The recent cocktail blast celebrated at the J.Press flagship store on 44th Street prompted a query from MC fashion influencer, journalist, and man-about-town Zach Weiss, “Richard, tell me about your time with Robert Frost at Dartmouth.”
Frost and Dartmouth had become longtime lovers from the moment he got off the train in White River Junction. He attended Dartmouth in 1892, joining Theta Delta Chi fraternity, but problematic family circumstances forced a return to his home in California after one term to deliver newspapers and work in a lamp factory. During his short time in Hanover, he discovered his obsession for poetry in the then Dartmouth library, Wilson Hall, forever changing his life and the face of American poetry. Recipient of two honorary degrees from Dartmouth, he served as a regular lecturer at the college from the 1940s until his death in 1963.
My time with him occurred in 1955, indeed a very brief encounter. It happened after the storied lecture and poetry reading, an annual rite for freshman classes at 105 Dartmouth Hall, the classic white brick Georgian structure bestriding the campus green. Mr. Frost followed his talk with a more intimate session for a smaller contingency of star-struck classmates shuttled to a more intimate quarter in a conference room next door at Baker Library.
I told my dad, Paul Press, that Frost was coming to lecture our freshman class and he made certain to let me know the renowned poet was a longtime J. Press customer always attended to by Al Goro and Frank Martin, manager and fitter at the Cambridge branch store.
Young and witless, I gracelessly introduced myself to the noted poet, “Mr. Frost, my name is Richard Press. My grandfather’s name is on the label sewn inside of your suit.” Frost was draped in a paradigmatic J.Press black/brown Cheviot Tweed, guaranteed to itch, strewn devil-may-care battle worn over his bent frame as if he were stopping by woods on a snowy evening.
Frost frostily replied, “Thank you, Mr. Press, for your disclosure. I own many more from your grandfather’s shop, but I need to ask you, are you here to question me about my poetry or my clothing?”
The woods are lovely, dark, and deep, but I have promises to keep and miles to go before I sleep.