Hotel business brisk in early days of Clovis

By Don McAlavy: Local Columnist

Clovis solicited customers in
many ways. One of the best
ways to entice customers was to meet
the passenger trains that stopped at the
Santa Fe Railroad depot where passengers
got off, to stretch their legs, get a
bite to eat or seek a hotel. Soliciting
patrons to a hotel was rather dangerous,
as you will see.

In 1908 J. D. Lyons and his wife
Mary (better known as “Mother Lyons”)
operated a two-story hotel, the Lyons
Hotel, located in Clovis on Main Street
between First and Second streets. The
Lyonses had come from operating the
McIntosh Hotel in Amarillo and were
parents of seven children: Jerry, Johnny,
Dan Jr., Helen, Mamie, Anne and Phil.

On July 10, 1910, son Dan Lyons had
driven the Hotel Wagon to the train
depot, as usual. And as usual he would
call out the name of their hotel, or hold
up a sign with the hotel name, competing
with six or so other hotels for possible
customers getting off the train. The
hotel wagons, carriages and buggies,
with the names of their hotels on them,
were crowded up near the west end of
the depot so that it was easy for hotel
guests to get their baggage aboard the
hotel wagons.

The trouble was many of the hotel
personnel would get in a scuffle over
passengers. There were a few fights, as
expected, but no one expected what
happened on this day.

Dan Lyons, a popular youth at 19,
and a driver from a competing hotel had
hot words. A scuffle and a shooting followed.

Dan Lyons Jr. was shot dead on
the station platform. No one suspected a
hotel employee to have carried a pistol.

Frank Leteaux, who killed Dan Lyons
and worked for the Reidoria Hotel, was
apparently never tried for the killing.
About 1909 J. D. Lyons built the
famed Antlers Hotel, at 109 W. Grand
Ave. At first it was built as a three-story
square brick structure. Later a balcony
was added. In the late 1920s the
“annex” over the two buildings fronting
Main Street was added. Rooms in the
popular hotel numbered from 1 to 48.
There was no room 13. This hotel was
considered the Waldorf-Astoria of
Clovis.

The youngest son of the Lyons family,
Phil, was raised in the three-room
apartment in the hotel. He recalls several
of the permanent residents of the
hotel: Carl Catlin, a cattle inspector;
Ben Clark, and an old cattleman named
Newberry. Phil says his father began
loaning money to area ranchers and
later bought his own ranch to put out on
wheat pasture. In this way J. D. Lyons
got into the ranching business.

After J. D. Lyons died in the early
twenties, his son, P.R., who had just
returned from World War II, came to
Clovis to run the hotel. He met and
married Anna O’Neill, daughter of
Morris O’Neill, who had come to
Clovis from Kansas in 1914-1915 and
worked at the railroad.

The hotel boasted a fine restaurant
and bar, but both were closed after
Clovis voted in prohibition in 1942.

With building of the Hotel Clovis in
1931, and later the coming of motels,
the Antlers’ business declined. “Mother
Mary” Lyons, whom Phil Lyons said
ran the whole family, came down to run
the hotel during the Depression. She
died in 1939.

In 1955 the hotel was remodeled, but
its “heyday” had passed. The building
was sold in about 1965 to Dean
Eldridge.

Don McAlavy is Curry County’s historian.
He can be contacted at:
dmcalavy@telescopelab.com