Since the Stock Market Crash, the Shop’s work has been in steady decline. They are not alone as business throughout the country slows to a near stop. More workers lose jobs so less people have money to spend and less things are purchased. It is a repeating cycle and the Shop feels the impact. Their usual beginning-of-the-year confectionery kettles are slow to arrive. There are some repairs but little else. The Brothers Joe and James Kavanagh are very worried.
The telephone isn’t ringing and customers aren’t calling. Joe and James have a meeting about cutting down the crew. Things are getting bad pretty quickly. The brothers meet with Joe’s sons, Leo and Eddie and James’ son, Guy to say they must cut three coppersmiths and three helpers. Eddie, the General Secretary of the Coppersmiths local, doesn’t argue. He sees the work isn’t there and he knows they must do this. They make the cuts.
In San Francisco, a man name James Bryson steals a car and is arrested for grand theft and vagrancy. He pays $ 250.00 bail and is released. On the next day when he doesn’t attend the trial, the authorities check his fingerprints and discover he is a wanted man, James Connelly AKA Jack Hart, the same Jack who broke out of the Maryland Penitentiary last year. They confirm it is him but too late. The Pacific Coast Police begin a large search of the West coast to try to find Jack. In Baltimore, Kitty Kavanagh Connelly, Jack’s wife, continues to grow sicker at the Volunteers of America Hospital. The Kavanagh’s fear that she won’t last much longer. Each time Joe visits her, she seems weaker and weaker.
Kitty Kavanagh dies. She passes away while clutching a locket with her husband’s picture and while calling his name. Throughout the day in a semi-conscious state she continually calls out for “Jimmy.” She dies due to a spinal ailment or infection. The family was expecting her to go at any time. The doctors had made it clear that there was nothing more they could do. The Kavanagh’s, especially her godfather, Joe, mourn for her. She was Joe’s god-daughter and over the years they often played piano and sang together. He was close to her, though the last few years she became more and more devoted to her husband. She wouldn’t listen to reason when it came to Jack Hart. She loved him and at the end of her life there was nothing else of importance to her.
Kitty’s funeral is held this Thursday. Johanna drives to the Shop and picks up her husband. Joe will take an hour or so away from work to attend. When they arrive at the William Cook Funeral home, both are surprised to see a small crowd of folks outside. They walk in and speak to Regina, Kitty’s sister, and she informs them that the press are here, and have already spoken to both Regina and her mother. There are also plain clothes police officers waiting for Jack if he should make an appearance or send some type of message. Joe wasn’t expecting this and the crowd makes sense now. They are spectators, hoping to see the notorious Jack Hart. Joe and Jo pay their respects and then mix into the crowd of “mourners” outside the funeral parlor. The funeral procession begins and the crowd joins in with it. They march from St. Paul and Preston Streets to New Cathedral Cemetery. Joe and Jo slowly drop back into the crowd as they walk. By the time they reach the cemetery, the procession has swelled to 100 people. They march to the grave site and there are another 200 people gathered around waiting. Joe doesn’t know who’s who, but mixed in this crowd are indeed police officers and newspapermen. The majority are gawkers to see if Jack Hart shows up. Jack doesn’t make an appearance. Joe and Jo decide not to stay for the burial, but return to their car and Jo drives them back to the Shop. Joe is angry and shocked as is his wife. Joe calls the whole thing disrespectful and a fiasco. His wife agrees that the funeral turned into a spectacle. Joe fumes until he returns to work. His wife drops him off and returns to their home on Collington Avenue. Joe calls the Kavanagh’s into the office and explains to them what happened. A lot of head-shaking goes on as Joe relates the size of the crowd and the presence of police and reporters. The Jack Hart events have all played out in the public eye through the newspapers. They probably should have expected it, but still Joe is angry about the whole thing. At least now Kitty’s suffering is over and she is at peace. The Kavanagh’s hope that this will finally distance them from the entire Jack Hart affair.
The Kavanagh’s have another meeting at the Shop. The work is still not coming in and the cuts weren’t enough. They must reduce their crew even more. Joe will dig for work but every customer they have is slow. All of them are going through the same thing. There is very little work and very little money to be made. The Shop will cut two coppersmiths and three helpers. They’re not sure they can keep even this reduced crew busy, but they will try.
