Morning Morgantown!

by Jack Welch
Morgantown Dominion-News
June 18, 1972

(The author, a native of Hancock County, who now makes his home in Morgantown with his family, feels there is something special about Morgantown. He hopes in today's article, and in future articles, to convey his "specialty" that the people, surroundings and feelings of this Monongahela city convey to him. Jack Welch is assistant professor of English in the English Department at West Virginia University.)

JONI MITCHELL has a cheerful song called "Morning Morgantown." Some say Joni wrote the song after visiting Morgantown, W. Va., and some say that the Morgantown in the song is nothing like the Morgantown I know. Her song begins:

When morning comes to Morgantown
The merchants roll their awnings down
The milk trucks make their morning rounds
In morning, Morgantown.

I decided recently to go to downtown Morgantown in the morning to settle the question of the song once and for all. On University Avenue, where I first walked, traffic was heavily snarled even for summer, and the five-ton trucks that earthquaked past weren't milk trucks, though they assured me that business and construction here is booming. Turning up Pleasant Street, I didn't see any awnings, but I did see that three stores had gone out of business leaving their windows empty (one anxious landlord wrote on a piece of cardboard that the former tenant had had many bad debts and hadn't paid the rent). Two new businesses were on that street - the second health-food store in town and the figure salon.

As I walked up awningless High Street past a store window, I noticed that light blue washable suits are again fashionable. I was reminded that the first suit I bought in Morgantown was a light blue, washable Ivy League suit purchased for $10.00 in 1959 at the old Gold and Blue Shop on Willey Street). Continuing on up the street, I noticed that all the stores downtown were still closed and quiet, though two longhaired young men were sweeping the sidewalk in front of the Monongahela Building.

But, at the bakery, where I stopped for breakfast, business was brisk. Men in blue workshirts, women in neat black dresses, and some men wearing shortsleeved shirts and ties started the day around the U-shaped counters with the newspaper, a cup of coffee, and conversation. I ordered the No. 2 breakfast on the menu which, for 80 cents gave me two eggs, three hotcakes and one cup of coffee, plus butter, syrup and cream.

As I sat sipping my coffee after eating, I realized that I hadn't seen any merchants rolling awnings down or "milk trucks making their morning rounds," but looking up at the cozy French provincial town on Pike's wallpaper, I was reminded simultaneously of Morgantown and another stanza from Joni's song:

We'll find a table in the shade
And sip our tea and lemonade
And watch the morning on parade
In morning, Morgantown.

I was certainly watching the morning on parade this morning, and at the same time I was realizing the cozy nature of "our" provincial town.

But, my job called, so I paid my bill and walked out past the potato salad and baked beans in the refrigerated case and on past the pastries which people were lining up to buy. By the time I reached Fayette Street, I had decided on some fruit for later in the morning to balance off the rather heavy breakfast. To my surprise, I noticed that the High Street Market had awnings rolled down and that there was a milk truck making a delivery right there on High Street.

I crossed the street - dodging around the cars in the absence of any pedestrian lights - and told the owner of the market that I wanted an apple. He picked out a large, perfect yellow one, and I gave him 12 cents for it. Then I went on up the street noticing other stores with awnings, and at the top of High Street I even saw people sitting in the shade of the corner restaurant sipping something (lemonade?) from paper cups and watching the morning on parade.

The chorus from Joni's song then came to mind.

Morning Morgantown
Buy your dreams a dollar down
Morning any town you name
Morning's just the same.

I realized then that even if Joni Mitchell had been singing about "any town you name," she was also singing about Morgantown, W. Va. So, I hereby invite everyone to join me and Joni Mitchell during morning in Morgantown:

We'll rise up early, with the sun
To ride the bus while everyone is yawning
And the day is young
In morning, Morgantown.


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