The Summer of ‘53
It was a unique twist of fate that brought Douglas McGehe and his wife, Joan, to Hotel Julien Dubuque last month. Upon overhearing a conversation about a bus tour headed to Dubuque and Galena while visiting the Fort Wayne Zoo in Indiana, Douglas eagerly inquired about reserving seats. “I was enchanted when I thought of the idea of going back to Dubuque,” Douglas said. “I called [them] right away and said, ‘What do I have to do? I want to go.’”
Already thrilled about returning to his hometown, Douglas’s excitement grew immensely when he learned that he and his wife would be staying at Hotel Julien Dubuque, the exact location of their wedding reception which was held 62 years earlier.
Douglas and Joan, both of whom are actively involved in the Towne House community in Fort Wayne, Indiana, recall many fond memories of growing up in Dubuque. “You know, that’s where I met Joan,” Douglas said. “I graduated high school there. That’s where we were married. There are a lot of great memories to revisit for us in Dubuque.”
The couple met at a party in 1953, the very night that Douglas returned home to Dubuque from serving in the military. Though they both had accompanied other guests to the party, Douglas made a point to introduce himself to Joan and invite her on a date later that week. “We went to Galena and saw a film at the Avalon Theatre… The owner knew that I had just gotten out of the service so they let us into the movie for free,” said Douglas. “The movie was Moulin Rouge starring José Ferrer and Zsa Zsa Gabor. I took her to the Log Cabin for dinner…Anyway, we got married three months later.”
Three months was a fast engagement even for the fifties, but Douglas was facing a job transfer from Dubuque to Columbia City and Joan wanted to make the move with him. “I told her about the transfer and she said, ‘I want to go with you’. Well, in 1953, when they say ‘take me with you’, you got married,” Douglas said.
And fortunately so as Douglas and Joan have since proceeded to enjoy over 62 happy years of marriage, have welcomed and raised two daughters, and have made many amazing memories together. “We’ve taken kids and adults to Europe three times. We’ve been to Hawaii four times, taken seven cruises,” Douglas said. “We’ve done a lot of things – we’re still doing a lot of things.”
During their recent visit to Hotel Julien Dubuque, the couple enjoyed breakfast in the Harbor Gallery, the very same room where their wedding reception took place 62 years ago. Some highlights of their trip back to Dubuque include touring St. Luke’s church, enjoying a riverboat ride, and visiting Eagle Point Park. They also took a drive to Galena and visited Log Cabin Steakhouse, the site of their very first date.
“It was a phenomenal thing that we would end up back in Dubuque,” Douglas said. “I’m 86 years old so it was great to be able to do those things again. This was just a wonderful opportunity and we enjoyed every minute of it.”