Jacobi Press opened his Princeton branch on Nassau Street in the mid-1930s and assigned my father regular checkups on the store.
Lou Prager, who later founded Chipp in 1947 with another J. Press alumnus, Sid Winston, was pried away from the New Haven store to become manager of J. Press’ Princeton store. Gregarious and charismatic, he instantly became a local celebrity, befriending many notable Princetonians. Lou introduced his minions to my father during his visits there, an act of noblesse oblige that maintained the fiction Paul Press was royalty — or at least clothing royalty.
One member of the favored crowd was indeed royalty: Prince Fumitako Konoye, son of the new Japanese premier Fuminaro Konoye. Young Konoye became captain of the Princeton golf team. A Lawrenceville graduate, tagged “Butch” by his teammates, Fumi sang in the glee club and was a member of Key and Seal, the swanky Princeton eating club. Celebrating Fumi’s championship at the University Open Golf Tournament in 1937, Prager and my father hosted a party at the Nassau Inn that seemingly included half of Princeton, all of them on the J. Press tab.
But the winds of war were brewing. The Daily Princetonian quoted Fumi in 1939 warning classmates, “Stay out of the Asian dispute.” When the Rome-Berlin-Tokyo axis became a military alliance in 1939, Fumi’s campus posture had become precarious. He chose to leave the university before his graduation on a battleship his father sent to pick him up. A 1940 news dispatch from Tokyo, with the headline “Butch Goes to War,” reported that Fumi had left for China to serve as a private in the Japanese army. Captured at the end of the war by the Russians in Manchuria, he died 1956 in a Siberian prisoner-of-war camp.
Historical archives recently disclosed young Konoye served as a conduit for messages between President Roosevelt and his father, three-time prime minister of Japan whose attempts at rapprochement with the United States were met with abject failure among the anti-Roosevelt expansionists. The J. Press shop in Princeton closed immediately after war was declared. The entire J. Press staff followed the example set by their former customer, who had become an enemy in the Japanese army.
Unlike Konoye, departing Princeton on a battleship, the J. Press Princeton staff bid farewell to Old Nassau after being drafted into the U.S. Army taking the bus to nearby Fort Dix, New Jersey.
Interesting to learn of a J Press outpost in Princeton.
By the time I arrived (1960), J Press had been replaced by a number of 3 button establishments on Nassau Street as well as one at the University Store. Led by Langrock and The English Shop, these became my destinations for many years.
When on a trip out of town, I regularly stopped in New Haven or at Mt. Auburn Street in Cambridge. At the latter location, Denis Black kept the Press garments impeccably organized and displayed.
Always great stories with impactful relevance from J Press. In this case, it highlights an extremely valuable potential geopolitical lesson. If men and women from other countries come to American universities to be educated and then return to their homelands and become prominent and powerful, the personal relations they established while in college or graduate school with their US student counterparts can lay a groundwork for more peaceful international relations. Very simply, “When you know someone, it is much harder to hate them.” But, regardless, simultaneously always keep the Marine First Division at the ready.