Once upon a time we dressed up for Ivy League football when J. Press was tagged J. Squeeze by elitist campus cognoscenti. Unfortunately, when I attended Dartmouth in the 1950s, my alma mater was often ridiculed by those same folks who often mocked the rural wardrobe that was normcore on the Hanover Plain. The sidebar football snapshot picturing yours truly at Dartmouth Memorial Field illustrates my feeble attempt to disprove the charge. The 1958 Penn-Dartmouth game in Hanover produced a 13-12 heart pounding thrilla victory. It winningly took place on “Houseparties Weekend” encouraging seduction of my knockout date with her J. Press Shaggy Dog and a Dartmouth Schoolboy Muffler. I donned a drop dead J. Press Classic Homespun Shetland Glen Plaid Sport Jacket (self-gifted for no apparent reward), a near choking End-on-End Madras tab collar shirt, an ancient madder tie and a sheepish grin.
Three years later, ensconced at J. Press, I accompanied my dad, Paul Press, to the Yale-Harvard game in Cambridge. The bi-annual pregame party was engorged by Harvard Fly and Yale Fence Clubbers flushing the basement portals of our shop on the ground floor of the Harvard’s DU Club. The Cambridge branch closed two years ago, its sacred memory extant, but who knows what the future will bring?
That 1962 Yale-Harvard weekend prompted a Sports Illustrated Magazine feature by Bob Boyle, an acerbic sports columnist who had it in for my dad and the entire “New Haven tailoring establishment.” Here’s his ethnic slur:
“Nowadays, the Harvard-Yale game is no longer of importance as far as college football standings are concerned, and much of the ferocity has departed. Nonetheless, the game remains the focal point for all sorts of curious folk practices. For instance, whenever it is played at Harvard, as it was November 24 last, representatives of the New Haven tailoring establishments—J. Press, Fenn-Feinstein, Chipp, Arthur Rosenberg, et al.—entrain for Cambridge to render biennial obeisance and to see what the young gentlemen are wearing. The tailors themselves wear velour Alpine hats, double-breasted, tweed topcoats and blue oxford shirts to offset their sallow complexions. By custom they do not speak to one another, and, upon arrival, each goes his separate way. Following tradition, Paul Press descends into the basement of J. Press, where he stands his Cambridge branch employees to a buffet luncheon of cream soda and hot pastrami imported from New Haven."
Mr. Boyle, portraying my dad and his competitors in a tapestry of Lower East Side Pushcart Peddlers was not only insulting, he was mistaken. Whalley Avenue pastrami and cream soda stayed in New Haven. The party fare consisted solely of peanuts washed down with shots of Jim Beam and ‘Gansett chasers.
Boyle was indeed on target regarding the diminished importance of Ivy League football. But hope still glimmers 57 years after the pernicious article. Last season’s Yale-Harvard game played before a nearly full house in Fenway Park, Harvard Memorial Stadium undergoing a fixer upper. An equivalent situation occurs this year, Princeton rebuilding Palmer Stadium with kickoff against the Big Green November 9th at Yankee Stadium.
The Ivy League still knows how to send a long punt down field even under the shadow of Babe Ruth.