Good Morning San Juan

Bronze statue of San Juan Bautista standing before the old mission church
Bronze statue of San Juan Bautista standing before the old mission church

Good Morning San Juan

Words by: Tim & Frances Tompkins  |  Music by: Tim Tompkins


Good morning San Juan,
smell the bakery at dawn.
Hear the roosters declare,
“Interlopers beware.”
Commuters prepare
and by sunrise we’re gone.

Buenos días San Juan, Bautista, California,
hold on, old Spanish mission town.
Art galleries, gift shops, antiques, restaurants,
attract people with money from miles around.
And the weekend street fairs, vendors peddling their wares,
push all the cars off the main drag, six blocks long.

We still have cows on the hill, organic farms in the valley,
free weekly paper, but no mail delivery.
Three whines of the siren at the small city hall
give the volunteer firemen the SOS call.
They spring to tame the flames or help the victims on the highway.

MisYmin aruh-a, almost forgotten,
“Good morning” in Mutsun, the native tongue.
This paradise flowed with food and water year-round.
You called it Popeloutchum until the padres founded
the mission with bells, saving souls at mass.
But nothing saved you from diseases that the white men passed.

The last surviving fluent Mutsun lived till she was seventy-five.
Asensión Solórsano told the story of her people,
happy hunter-gatherers at peace in a west-coast Eden,
no small pox or cholera, even lethal measles free,
then whole villages fell sick, attrition many decades long,
till none were left to carry on the second nature of your song.

Frog street was on fourth, it used to flood when it rained,
the old cement plant is gone, the canyon quiet again.
We have a couple saloons, I heard they once had ten.
You won’t see sheriff on horse, he had to pack his tack in.
The movie theater moved away, then thirty years later
El Teatro Campesino brought the live stage play.

Long after Jim Jack’s mustard, Rusty Mary the train,
the Coastline Stage Coach, Mark Regan at the reins,
sidewalks of wood to keep the mud off your boots
when the season got wet and orchards grew new shoots…
now with houses growing and big water system plans drawn,
your story lives on,
Good Morning San Juan.


Blame the rooster who woke us up several mornings in a row with his crowing. Drove me to the piano on the second day to check out his tune: A-flat, B-flat, G, A-flat. Same thing next day too, and right in tune, perfect pitch, with a bit of a swing in the rhythm. Soon I was adding a jumpy bass part in the left hand, the way chickens move their heads when they strut, and starting with a little pickup note. Suddenly the title came to mind and wouldn’t let go. Frances brought out her Historical Society resources for some of the words and characters who peopled the old town. Then we rounded up a bunch of our El Teatro Campesino friends to give voice to the story. Also little 5-year-old Isabelle in high soprano and our friend Jan Luby [Woman On The MoonSadie] from Rhode Island in the alto.  [Tim]

Performance Credits:

San Juan Singers in alphabetical order: Sylvia Gonzalez, Jan Luby, Krystal Ortiz, Lupita Ortiz, Bella Rose Perry, Graciela Serna, Frances and Tim Tompkins, Daniel Valdez and Luis Valdez.
Piano, guitarron, cello, drums, primitive flute, whistling: Tim.
Violin: Frances.
Bells at the old Mission San Juan Bautista Church rung by Melecio Piñeda.

Production Credits:

Recorded, mixed and mastered at the GallopAway Music studio in San Juan Bautista, CA.

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