The Don Knotts Statue Unveiling Ceremony in Morgantown, WV with Brunch at Morgan’s High Street Diner
I think Barney Fife may be my all-time favorite television character, so it was pretty amazing to be in the area of his home of Morgantown when that West Virginia college town’s citizens accomplished their goal of having a statue erected in Don Knotts’ honor.
My husband and I, probably like just about every other kids growing up in America in the ’70s and ’80s, grew up watching Don Knotts play Barney Fife on The Andy Griffith Show and the funny man paired with the insanely hilarious Tim Conway in several movies. One of my earliest movie memories was Disney’s The Apple Dumpling Gang. Prize Fighter, Private Eyes, Gus, and The Ghost and Mr. Chicken were also favorites of mine. In fact, I can’t use Bon Ami without thinking of the cute little lady on The Ghost and Mr. Chicken who keeps reminding everyone that they couldn’t get the blood stains off the haunted organ’s keys, “…and they even used Bon Ami!” Product placement at its finest. And any time I am mucking chicken or rabbit bedding, or eating a fine lunch in Biltmore’s Stable Cafe in one the very horse stalls that were featured in the movie Private Eyes, I think of “‘neers…horse ‘neers” and the tongueless hunchback who was trying to tell the two detectives, Don Knotts and Tim Conway, that they were standing in horse manure. My husband and I probably quote the tongueless hunchback stable boy a little too often. I’m sure our kids are sick of hearing about “‘neers” after all these years.
The statue unveiling, which kicked off the first annual Don Knotts Days, was just the sweetest thing. It was precious to learn more about the man behind the goofy smile and clumsy antics from a local friend of his and from his daughter, who both spoke at the ceremony. I really liked hearing that that he grew up in his mother’s Morgantown boarding house, which was much like the ones his movie and television characters lived in. It’s good to know that the man we saw on screen was a small town boy at heart who never let celebrity change him.
The sculptor, Jamie Lester of Vandalia Bronze, was also present. I noticed by following the Facebook event page for the unveiling ahead of the big day that he was very involved in getting the word out about the ceremony, even seeming to run the event page himself. I was surprised that no one from the city of Morgantown appeared to take charge of the event. The mayor did attend and speak, but it was the sculptor who was walking around, wearing a suit in 90+ degree weather, greeting visitors and handing out fliers, as well as answering questions. He definitely deserves a pat on the back for such dedication.
Don Knotts’ daughter, Karen, not only attended and spoke at the unveiling before actually giving a hand in pulling the veil from the statue at the big moment, but gave a fabulous, free lecture at the city’s restored Metropolitan Theater following the unveiling. See my video of the unveiling here.
It was very moving to see how much it seemed to mean to her to have a statue dedicated to her father’s memory by his own townsfolk.
And, like her father, Karen is super funny! We had so much fun watching her slide show and learning the history behind each picture.
My favorite story was the one she told of how her parents met. Both her mother and her father were students at West Virginia University in Morgantown. Her mother had a broken floor lamp that she couldn’t figure out how to get working again, so she told a group of male students, Don among them, that she would go out with the first one who was able to fix the lamp. They all fiddled with it and couldn’t get it to work. When it was Don Knotts’ turn, he put the lampshade on his head and told her to “turn me on”. And that was the end of that.
Karen Knotts is a comedian who travels doing one of several comedy acts. Check her website calendar to see if she will be in your area so you can catch one of her performances. I know I’m looking forward to seeing her again at Mayberry Days in Mt. Airy, NC. She is fun…ny!
After the unveiling, since we didn’t have time to have breakfast before it started, we walked up High Street to a little eatery called Morgan’s High Street Diner.
It’s a typical 1950s style diner with black and white checkers, stainless steel, chrome, and red vinyl, but has a decidedly “Morgantown” vibe, with lots of old pictures of the city and even one of its homegrown hero, Don Knotts.
I particularly liked the “couch burning” section of the lower level photo wall because I find it hilarious that riots break out in the streets of Morgantown after football games, when people get so riled up that they throw their couches into the melee and set fire to them…when the Mountaineers WIN! I wonder what happens when they lose, if they go so nuts over a good thing.
The diner is only open until 3:00 in the afternoon, which is disappointing, but they make up for it, in my opinion, by offering breakfast all day (well, until 3p.m., anyway). The only other problems I have with the place is that I’m pretty sure the hollandaise sauce on the eggs Benedict is made from a mix, an absolute crime in my mind, and their waffles are SO amazing that I want to eat more and more of them.
AND…the eggs Benedict that comes with the suspect yet tasty, if a little starchy, sauce is served on their SO amazing homemade Belgian waffles, rather than English muffins. It works.
Everything else I’ve sampled, from burgers to biscuits and gravy, is really very good.
And even on a busy day when there had just been an event going on across the street, the coffee just kept coming, and so did the classic ’80s pop tunes over the loudspeakers. The staff is freindly and efficient, and my family, the big Don Knotts fans, loved the fact that they have Mayberry themed foods on the menu, and even had special Don Knotts menu items on the day of the ceremony. That day, one of my sons had the Mayberry Burger and the other had a Don Knotts special banana split.
And on the day of the unveiling, since I’m supposed to be avoiding excess carbs, I had to “Nip…it…in…the bud!”, as Barney Fife was fond of saying, and put my fork down before I ate the whole yummy waffle I couldn’t resist ordering. It was the perfect ending to a most memorable day in downtown Morgantown.