Mory’s is more than simply an institution, it is a special place that is both part of my family’s history and my own memories. The Mory’s Association is a private dining club at Yale University – it’s storied past and the transitions that have come to reestablish its future remain tied with the school’s history. Once a threadbare but undeniably exclusive enclave, today Mory’s is today very much an ecumenical establishment.
A classic old-school venue, Mory’s was for decades a Yale undergrad-only place. The membership card was a diploma. My father fit the bill, so for me it was a regular haunt. The atmosphere was and still is what other Ivy League inspired pubs, or, frankly, most Ralph Lauren stores, try and emulate.
There’s a time and a place for this kind of history – especially when it’s the real thing. Letterman portraits going back to the 1920s line the walls, retired sculling oars hang from the ceiling, and silver Mory’s Cups peek from cabinets and shelves. Perhaps most famous are the tables, decorated with generations of Yalie’s penknife handiwork. Intricate designs and simple messages or dates fill every square of some; some are still in service while others hang from the walls.
The food and drink were always secondary to the atmosphere and traditions – a rack of spare blue blazers as, up until only recently is was a coat and tie required establishment, the bowls of olives at every table, and every Monday the Wiffenpoofs came to sing. As with our sponsor, Mount Gay Rum, history and authenticity are everything.
My great-grandfather, John Lee Gilson, was actually president of the Mory’s Association for 16 years until his death, upon which the association passed a resolution, which reads in part, “We know further how many and how broad his interests were: how prodigal he was of his friendship, yet he has left with us an abiding sense that Mory’s lay close to his heart; that he found it the most congenial outlet for his great capacity for friendship and his love of Yale.”
We still have his Mory’s Cup – a beloved family treasure. And in the Mory’s clubhouse, what is presently called the President’s Room had been known for decades as the Gilson Room.
One of the most memorable times for our family was my parent’s 50 wedding anniversary, which we celebrated at Mory’s. Dozens of family and friends filled the private rooms upstairs and the cups, including our family’s Mory’s Cup, made their rounds.
In fact, ours was one of the last private events held at 306 York Street before the old Mory’s shut down. Happily, Mory’s lives again – fresh and updated – but to me it will always be the timeworn, coat-and-tie only place of my youth. The addition of the Temple Bar and the open-to-anyone membership model seems to be serving my favorite hangout quite well.
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Disclosure: Compensation was provided by Mount Gay Distilleries via Glam Media. The opinions expressed herein are those of the author and are not indicative of the opinions or positions of Mount Gay Distilleries.