By Karl Terry: PNT Managing Editor
Clytie Calton “lived” life until she died.
One of Clytie’s granddaughter’s Jill McCall said her grandmother had made the statement about living until she died to a friend and at first McCall didn’t understand it until the friend told her that she was talking about her independent lifestyle, which she maintained until she died at age 91 from injuries received in an explosion at her home in January.
Clytie and her husband George started Calton Furniture in Portales in 1959 and the independent lady continued working at the store until the day of the accident. Despite the death of her husband in 2001, the sale of the store to son Bill Calton and daughter Sharon Davis over 10 years ago and arthritis that made it hard for her to walk, she continued to
work six days a week at the store, said family members.
Clytie never had any time to waste, said her daughter Judy Welch.
“You know she’d get up in the morning, make that breakfast, cut out a dress and start it and then go to the store and work all day, come home make dinner and do the dishes … and finish the dress so you could wear it to school the next day, Welch said.
She liked to play word games and worked two crossword puzzles every day, say her children and grandchildren.
The family also described a strong woman who made sure that her family was taken care of both physically and spiritually.
“Our mother let you know if you made mistakes that they would be corrected,” Welch said. “And she never forgot anything we ever did in our childhood.
“She made sure we were all in church every Sunday morning, every Sunday night, every Wednesday night — if the church doors were open our entire family was expected to be there, Welch said.
“And had our Bible lessons memorized and when we were old enough we were ready to teach,” Davis added.
Welch and other family members commented about her mother’s energy. At furniture markets in Dallas, she would dress in high heels, a dress and hose and walk all day at the show, then be ready to go to Six Flags at the end of the day.
When Clytie and George first opened the store she was a stay-at-home mom but the couple soon figured out that the realities of a small furniture business meant they would have to both work, so she went to the store and taught herself to sell furniture. From that time on, her children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren grew up at the store on First Street.
Granddaughter Sandy Fields recalled playhouses built from Lazy Boy boxes at the store and children always being at her grandmother’s feet at home as multiple generations grew up.
“It was like Grand Central Station of the family,” McCall said of the store. “If you didn’t have money while you were going to college you could always stop by the furniture store and they would feed you.”
Family members say Clytie was blessed with a natural sense of style and her technique for making a sale was simply to get to know the customer, their style and needs. Her children say she was a good listener when it came to customers.
Her daughters say she exuded kindness in her dealings with people and in the process of selling someone furniture she often ended up inviting them to church. Customers remembered that kindness.
Davis said that one customer stopped in at the mortuary this week and told the family how grateful she was for her mother. She said, “Mrs. Calton gave me a chance to have decent things when no one else would give me a chance.”
Davis said it didn’t matter what business was like, if Clytie had talked with someone and made up her mind, they would find a way to get the person the furniture they needed.
“That’s how she sold furniture, because she cared about people,” Davis said. “She thought everyone deserved nice things in their home.”
Clytie’s son Gary Calton said they were raised by his mother to respect furniture and no one ever abused those rules. He recalled how his mother once took care of an unruly child, wearing boots and spurs, who was jumping on furniture while his parents shopped in the store.
“She just politely took his little hand and told him ‘Why don’t you just stand here with me,’” Gary Calton said.
“I think she was half the town’s grandma,” McCall said.
“One of our delivery boys called our niece (this week) and said she was just like my grandma too,” Davis said. “Because she’d just tell those delivery boys that if their grades weren’t good enough, she’d get ‘em whipped into shape.”
Sunday dinners were a big part of what the family did together and Clytie insisted that they be home-cooked and a family event. Granddaughter Kim Mann even created a coffee table book for family members this past holiday season entitled “Sunday Dinner.” It features photos, recipes, and remembrances of Sunday dinners at the Calton house along with a forward by Clytie describing how she treasured the togetherness.
“It wasn’t Sunday dinner on a paper plate, we had Sunday dinner with a fully set table of dishes, silverware immaculately placed with napkins underneath them.” Welch said.
Family members say Clytie was in charge in the kitchen and was a great cook. They recall apricot cobbler made from apricots picked from the tree in the back yard and home made biscuits.
Family members say granddaughter Micah Thompson summed up her grandmother’s ability for being in charge to a customer one day when she was young. They had come in wanting to talk with George Calton and she informed the person, “You’ll just have to wait until my grandma gets here. My granddad thinks he’s the boss, but he’s not — my grandma is.”
Clytie stayed in charge until the very end, as she ordered ambulance attendants to reroute the helicopter that was taking her to University Medical Center in Lubbock to Covenant Medical Center because that’s where her doctor was located.
“We cheered when we heard they had rerouted,” Fields said. “Yes! Grandma’s still in charge,” we all said.