The Shop has almost no work and very little scheduled for the month. They need to find some jobs. Eddie has an idea. After work hours today, he tells his father and uncle that they need to consider returning to bootlegging. James is 100% against it. The police searches and the backlash from the Jack Hart involvement hardly makes the money they made worth it to him. Joe is quick to agree that they can not get back into the illegal whiskey trade, but is equally clear in saying they would be closed and out of jobs without the prior bootlegging. Joe is still concerned that the police could show up at any time, looking for Jack again. All reports have him on the West coast but they can’t take the chance of a raid or a police search. The men were lucky to get through those years undetected. Joe won’t take that chance again, and says they may have to cut the crew down to the five people in this room at some point, meaning himself, his sons Leo and Eddie, his brother James and James’ son Guy. If they can’t find work, everyone else will have to go and Joe doesn’t know what happens after that. The meeting ends with no solution or action planned. The Shop has some savings, mostly generated by their bootlegging profits, but they are burning through that money now. Something will have to give at some point. The men head to their homes on a very hot Friday evening. Eddie cruises along Pratt Street until he reaches Patterson Park, turns his motorcycle left and drives along the park. He goes over the situation in his mind. He needs to make some more money and there must be some way to do it with whiskey again. Eddie turns the old Indian right and follows the North side of the park to Lakewood Avenue, turning left at St. Elizabeth’s of Hungary Church. Eddie glances at his parish church as he gets closer to home. He drives the four blocks to 434 N. Lakewood. He passes his home and circles around heading up the alley to park in his backyard. An idea strikes him as he pulls in the back. He could do the bootlegging from his house; the Shop wouldn’t have to be involved at all. He could build a small still in the basement and he could sell whiskey. Eddie’s wife Anna is a prohibitionist though and would never allow it. She accepted it in the past, but after the Hart debacle she would be even more opposed. Eddie parks his bike and walks in his house waving hello to his neighbor John Kellner.
The Kavanagh’s meet again because they must cut more jobs. None of them resist or argue either way. They have no work in the Shop at all. They cut the last of their helpers and two of their veteran smiths. This leaves them with the Kavanaghs’s (Joe, James, Leo, Eddie and Guy) and their cousin James Woods, as well as their two most senior non-Kavanagh coppersmiths.
The crew work on two kettle jobs they have in the Shop. It is three days work even with the small crew but they take their time and fill the week with it. In the spare hours, they make their fittings and couplings from brass and copper. Joe hopes that when the work picks up they’ll be able to sell some of this stock of parts quickly and they’ll be prepared for any brewery repairs that are needed. The brewery customers are really struggling. If people don’t have jobs and don’t have money for food, only the truly desperate have money for beer. especially “Near Beer.” Throughout the day Joe sits in the corner office smoking his pipe and the phone remains silent.
A summer Sunday dinner at Joe and Johanna’s house is a regular occurrence. Their oldest son Leo and his family, wife Maymie, son Leo Jr. and daughter Mary are there and their second son Eddie and his family, wife Anna, sons Ed Jr. and Jack. Johanna roasts chicken and the conversation is about the family doings and the oppressive heat that has hit Baltimore and the East coast. It has been stifling this summer. The sons ask their parents about their sister, Anna, now Sister Mary Agnes, Visitation Nun. Because she is cloistered, her parents only see her a few times a year. She is adjusting well to the order and sends her love to her brothers and all the family. Johanna misses her daughter very much. As a devout Catholic, she supports Anna in her vocation, but it is tough for Jo to give up her little girl and any thoughts of that girl’s children. She’s proud but sad at the same time. After dinner, the men retire to the parlor leaving their wives to clean up. Joe sits in his most comfortable chair and lights his pipe. Leo reclines on a small couch while watching Leo Jr. rough housing with Ed Jr. Eddie sits on the piano bench smoking a cigarette, tossing a wound fabric ball to the younger children, Leo’s girl Mary and Eddie’s boy Jack. He brings up the subject of making some rye whiskey to his father and brother again. Joe reiterates that there will be no whiskey making at the Shop. That’s not happening. Eddie holds up his hand and lets his father know that he is aware of his feelings on this. Eddie isn’t talking about distilling at the Shop. He will make a small 20 gallon still and do it somewhere else.
“I can’t do it at home. There is no chance Anna will go for that,” he says as he throws the small ball gently to his son.
“No, she won’t.” says Joe pipe in hand, “and I’m still not convinced it’s a good idea. With Jack Hart still on the loose, you never know when or where the police might show up looking for him.”
