Sacramentans in the 1950s and ’60s knew Myrle Nahas as the woman who lent her name and business skills to the restaurant Myrle’s Trails. She also made her mark for several decades as an energetic promoter of good causes, whether selling war bonds or raising funds for a local children's hospital.
Nahas died Jan. 20 in Sacramento at age 100. Daughter Margo Nahas said her mother had been in declining health and suffered a minor stroke last fall. Mrs. Nahas was the last survivor among a group of friends dedicated to philanthropic activities who often were featured on the society pages of Sacramento newspapers, her daughter said.
Edith Myrle Hatchett was born Oct. 29, 1915, in Sayre, Okla., to John Hatchett and Pearl Dyer Hatchett. Her mother was Cherokee, and Nahas’ first trip was by covered wagon when the family moved to Arizona. Her father worked for the federal government as an inspector and supervisor for Navajo and Hopi reservations near Winslow, Ariz., Margo Nahas said.
Nahas also lived in Montana and Oregon before the family settled in Stockton when she was about 12 years old. After graduating from Stockton High School in 1932, she moved to Sacramento to attend Sacramento City College. She soon found employment with the Works Progress Administration and later went to work for the state Department of Social Welfare.
Margo Nahas said her mother put high value on education and was preparing to move to Chicago to attend Northwestern University when she met her future husband, Alfred “Al” Nahas. She was selling her radio in preparation for the move and he said he would buy it if she would have dinner with him that night.
Instead of going to Chicago, she stayed in Sacramento and was asked to start a restaurant at a bowling alley near Al Nahas’ Auto Laundry, a car wash. The couple were married in 1945 and the first of two daughters was born 10 months later.
Shortly afterward, Mrs. Nahas went to work for Eddie Sahati as manager of the State Line Country Club, a casino in the Lake Tahoe area. It was a summer job that involved keeping the books, booking nightclub shows, managing the casino and keeping track of Sahati, a well-known gambler, Margo Nahas said. After Sahati died in 1951, Mrs. Nahas was asked to manage the Cal Vada Lodge, a job she held for 2 1/2 years.
Eager to have his wife closer to home, Al Nahas decided to set her up with her own restaurant business, purchasing what became Myrle’s Trails, across from his car sales lot at 21st Street and Broadway. The restaurant had been owned by swimmer and movie star Esther Williams and her husband, but the business was in foreclosure when Nahas bought it.
Myrle Nahas took over in January 1955. “It was an instant success,” Margo Nahas said of the Western-themed restaurant that featured charbroiled steaks.
In 1961, Al Nahas decided to open another restaurant, this time on the site of what had been his car lot. He and fellow car salesman Bud Sheely opened Al & Bud’s Platter. The building, designed by architect Sooky Lee and constructed by John Otto, now houses the Pancake Circus. The Platter restaurant was a 24-hour pancake and steakhouse.
The Nahases opened other restaurants as well, but they sold Myrle’s Trails and the Platter in the late 1960s. What had been Myrle’s Trails continued to operate as the Trails restaurant until 2014. Although it is being converted to a noodle shop, the sign remains.
“She was such a strong businesswoman,” Margo Nahas said of her mother. “She was ethical, but very strong and very dynamic.”
After leaving the restaurant business, Myrle Nahas returned to college, earning her associate of arts degree from American River College. In 1972, she returned to work for the state, first as an accounting technician, then as an accounting supervisor with the Employment Development Department. She retired in 1991.
Despite a busy schedule, Nahas found time to raise funds and organize events for numerous causes. During Wold War II, she helped launch a bond drive to purchase a bomber aircraft. “She sold the fist bond to Gov. Earl Warren,” her daughter said.
She also was active in the first organized effort to restore Old Sacramento in the 1950s.
Nahas wasn’t Jewish, but most of her friends were. She was a life member of the Jewish women’s organization Hadassah, and was recognized for her success in helping raise funds to support Hadassah hospitals in Israel, Margo Nahas said.
She also was active in the Mercy Children’s Hospital Guild, chairing and creating decorations for the the Headdress Ball, the guild’s fundraising gala.
Other activities included the Tuesday Club and the Northern California Iris Society. Nahas was an avid gardener, raising several varieties of irises at the family’s home at Stockton Boulevard and Parker Avenue.
“She won three grand champions for her irises,” Margo Nahas said.
Education remained her lifelong passion. “Although she was only able to get her AA, education was of the utmost importance to her and she urged everyone, including her employees, to go back to school,” her daughter said. “Her caregiver said my mother told her to go back to school many times.”
Nahas was preceded in death by her husband. She is survived by daughters Kay Cunningham and Margo Nahas, both of Sacramento, as well as four grandchildren and five great-grandchildren.
A memorial service is scheduled at 10 a.m. Saturday at East Lawn Memorial Park, 4300 Folsom Blvd., in Sacramento.