The History of Gay Jewelers, Inc. dba K E Butler & Company Jewelers by Earl Butler

On January 18, 1921, a bouncing baby was born to Henry and Ruby Gay in the metropolis of Kibbee, GA.  Alby Louie Gay was the fourth of nine children.  He was born into a share-cropper’s family.  His family lived in parts of Montgomery, Treutlen, Toombs and Candler counties in South Georgia.
When World War II broke out, he enlisted in the U.S. Army and was assigned to the Army Air Corp.  After basic training he was sent to Great Britain where he worked on aircraft instruments.  While in the isles he contracted tuberculosis and was sent back to the U.S. to re-hab.  Given the choice of Charleston, SC or Denver, CO, he chose Denver for re-hab, since he didn’t want his family to worry with trying to come visit him.  While there the doctor told him he would never leave the hospital standing up.   For treatment the doctors cut out two of his ribs and collapsed his lung by laying a brick on it.  He made a remarkable recovery and while doing so met a young lass from Yuma, CO who was working in Fitzsimmons Hospital as a cook’s assistant.  Her name was Glenrose Mumm.  Their first date was to a movie theater to see a western, of course.  One thing lead to another, Alby recovered and was dismissed.  In August of 1946 he and Glenrose came to Kibbee, GA to get married at Mt. Pisgah Baptist Church.  They went to St. Simons Island, GA for their honeymoon.  Since they didn’t have a vehicle, Alby borrowed his cousin and best-man’s (Quay Allmond) car and while driving through Jesup, GA he handed (literally) the steering wheel to Glenrose, as it had come off the column, after which she nearly crowned him with it.  Following the honeymoon, they moved to Savannah, GA where Glenrose worked at the paper mill as Alby continued to recover.  Soon, Alby came down with TB again, and they moved back to Denver.

After recovering the second time, Alby enrolled in the Joseph Bulova School for Watchmaking in Denver. After completing school, they moved to Yuma, Glenrose’s hometown.  Alby immediately began to work at Fenster’s Jewelers.   While working with Mr. Fenster he was able to learn how to run a business and use his watch making skills.  While in Yuma, Alby and Glenrose were blessed with a bundle of joy, named Kathleen (Kathy) Marie Gay.  Since Mr. Fenster was an older man, Alby offered to buy him out in 1955, but was turned down, because he was not ready to retire and realized the business could not support two families.  The Gay family decided to move to Toombs County in Georgia and start their own business in Vidalia.  Alby had great difficulty finding financial backing as the banks didn’t have money to loan.  Alby was finally able to secure a loan from his uncle, Teddy Allmond, and they opened Gay Jewelers in August 1955.  The business was located on McIntosh Street – next to Erastus Palmer’s café for you old-timers.  Alby specialized in watch repair and repair of electric shavers.  The first diamond he sold was to his first cousin, Dick Bailey, in August 1955.  Since they were bringing in very little money, Alby went to Ewing Brothers Co., a diamond and jewelry wholesaler in Atlanta to see if he could buy a diamond. Because they sold him watch parts and Alby had a Standard Oil charge card, Ewing Brothers Co. agreed to sell him a ½ carat diamond to be paid for in 30 days.  After a year business began to pick up and Alby was able to buy out his Uncle Teddy in August 1956.
Kathy with her father, Alby, in 1955 behind the counter at the original location of Gay Jewelers.
Kathy pictured with Dick Bailey in 2015, purchaser of the first diamond sold in 1955 at Gay Jewelers.