1934 The First Time Down the Ocean

January 5

The Shop starts the year with some distillery and brewery work to attend to while Eddie Kavanagh, assisted by Mr. Funke, continues to make and sell whiskey at 436 N. Lakewood Avenue. Joe receives calls for repairs and spare parts, valves, gauges and fittings. Finally, all of those stock parts they have been making for the last several years are in demand. The Shop has accumulated a large and varied stock of these parts. Joe is able to take advantage of this supply to offer quick installs and repairs. The Shop has the tools, the supplies and the manpower to respond quickly. The repeal of Prohibition has brought back those liquor industry customers, operations resume at a deliberate pace. There is work to be done but the alcohol industry is taking its time in getting back to full production. This makes the decision to continue making their rye easier. They need the money to help the Shop with cash flow but also to prepare for buying out James, Joe’s brother. Joe has not been in communication with James since December. James has stated clearly that he will not return to work, and Joe takes him at his word. At some point, James will want to be paid for his portion of the business. Joe uses his half of his son Eddie’s whiskey money to cover the Shop’s payroll when necessary and to put aside some cash to buy out James. The money is “loaned” at times by Joe to the business then paid back to him and Eddie. Some times vague general notations such as “General Distilling” or simply “still” work are made and cash credited to the company. Considering how tough January can be for the Shop, this one starts the year off very well.

February 12

The work has stayed steady at the Shop and Joe is proceeding as if James will never return. Today, Eddie is doing double duty. He works eight hours at the Shop, then spends the evening making some of his rye in his neighbor John Kellner’s basement. Eddie is very familiar with the distilling process, making his own mash and running passes through the still that he made himself. He spends a lot of hours in that basement but he has grown accustomed to it. Eddie’s rye is cheap, but most saloons and pubs are able to purchase legal whiskey with no problems now. Most of Eddie’s remaining customers are individuals who are still short of cash but enjoy a drink. The Kavanagh’s assume that eventually Eddie’s market will dry up but they need the money and he keeps at it.

February 26

Joe is saddened to read in the newspaper that baseball great John McGraw has died. Joe was always a big fan of McGraw as both a player and a manager. McGraw will be buried in Baltimore’s New Cathedral Cemetery where so many Kavanagh’s are interned. McGraw was a great player and an even better manager. He was hugely popular in the City due to his success as a player in the late 1800s with the old National League Orioles. He is also given credit for introducing duck pin bowling to Baltimore where he owned several sporting halls and billiard parlors. Joe was a great admirer of his skills, his baseball knowledge and his strong will as a manager. McGraw will be posthumously inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in three years. Even today in 2019, he is still second only to Connie Mack in Major League Baseball wins by a manager.

March 24

On a warm spring Saturday, Eddie cruises through East Baltimore delivering a few bottles of his rye. He is anxious to get home; he worked a lot of hours at the Shop this week as well as his “Radio Repairs” side gig. He makes his last stop on McElderry Street to deliver to a friend, T J. Burns. He meets Mr. Burns in his backyard and they chat a bit as Eddie hands over a bottle. They speak of the sweet weather as it is a night for short sleeves. Eddie bids him farewell and guns his motorcycle, coasting down the hill toward Lakewood Avenue and making a right. He drives a block and turns onto Jefferson Street and then into the alley, parking in his own backyard. He is finished for the night and walks through the door, a very tired man. Kissing his wife Annie hello, he settles into a chair in the living room where his boys sit listening to “The Shadow” on the radio.

March 31

Another week has passed for the Shop with work for the men, but still not what Joe was hoping for this year. They have a good solid crew but are only able to use some of them for two or three days this week. They rotate the men to keep them all on the payroll, but Eddie is the only man who is very busy. Between the Shop and his bootlegging, his hours keep piling up. The Kavanagh’s are still pleased as things are certainly better than they were two years ago, but they expected the work to come back faster than it has. They do attend to a job at Maryland Distilling, a repair of a still onsite. Eddie takes along two helpers, Vincent and Leo Giannetti and fixes the still in two days. On Sunday March 25, Eddie spends the bulk of the day making whiskey and making deliveries. Eddie’s hours are notated in the payroll journals as a “White Distilling” job and the cash is deposited as such.

