Two recent posts sent my way from J. Press fandom that I haven’t seen in ages. First and foremost, the enclosed pic of my dad, Paul Press, at his York Street headquarters circa 1982. Next in line, Mollie Wilson’s interview that appeared in The Yale Journal for Humanities in Medicine two years before his death in 2006 three days short of his 95th birthday.
The article recounted several anecdotes endlessly repeated in my presence. It seems that in the 1950s when the recently formed (currently deceased) Woodbridge Country Club was looking to establish a dress code, club president Morris Bailey (owner/manager of New Haven’s Shubert Theatre) naturally turned to resident haberdashery expert Paul Press for guidance. My dad and Bailey disagreed when it came to the acceptability of Bermuda golf shorts. Dad was in favor of allowing them while the more aggressive Bailey declared short pants only permissible for swimwear. The issue was still undecided when Senator Prescott Bush father and grandfather of presidents George H.W. and George W., showed up at the club for lunch and golf date with my beloved uncle, Judge Harold E. Alprovis, then chairman of Bush’s senatorial campaign. My father painted an indelible picture of the scene warming up to the punch line when he asked my uncle, ‘Where’s the Senator?”
“He’s downstairs in the locker room getting dressed,” my uncle replied. Shortly thereafter, stealing the show six-foot four Senator Prescott Bush elegantly clad in walk shorts appeared with no further comment necessary, settling the debate. “They wore shorts after that,” became the Senator Bush and Paul Press dictum.
My dad had a good word for just about anybody he met in the portals of 262 York Street. He broadcast the friendship of all Yale recent presidents recounting to anyone within earshot, “Kingman Brewster was a hell of a fine fellow, and so was Whitney Griswold, and describing Benno Schmidt’s father as a young entrepreneur making lucrative deals for J. H. Whitney in post-war orange juice sales. Dad reserved special praise, however, for A. Bartlett Giamatti, whom he counted a close friend. Valentine Giamatti, Bart’s father, was one of dad’s Hillhouse High classmates and both were seated together at Bart’s inauguration. When Yale purchased the Jewish Community Center on Chapel Street in 1978, Dad chastised the younger Giamatti, “You have deprived me of my fitness center!”
“Don’t worry about it Paul,” the future Commissioner of Baseball said. “You’ll belong to the Yale Gym.”
“I’m not a graduate of Yale,” Dad reminded his friend. Giamatti waved away the protest away and before long Dad received a letter that he regularly recited from memory: “You’re a quasi-official part of Yale, and we’re delighted to give you a membership in the Yale Gym.”
He regularly worked out on the Nautilus machines and swam multitude laps in the pool at the Payne Whitney, blocks from 262 York Street. Paul Press never finished his story without pridefully displaying the membership card that identifies his status as ‘special.’
“See? I’m special,” grinning before anyone he cornered with the story.