Eddie tosses the ball to his niece Mary, smiling, and replies,”They haven’t searched us since last year and they have never been to my house, which I’m not going to use anyway. I don’t have a place yet, Joe, but I wanted you two to know what I was doing. Leo, can you make some drawings for a 20 gallon still?” Eddie asks now, looking to his brother.
“Of course,” Leo answers, “But I don’t want to get too involved. Give me some rye when you make it and I’m happy to make some sketches.”
Eddie thanks him as his father chimes in further, “Are you sure it’s safe yet? Jack is still roaming around. Even on the west coast he’s making the news. I still worry about it.”
“Kitty’s dead, Joe. The connection to us is getting further and further away. Besides, they had Jack in custody. They had him in San Francisco and he still got away. You think they’re going to get that close to him again? I don’t think so. No, Jack Hart is gone.” His eyes lock on his father’s. “There is no Jack, ” pausing then, he gently pats his little son on the head, “except for my Jack.”
Joe’s mouth slowly slides into a smile and he says, “Fine, Eddie. If you’re sure, I trust you will be as careful as you can. Stay out of trouble.”
“Of course,” Eddie puts out his cigarette and fishes in his pocket for a stick of gum.
“And when you do whatever you are going to do, remember your father. We’re struggling through these times too,” Joe says as six year old Jack begins tapping the piano keys.
Eddie plays a few notes for his young son as he nods to his father. He well understands the assumption that he will pass along some small percentage of whatever he makes to his father.
A loud and boisterous Coppersmiths Union meeting is held this Saturday night, a roomful of disgruntled and frightened coppersmiths who are only hearing what they already know. Jobs and work are scarce as the economy and the country itself seems to have come to a standstill. Eddie is frustrated, upset and worried. He has no answers for his union brothers but must focus on what he will do for his family and the Shop. The meeting ends and the members head their separate ways. Eddie has thought of a place for his still. His neighbor might go for it. Eddie is friendly with him and they’ve shared a glass of rye before. Later that night standing in their back yards, Eddie asks John Kellner about using his house for distilling. He explains the plan briefly and why he can’t make the whiskey in his own home. John Kellner knows Anna as well and he is fine about the still, even excited. John Kellner is the youngest of three sons and lives alone with his mother. He is sure they can use his basement to make the rye and his mother will go along with it. He agrees and is willing to be paid in whiskey which works just fine with Eddie. Kellner will also make sure that his mother doesn’t say anything about it to Anna. They shake hands and Eddie heads inside, mopping his brow with a handkerchief. It is still insufferably hot as this long drought continues.
Eddie begins building his still at the Shop. He designs it himself after conferring with his brother, Leo who makes some drawings for him. The rest of the crew are making more stock fittings and sundry in the hope that some day soon, they will have buyers. The Shop has always kept a large stock of parts, valves and assorted apparatus that works with their kettles and vats. This has always been a strength of theirs in quickly being able to service their customers. Now they have boxes and boxes of them.
Two of Jack Hart’s former associates are in the newspaper, John “Wiggles” Smith who assisted in the Norris robbery/murder and George Bailey who aided Jack in his escape in 1929. Smith, Bailey and seven others attempt a bold escape at the Maryland Penitentiary. They charge a wall with a rope, overcoming a guard, Arthur Owen, and stealing his gun. They shoot him and attempt to scale the wall. Other guards soon swarm them and all nine are captured and returned to their cells. Prison guard Owen survives and his testimony leads to another conviction against these men and time is added to all of their sentences. Joe is reading the newspaper at home and tosses it down as he thinks, when will all this craziness end. He taps his pipe out in the ashtray, sits down at the piano and begins playing. Music at times can wipe away what is in his mind. He just focuses on the notes.
Eddie’s still is finished and he transports it to the Kellner’s house at 436 N. Lakewood. He installs it in their basement and immediately begins experimenting, making some rye. He uses the corn and rye barley mash that his father recommends. Eddie tries several passes to duplicate the rye they made for Hart. That was a pretty good smooth rye. They didn’t have any time to age it and neither will Eddie. He will have to bottle it from the still as is. He does all he can to get a smooth rich flavor and soon he has something he likes, a good strong palatable whiskey.
