20 years ago, I moved away from home.
I had just finished my second year at Potomac State College (PSC). I hadn’t done well outside of my journalism classes, but I was 20, so transferring to another school was my next option.
I wanted to go to West Virginia University (WVU), mostly because that’s where my girlfriend was at the time. I had met her at Potomac State, but she got to start her degree program a year early. She left in 2002, but we stayed in contact and started dating in April of 2003.
I wanted to be near her.
One of my best friends Steve was actually successfully transferring from PSC to WVU but he needed a roommate. So, I now had my ticket to Morgantown. I would move, apply for WVU, and then be able to resume college in the fall.
Somewhere between July 20th and July 27th, 2003, my soon-to-be roommate picked me and my couple of bags up and I was out of my parent’s house. He dropped me off to Angel, we went to a wedding, and he continued on to take my stuff to our apartment. He and Angel had gone and found a place since I was stuck working at the local convenience store back home.
I’ve lived in 3 cities throughout my life: Winchester, Virginia (9 yrs), Capon Bridge, West Virginia (11 yrs), and Morgantown for the rest of it.
So why they hell have I stayed in Morgantown so long?
It just kind of happened that way.
Angel finished school and got a job back home in Keyser, WV. I stayed here because I was attempting to finish school (it did not go well) and then she ended up finding a job 45 minutes away from Morgantown, so she moved back here with me.
Then, her brother and sister started WVU in the fall of 2009 and all 4 of us shared a place until 2012. I tried to finish school again (it really did not go well) and then Angel and I moved into our third place together.
Between 2012 and 2015, we got married, she got pregnant and gave birth to Aaliyah, and she got a job in Morgantown. In addition, I started my current job, which has somehow turned into my career.
I do like it here. I’m used the West Virginia seasons and being in north central WV helps with us not getting slammed too often by bad weather. We end up with a lot of rain, thus the reason I gave Morgantown the nickname Little Seattle.
Plus, I absolutely love rainy days.
When I first moved here, Morgantown still had one of the OG Wal-Marts (no Supercenter) next to Mountaineer Mall that was already dying off. It had Subway, Great Chinese Buffet, and I vaguely remember a pretzel place from when I worked at TeleTech?
Teletech is now TTech. Don’t work there if you can avoid it. Ask Marc Rob.
On the other side of town in the Westover section was the Morgantown Mall. It had a movie theater, food court, and all of the popular shops at the time.
On another side of town was the Glenmark Centre. It was the location of the other Lowe’s (somehow, Morgantown has 2 locations), a Michael’s, a Hallmark, a Pier 1 (gone), and one of several Shop N Saves in town (now Price Cutter).
And the last section is called Sabraton. I remember going over there once for KFC before if closed and sometimes for the Pizza Hut lunch buffet on Sundays.
But to me, since I couldn’t drive (and had no vehicle), everything I wanted was on High Street. High Street was the “main street” of Morgantown. It was right next to the downtown campus, so all the students (including myself) would go to the clubs on weekends. It had several food options and most places stayed open late to accommodate the club goers. During the day, several local businesses operated which are still there today, like Cool Ridge and the BB&T (now Truist on the corner of High Street and Willey Street).
I only cared about the comic book store though, which was about a 10 minute walk from my first apartment on College Avenue.
And just like most cities, Morgantown evolved over time.
But first, still never work at TTech.
The Morgantown Mall is dying. I’d say in another 5 years, most of the stores will be closed. It still has anchor stores like Dunham’s, Ollie’s, and JCPenney but without stores inside, I just don’t see it lasting as a real functioning mall. They did renovate the movie theater after having the second best theater in town since 2005-ish, so having a top-of-the-line AMC may help with that.
I doubt it.
In 2005, the University Town Centre opened. That was where 1 of 2 Wal-Mart Supercenters opened (the other is 10 minutes from downtown) as well as a bevy of other thriving stores and restaurants such as Target, Olive Garden, Best Buy, Barnes & Noble, and Dick’s Sporting Goods. In the past few years, it was expanded to include a Menard’s, Kohl’s, and PetSmart.
Its 5 minutes from the mall, which doesn’t help their case.
I’m not sure on the year but we also have a Suncrest Towne Centre which has more local shops and more restaurants. It’s close to the football stadium, which makes it an ideal spot for fans coming to and leaving games.
Glenmark Centre is now Pierpont Centre and remains the same. Five minutes up the road, they’ve opened Pierpont Landing which has more shops and restaurants.
Sabraton has also changed for the better with more restaurants than anything. It still gets a bad rap as too out of the way and too low-brow for some, but it’s less than 10 minutes from my house and I find the entire area very useful.
KFC did open a new location. Popeye’s is there. And I now get my teeth cleaned in my dentist office that used to be Pizza Hut.
Suffice to say, Morgantown has access to everything I need on a regular basis. Which makes that another reason I stay.
High Street still has clubs, local shops, and restaurants. I’ve aged out of it a bit but I still like to wander down there every now and again. My first comic book store closed a few years after I got here. My favorite comic book store, Gary’s Comic and More, was forced to close a few years back due to escalating rent.
I guess the only issue I have with Morgantown is when WVU is in session.
When you share a city with college students, it can get crowded. Especially when the city isn’t very big to begin with. Every August, 20,000+ students come into town and head to their dorms, apartments, and houses until the following May. And every year, us townies (as we call ourselves) have to adjust to the sudden swell in population and the congestion on the roads as the traffic rises before leveling out about a month and a half later.
Other than that, I could care less about the students. I’m far enough away from campus and the dorms that I’m only exposed to students when I choose to be. I’ve also been living this way for 20 years. But a part of me wonders what it would be like to live in a city without a major college campus in the middle of it.
So unless one of us gets a job out of state, or Aaliyah graduates and moves, or we hit the lottery, we’re in Morgantown for the duration. I’ve never been to a city and felt like I wanted to live there. Not DC, not Cleveland, not Indianapolis, not really Miami (great place to visit). I’ve always wanted to go to Seattle but I doubt I’d live there. If I got to choose, it would be somewhere that has very mild winters, a beach within reasonable driving distance, and safe from hurricanes.
Would that be Imperial Beach, California?
But I am happy here. My family is happy here. But I do know I won’t be here forever. I’ve seen too much of the world to stay. But I’ll continue to enjoy my time here. My 20s and 30s have been pretty good here. Let’s see if I make it through all of my 40s as a townie as well.
As of right now, my heart is still in Playa del Carmen back in Mexico. That would be nuts.