Much public acclaim during World War II was accorded Generals Douglas MacArthur and Dwight D. Eisenhower, but Chief of Staff George C. Marshall told FDR how to run the show. Postwar he helped Harry Truman restore Europe through his heroic Marshall Plan. John Norey was the Heyday Chief of Staff at J. Press.
The John Norey–J. Press Saga began at a World War II dance for U.S personnel. New Haven draftee Herman Feen served in the 82nd Airborne landing in Normandy on D-Day. Months afterward he was out of action and evacuated to London prior to the Battle of the Bulge.
At a Cambridge dance for service personnel he spotted the very lovely Ada (Ann) Norey asking her to dance. She was a Wren in the RAF dispatching and receiving teletypes. Her brother, John(ny) Norey was in the British Army part of a comedy troupe entertaining troops in North Africa and Italy.
After courting Ann getting to know her family, tailors in Stoke Newington (the Bronx of East London) Hermie brought her home to his Jewish family on Orchard St. in New Haven.
Ann had been guaranteed a job at J. Press with the help of Hermie’s brother, George Feen, star salesman at the J. Press headquarters store on the Yale campus at 262 York Street. Ann was the first female tailor shop employee at J. Press, finishing & embroidering custom made dress shirts.
Johnny Norey felt virtually imprisoned in depressed blitzed out London after the war and craved joining his sister in America. His dream was realized thanks to sponsorship and guaranteed job as a cutter/tailor at J. Press. Arriving in the States he fortuitously became a boarder upstairs at recently deceased Jacobi Press’ home, also kindly looking after my elderly grandmother.
Possessing Norey tailoring genes, John had an eye for good fabric along with a stiff David Niven upper class English accent that belied his Stoke Newington Dickensian origin.
The Press Boys, Irving and Paul, spotted John’s potential. He almost immediately became doppelgänger to Irving Press, frequently traveling to New York utilizing his British fabric smarts together with his linguistic ability locked for days at a time in the Yale Club co-authoring the J. Press Brochure with his boss.
Named Merchandise Manager in his second year, John became my dad’s key back room guy in New Haven, a peerless “button counter” familiar with every supplier and every aspect of merchandise assuming his self-asserted role as inside CIA man at J. Press.
As my uncle and father wound down and I took over running the business, John assumed roles he played for my father and uncle becoming my own doppelgänger.
The Press Boys (including yours truly) were to J. Press as Robert Kraft is to the Patriots. John Norey was our Bill Belichick.
Thanks for the enlightening stories of the founding of a great tradition in fine tailoring.
Keep the commentary coming !!!!
Love reading these. Great literature! Thank you.
Jacobi Press was my great uncle, with Max his brother being my great grandfather. I knew little about J Press until 20 years ago when my cousin Jill Press took me to downtown New Haven to see the old J Press store front. I love reading the history of J Press and am very proud of our family tradition!
Wasn’t there a Frank York at York Street? After I left New Haven, I would ask him to mail me things and then I would send a check or send the items back.
Will Feltus Y’76
Richard, very much enjoy your blogs. I have one for you: my first visit in person to J. Press store on 44th across from Brooks Brothers was in September of 1973. I was served by Jerry Haber who gave me a brief History of Jerry: Brown graduate, first job sales at J. Press, and most famous customer was Frank Sinatra who liked the Ivy League look. Jerry learned I like jazz and Sinatra so he played some music for me over store’s PA system: Frankie singing “I’ve Got You Under My Skin.” It was a clever ruse to keep me in the store longer to be tempted by the artfully displayed offerings. I walked out with at least two OCBD shirts (with the iconic pocket flaps), one in pink and the other white. The shirts accompanied by a club tie of monkeys and a navy & burgundy report stripe. I also left determined to see Jerry again any time I came to Manhattan, a promise I have kept over the years. Keep the blogs coming, they’re great reading. Cheers, Richard Landerman, Salt Lake City, UT
What happened to his sister?
History is your signature on your line of clothes. What a wonderful warm story.
Gentleman alongside John Norey is longtime popular member of New Haven sales staff, Frank York.
And Roosevelt was smart enough to listen to Marshall. I think FDR was the greatest President of the 20th century. He gave this country hope and courage.
Love these back stories which reenforces and recalls what “tradition” is all about…