The Philadelphia Athletics defeat the St. Louis Cardinals in the World Series winning four out of six games. Mr. Mack’s A’s repeat as champions. Philadelphia’s two aces, Lefty Grove and George Earnshaw each win two games as this series is a battle of pitching with the teams combining for only 33 runs in the six games. The Kavanagh’s, as always, pull for Connie Mack’s team and happily discuss each game. Baseball serves as a distraction, a much needed one this year, as things keep getting worse for the Shop. Babe Ruth’s New York Yankees finish a distant third, 16 games behind the A’s. Ruth has another solid year batting .359 with 49 home runs, but it’s not enough for the Yanks. Eddie has always been such a big fan of the local boy, Ruth. In the evenings, he regales his sons on the amazing baseball feats of the Babe. Young Jack, in particular, is very interested and hangs on every word of his father’s. Jack will become every bit the fan that Eddie is of George Herman “Babe” Ruth.
Eddie speaks to some of his friends about the rye he is making and gives them a taste. They seem to like it and are definitely interested. Some ask him about gin. Gin is particularly popular in the speakeasies. Eddie will give that some thought. If others can make it, he is certain he can. He visits the library and consults with some others who were formerly in the alcohol trade.
Eddie Kavanagh spends this Saturday trying to make gin in a tub in the Kellner’s basement. Bathtub gin is somewhat the rage these days. Eddie experiments with adding different flavors and chemicals to pure alcohol. He finds a mix that he thinks he can sell. For himself, he would never drink this stuff. It has a kick, yes but the taste is not at all to his liking. That being said, Eddie was a rye whiskey man all of his life just as his father is. Eddie now has two options for potential alcohol customers. The rye which he himself drinks and the gin which he will sell but never drink. He will get back in touch with any friends or associates who are interested. He will have to be careful to choose any customers carefully. He knows he has to be smart about this.
On the Saturday after Thanksgiving, Joe and Johanna Kavanagh visit their daughter, Anna(Sr. Mary Agnes) at the Visitation convent. They spend several hours talking over tea. They catch her up on her brothers and their families. They speak about Kitty’s passing and also the problems the Shop is having. She listens and assures her parents that the family is in her prayers and thoughts always.
After Church on this Sunday, Eddie finalizes his plans for selling some rye and gin. The rye is good and the gin is passable. He has a good system for making both in the Kellner’s basement away from any prying eyes, including his wife’s. He just needs a “code word” to keep the production and sales quiet. After dinner, he smokes and listens to the radio. The transmission is momentarily interrupted then returns. He adjusts the dials to get rid of the static. He is struck with an idea. A dodge for lack of a better term similar to what Joe used ten years ago. Joe told everyone he was selling hardware to justify making money when the Shop was slow. To cover his bootlegging profits. Eddie’s idea grows and a small smile covers his face. He will tell his friends and associates who are looking for liquor to call him. They should call Eddie at his home and tell him or his wife that there is something wrong with the caller’s radio. Eddie will tell Anna that he is going to try his hand at fixing radios to make some extra money. When the caller is asked what’s wrong with the radio, they are to answer it has a bad tube or two or more. They will then request a clear tube which would equal a bottle of gin or a dark tube which will signify a bottle of rye. Eddie likes this idea the more he thinks about it. He will send word to his friends and pass along this code word or dodge. This will work and Anna should be none the wiser. When they retire for the evening, Eddie mentions to his wife that he is thinking of fixing radios as a side job. She is curious if he knows enough about it. He tells her he knows how to replace the tubes and that’s the biggest part of it. He kisses her good night and says that doing “Radio Repairs” may just make them a nice little bit of money.
Today is the Christmas Party at the Shop. It’s been a very tough year. The work is going away and the country is in a deep Depression. They celebrate as best they can. This year they also lost Kitty but the Jack Hart story goes on as he is still missing. The party is a small affair this year with just the immediate Kavanagh family, a few customers and their two remaining non-family employees. There is food, drink and song but less of all three this year. They do hope for a better year in January. They can’t imagine it could be much worse. Eddie puts his trust in his new “Radio Repairs” to make some money and help see them through.
Herbert Hoover is the President of the United States. Pluto is discovered at the edge of the solar system. Clarence Birdseye sells his first frozen foods. A.A. Milne becomes the first author to sell the merchandising rights to his character, Winnie-the-Pooh. The Mickey Mouse comic strip is first published. Scotch tape and Twinkies are invented. The Chrysler Building is finished and becomes the world’s first structure over 1000 feet tall. The Radio show “The Shadow” premiers. Comic character Betty Boop first appears in “Dizzy Dishes”. Clint Eastwood, Neil Armstrong, Ray Charles, Sandra Day O’Connor and Don Shula are born.
There are still 48 states in the Union.
To read past years, click the “Table of Contents” link below.