Returning to my old hometown for the official grand opening of the New Haven J. Press store on 262 Elm Street coupled with my intro to the new Fall/Winter Brochure envelopes me in childhood memories of what it was like growing up middle of the last century in a college town.
Checking back at J. Press after regular Saturday matinées at Loew’s Poli, the local cinema cathedral, Grandpa Press always accompanied me on a round of the premises checking in with the team: fitter Tom Sarno, cutter Dominic DePetto, shipping room chief Mr. Greco, his assistant who drove the company truck Sid Solomon, tailor shop steward Mr. Greenwald, office crew, Miss Botsford, Sylvia Singer, balcony cashier Claudette followed by huddles with varsity front liners Herman Racow, Gabe Giaquinto, Ray Jacobs, George Feen and my dad, Paul Press, ready to return to our tree-lined Ellsworth Avenue home in his battered Hillman Minx convertible.
Before the Saturday movie were ritual burgers at the fabled Louie’s Lunch. Sunday School at reformed Temple Mishkan Israel took place on Saturdays. I stood out in Hebrew class as if attending a Yalie DKE cocktail party reciting Torah garbed in non-Hasidic J. Squeeze Tweed, blue OCBD, repp tie, grey flannels, gartered Twin Steeples Argyle socks anchored by Barrie Ltd. appropriately dirty white bucks—twelve-year-old Richie Press as if tapped for Skull and Bones. Ya gotta dream boy, it’s part of the territory.
Perhaps it is indelicate to compare my childhood to that of King Charles III, a keening American prince awaiting enthronement at J. Press while sac-religiously trodding sacred Royal Ivy grounds of York Street, a snot nosed wannabe. Had I studied my General Science First Form at Hopkins Grammar School as enthusiastically as I memorized the stock at J. Press my below average grade may have improved.
I finally did make the grade graduating Dartmouth followed by a stint in the US Army Reserves. Big Time NYC 44th Street won over the York Street campus store, frosting on the cake indelibly tutored by Uncle Irving Press, renowned acknowledged by menswear mavens master of the trade.
But, Oh New Haven, you can never say goodbye.