Gaumer’s Jewelry: Bricks, mortar and rocks

A story by John and Terry Gaumer

Gaumer’s building construction circa 1965-1967

Before becoming a rockhound, my first love was the life sciences. It was 1965, and I had just finished my bachelor’s degree at San Jose State in biology. To become a professional biologist, we were required to take a statewide test. I was pleased that I came in 30th out of about 200 test takers. I also had the best grades in my class, so I was hopeful that I could get a job with the state of California doing fieldwork.

One day, the director of the California Department of Fish and Game came to our class to talk about employment opportunities. I told him about my grades and test results, and asked him what my chances were for obtaining a job here in California. He replied, “None, frankly.”

Surprised and disheartened, my wife, Terry, and I weren’t sure what to do. So, we decided to move back to my hometown of Red Bluff, CA. My dad, Al Gaumer, and I made plans to build a shopping center, and I would manage the property. We signed contracts with a construction company and arranged for a Safeway grocery store, a Standard Oil gas station and a drugstore to be our tenants. However, as we were breaking ground, the state of California notified us that they wanted to build the Interstate-5 interchange right in the middle of our shopping center (which they did). There was nothing we could do, but at least the state of California paid us for the land.

Gaumer's store opening
Original Red Bluff Daily News clipping reporting the store’s opening circa 1967

I, however, still didn’t have a job. But, the family had a lot of rocks that we had collected over the years. So my dad and I changed course once again. My dad had always wanted to build a lapidary building and was hoping to sell some of our rock collection. So, we decided to build a rock shop instead. Terry and I helped build the building, along with our contractor, Vernie Dobson. It took two years to finish the construction, add the cabinetry and get the inventory ready. With a lot of blood, sweat and tears we were ready to open the store on February 16, 1967.

The store was a family affair. Terry helped with customer service and running the business. My dad cut stones, and I did the bench work. Though my mom said “l’ll never wait on trade”, when we got her into the store, she got conscripted into waiting on trade. She loved talking.

Incidentally, as we were building the store, I received a letter from the state of California offering me a job as a biologist. We had already started construction, so I wrote back to the state thanking them and declined. I’ve never regretted it one bit. Opening the store was not easy, but I have always enjoyed silver and gold-smithing, wax work and casting. My crowning glory was when my son, Bill, decided to continue our family tradition by working in the store, and building a huge expansion for our museum. It was a dream come true.

We are very proud of our family heritage and the store we have built. Come visit us and our museum in person.

Gaumer's store opening
Al and John Gaumer, circa 1967