By Tony Parra
Editor’s note: This is the first in a series of four stories about the Pioneer of the Year nominees.
Years after moving to Portales, Clytie Calton and her husband, George, conjured up dreams of owning their own furniture store. More than 45 years later the dream is still going strong.
Clytie Calton is one of the four finalists for the Pioneer of the Year Award, which will be given out during the Pioneer of the Year reception at 5 p.m. on Friday in the Memorial Building to start the 2005 Heritage Days festival.
“I’m amazed,” Clytie Calton said about being nominated. “I would say that it’s a wonderful tribute from my daughter (Sharon Davis).”
The dream soon was hit with the harsh reality of the business world. No bank in Portales would give the Caltons money to start their business, according to Clytie.
Instead, Clytie approached people in Portales about a loan. Instead the Caltons received a $10,000 loan from members of the Portales community and Clytie’s grandparents.
The Caltons started Calton Furniture and it has been in business for 46 years. Clytie said her husband worked for McGee Furniture in Portales before they started their own furniture store business. George kept track of the financial aspect of the business and laying carpet while Clytie managed the store.
Clytie Calton said there were many ups and downs during the 46 years the store has been open. Davis said at one point in time it was so tough that there was an apartment in the second floor of the Calton Furniture store they had to move into.
“My mother made all of our clothes and cooked all of our meals,” Sharon Davis, Clytie’s daughter, said. “We really worked hard and we were active in church. We had to work hard. There was no choice.”
Their four children used to walk to the store after school to dust and clean. Clytie said she and George tried to instill certain characteristics in their children.
“The most important thing was to be Christians,” Clytie said. “We spend our hours together as a family. They (children) went with us wherever we went. They (children) came to the store and we went home together and had meals as a family.”
Clytie said she and George went to Bill and Gary’s basketball games and Sharon’s track meets. Clytie said they tried to go to all of their children’s activities.
A big reason why the Calton stayed in Portales was because of Eastern New Mexico University. They wanted their children to be able to attend ENMU. Bill, who retired from being an ENMU computer science professor, and Sharon operate Calton’s Furniture. Gary is a research chemist at Baltimore and Jane is a teacher at Muleshoe, Texas.
“They (parents) expected a lot out of us,” Davis said. “When they told us to do something, we did it. She wanted all of us to have a college education. She has done so much to improve the community by promoting ENMU.”
Davis said many ENMU students have worked at Calton Furniture delivering furniture. She said once they graduate and move on, they hire two new employees from the new group of ENMU students each semester.
It was her children who kept the business running after Clytie and George decided to retire. Clytie said Sharon and Bill purchased Calton’s Furniture from her and George in 1995. Clytie said she didn’t really retire because she came back to work and is still working at the furniture store greeting customers and rearranging furniture.