J. Press New York Headquarters stands tall, shoulder to shoulder with the Yale Club on Vanderbilt and 44th Street. The Whiffenpoofs Song still casts its spell in the walls of the 105-year landmark.
When promoting the 2013 souvenir book of the eponymous F.I.T. Exhibit Ivy Style (still available @Amazon) I returned to my hometown New Haven at “the dear old Temple Bar we love so well.” Mory’s, founded in 1863, moved from “the place where Louis dwelled” on Temple Street to its currently shabby chic colonial York Street quarters in 1912. Originally a private club, townies were never allowed on the premises except for employees. One of them, Carl, was a famously surly waiter whom my dad provided a gratis wardrobe to steer his Mory’s clientele to J. Squeeze.
A tale from the heyday: Bill DeVane, venerable dean at Yale, was at a booth when Carl approached the table, threw a menu down and stood glaring. DeVane noticed Carl was scratching his behind. “Do you have hemorrhoids, Carl?” the dean asked. “If it ain’t on the menu,” Carl snapped, “we ain’t got it.”
Things ain’t what they used to be. One extinct ritual is the consumption of a “Cup” in which the table shares drinks of dubious alcoholic origin out of a large silver trophy. Not to be forgot— completion of a cup, called “cleaning the cup” was always followed chanting the Mory’s Song, “It’s (whomever) that makes the world go ‘round…Save another drunken bum, put a nickel in the cup.” Another part of the ritual was carving the tops of the table at which one sat.
The carving remains sacrosanct. Not to worry, the joint still reeks tradition adjusted to 21st century sensibility. Undergraduate bonds are no longer bound by gender, ethnicity or former clothing restrictions. Mory’s is now a semi-private club welcoming the public with only fictitious Yale credentials.
Whiffenpoofs and other men’s and women’s a cappella groups appear regularly dinnertime. New Blue vamped me an intergenerational mix of Amy Winehouse and Cole Porter.
Next door to the Yale Club in old Manhattan J. Press maintains tradition downing cups of Pellegrino water making the world go ‘round peddling university hoodies, sweats and tees as if doing Phys Ed in the Payne Whitney Gym.
We’re poor little lambs who have lost our way, bah, bah, bah.