Editor’s Note: This is part one of a two-part series about the Sathre family and their former Carmichael business, Sathre Jewelers.
For many longtime, local residents, the death of Mary Victoria Sathre at the age of 89 on Feb. 26, conjures up memories of a former, well-known Carmichael business and the family who operated it.
That business, Sathre Jewelers, was founded on April 1, 1947 by Mary and her husband, a jeweler named Raymond Emmet “Ray” Sathre.
Ray died on Feb. 10, 1989, only two days after he turned 71 years old. And the jewelry store ceased operations 49 days later and two days shy of the business’s 42nd anniversary.
Although Ray and Mary Sathre became well known residents of Carmichael, relatively few locals are familiar with their lives prior to the founding of their popular business.
Serving as the main spokesperson for his family for this series, Ron Sathre, who was the first-born of the three children of Ray and Mary, shared details about his parents’ upbringing by immigrants from Norway and Germany, respectively.
“My dad grew up in Tuttle, N.D. on a farm, (about 44 miles from east of Bismarck),” Ron said. “(His parents, Hans and Kari Sathre) came from Saetre, Norway in about 1908. The kids learned to speak Norwegian first and then English.
“In Norway back then, which was over 100 years ago, they had the custom of being named after the farm that you lived on, and so my grandfather lived on one farm and my grandmother lived on another farm. And two other people lived on two other farms that were co-located at Saetre. That’s the Norwegian spelling. But when they came to America, they changed it to Sathre. Although there were four separate farms, they all had the same last name.”
In speaking about his mother and her parents, Ron said, “Mom grew up in Saugus, Calif. on a farm made up of sand, sage brush and oak trees. They had grapes, wheat, cattle, goats, rabbits and other animals. So, she had a good, but rough life as a child. She learned German first and then had to learn English when she went to school. She had to walk, I think she said, two miles to school, sometimes barefooted. She skipped eighth grade and was promoted to the next grade that her older sister, Maggie, was in. They both graduated from San Fernando High School in June 1942.
“Her parents (Joseph ‘Joe’ and Minna ‘Minnie’ Nurenberger Warmuth) came from Germany. They did not know each other. I know my grandfather, Joseph Warmuth, came over in about 1897. He worked in a butcher’s shop in New York, and then he moved to be with his brothers in Los Angeles, where he worked as a butcher. He married (Minnie) in Los Angeles in about 1912.”
Ron added that his grandparents in North Dakota were married in Wisconsin in about 1910, and that his father grew up with three sisters and three brothers, and his mother grew up with two sisters and three brothers.
Ray, who attended teachers’ college after high school, continued to reside in North Dakota until 1942 when he joined the Navy during World War II.
After placing in the top five in his class as an aviation machinist’s mate in Norman, Okla., Ray was sent to Consolidated Aircraft training in San Diego, where he worked on the famous B-24 Liberator bombers.
Ron said that his own existence may have been predicated upon the timeliness of Japan’s unconditional surrender to the Allies following the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
“My father was in the Navy until the end of the war,” Ron said. “He got out in February of 1946. He was on Iwo Jima at the end of World War II, and they were poised to invade Japan (through the two-part allied plan, ‘Operation Downfall,’ which was intended to begin in October 1945) had Japan not surrendered. It was a good thing they did. Otherwise, I might not be here.”
After returning to civilian life, Ray remained in California and began working for a jeweler.
In speaking about his father’s decision to work for that jeweler, Ron said, “Interestingly enough, after World War II, he went back to his hobby of watch repairing. He loved working on the watches with the small parts. So, the engines that he worked on that were sometimes maybe 6 feet in diameter got traded in for these little watch parts that are about a quarter-inch in diameter. He was working for a jeweler in Beverly Hills to better learn the trade. This was still in 1946.”
Ron explained that it was also in 1946 when Ray met Mary.
“In July 1946, Mom went to the Figueroa Ballroom (at 1925 South Figueroa Street) in Los Angeles, which was a normal thing for everybody to do back then,” Ron said. “They didn’t have all this entertainment, big screen TVs and all that. So, my mom is sort of hanging around looking to dance with somebody and my dad was sort of looking around to dance with somebody. Finally, he asked her to dance and she found out that my dad was in the Navy and then was becoming a watch repairer. And she said, ‘Isn’t that funny, because I’m dating this other guy who was also in the Navy and who is also becoming a watch repairer guy or jeweler.’ But he was a little shorter and fatter. My dad was taller and thinner, so my mom was attracted to my dad along with his spark and personality.
“At the end of the evening, my dad said, ‘Gee, I’d like to see you again.’ My mom being pretty smart knew what the lay of the land was, and the lay of the land was that she didn’t have a phone at the ranch in Saugus. She didn’t want to appear as somebody without any money or means, and so she said, ‘Give me a nickel and I’ll call you basically when my schedule allows.’ My mom was pretty smart, and, of course, you could make a phone call back then for a nickel. So, my mom got the nickel from my dad and she called him and they started dating.
“That went through August of 1946, and by the time September rolled around, my aunt (Madeline “Maggie” Warmuth Davis) had met an Army guy (named Robert ‘Bob’ Davis), who was from Carmichael. They decided to get married, and my mom and dad decided to get married, so they all hopped in their cars and drove from Los Angeles to Las Vegas to have a double ring ceremony. And so that was pretty special, and that’s how it all got started in September of 1946.”
Ron added that it was not long after his parents’ marriage that they accepted an invitation to move to property owned by the Davis family in Carmichael.
“My mom and dad were living down on the ranch in Saugus, and my aunt said, ‘Why don’t you guys come to Carmichael? It’s a pretty nice place up here, and they don’t have a jeweler,’” Ron said. “And so, my mom and dad drove up. Back then Interstate 5 wasn’t there and Highway 99 went through Turlock and Modesto and Bakersfield and everywhere in between. So, they took the long drive up to Carmichael and they liked it, and it didn’t have a jeweler, and so Mom and Dad moved to Carmichael and started the business on April 1, 1947.”