to manage it,” Marcie says. “He thought that was really something.”
Off went the trucker and the soap girl to Chilton, where they lived for thirty-seven years, made many wonderful friends and raised four handsome sons. In October 1981, the Dombrocks moved to Owatonna to help their oldest son, David, run a print shop. And that’s where they stayed, in a two-story townhouse two blocks away from Rich, their youngest son, until the realities of old age led them to move in with Rich and his wife, Candi.
John and Marcie’s life together had come full circle. Way back in Baraboo, John’s parents had come to live with them. “I hadn’t been married very long when I had a mother- and father-in-law living with me,” Marcie notes. “My mother-in-law was eighty-four when she died, and John’s dad was sixty-five; he died on a Christmas Eve at our house.”
Marcie got along with her in-laws just fine, except that space was at a premium. “We had a small house and it would have been nice to have some privacy,” Marcie admits. “They tried and we tried but there just wasn’t enough room. And with John working nights at the theater, there was no time for us to go out and do things together.”
Still, Marcie, now eighty-seven, has no regrets. “My mother-in-law was very, very good to me, and I tried to be good to her,” she says. “She was always busy on Saturdays, baking the most wonderful rolls and breads and coffee cakes.”
Marcie’s home is once again filled with the sweet smells of baking. Her daughter-in-law Candi has a small baking business and makes sure that Marcie samples the wares to her heart’s content. History also repeated itself in that, just as his own father had died peacefully at home in the chill of December, so too did John pass in his sleep just this last December.
And just as her own mother-in-law continued to live with her son and his wife after her husband died, so too does Marcie now share a home with her son and his wife. “Moving in with Rich and Candi was a perfect deal for us,” she says. “And now with me being alone, I have somebody in the house all the time so I don’t have to be afraid.”
Life without her longtime companion has been an adjustment, but Marcie is determined to enjoy the rest of her life. “John was ninety-two and hadn’t been feeling well for a good six months,” she says. “I wasn’t expecting it and it was a real shock, but you have to pick up the pieces and take care of yourself. And he would be the first person to say that.”
John may be gone, but Marcie feels anything but alone, what with Rich and Candi just downstairs and seventeen grandchildren and eighteen great-grandchildren to spoil. “John and I were married sixty-eight years,” she says. “He was very, very good to me all the time; we almost never had an argument. I have lots of memories and I’m very thankful for those.”
And when the day comes for Marcie to join her husband, she will be ready to go. After all, she knows that he’ll be waiting in heaven to pick her up . . . in a nice old ’36 Ford without any windows.
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