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Shop Payroll Ledger. March 31, 1934.

April 13

The Shop’s crew are working on several brewing vats, the first ordered since the repeal of Prohibition. This is the type of job Joe was expecting after the ban on liquor was removed but it has been mostly small repairs and part replacements. Joe is excited to see the big vats being made by his workers and it feels much better for him to have a real crew of men. The Shop had a crew of over thirty before Prohibition and chances are slim that it will reach that level again, but it is a strange feeling at Pratt and Central to have just four or five men laboring in the Shop.

May 14

Joe has heard from his brother James, who wants the company closed and the partnership dissolved. Joe is nearly floored by this idea and offers to buy James’ half of the Shop. James is determined and tells Joe that in his eyes the business came to an end when he stopped working at Pratt and Central, September of last year. James suggests that they go their separate ways and each open their own business. Joe won’t do it; he won’t give up the Joseph Kavanagh Company. Joe wants the legacy, the history and above all else, he wants the name. He flatly refuses to even consider it and again offers to purchase James’ share of the place. James declines and says if Joe doesn’t reconsider, he may have to take legal action. After work, Joe passes all of this along to his wife Johanna who listens intently and tells him to be prepared for anything. James seems to have given this a lot of thought and if he plans to open his own coppersmith company then he would not want to compete with the Shop’s reputation. Joe agrees with her; James is doing his best to level the playing field if he goes out on his own.

June 8

Eddie tells his father he needs a break. He’s been working at the Shop and doing his bootlegging non-stop and he needs a vacation. Joe has trouble understanding why but Eddie insists and tells Joe that he is going to the beach for a few days in August and that’s that. He’ll take Annie and the boys to a beach resort town called Ocean City on the Eastern Shore. Joe tries to fight with Eddie about it but Eddie is decided. He insists and won’t even argue about it. Eddie enlists his mother’s help and she loves the idea of Eddie and his family spending some time at the beach. She thinks they deserve it and quickly persuades Joe to allow Eddie the time off and to pay him a normal week’s salary while on this vacation.

July 4

The Kavanagh’s celebrate Independence Day on Thirty-third Street as the rest of the nation does, with picnics, baseball on the radio and fireworks in the evening. Joe and Johanna’s grandchildren play in the yard and wait anxiously for the fireworks when night falls. As the rockets begin going off, Joe, Johanna, Leo and Eddie sit in the kitchen and discuss the Shop. They must decide what to do about James and they must be prepared for any legal action that he might take. He does own 50% of the business, that’s not in dispute.

“I haven’t heard from James in a couple of months,” Joe says,”but I know he must be planning something. I assume he’ll get a lawyer involved in this.”

“You think he wants to close the Shop so he doesn’t have to compete against us. I mean, if he starts his own place?” Leo asks his father.

“He knows he’ll have to compete with us if he’s opening a coppersmith shop. He wants the building sold and the profits split along with everything else. Even if we were in another building, he would rather compete with us without the name, Joseph Kavanagh Company and the reputation. I’m not giving that up, none of it, no chance. We could lose too many contacts and customers, plus, we earned it. Especially these last few years.” answers Joe as he lights his pipe. He takes a slow puff then finishes through teeth clenched around the stem of the pipe, “I’m not losing that building either. It’s too perfect. I love that corner.”

“Do you have the money to buy him out? Because that’s what the solution will eventually be. His claim is legitimate and he’s going to have to get his money; even if we keep the name, he gets paid.” says Eddie, and he glances out the back window at the kids, along with his wife Anna and sister-in-law Maymie watching the fireworks and covering their ears to quiet the booms.

“I think we have the money. It really depends how you look at the value of the business. The building can be assessed, but the business itself is tougher to put a price on. And if we do pay him his half, we may go back to being cash poor again and I don’t want that. I won’t give James one penny more than he deserves. He abandoned us for one thing and now it seems to me he had some money held back that he didn’t tell me about. He seems to have it now despite not working and yet is prepared to open a business,” says Joe.

The conversation grows quiet as the rockets continue to explode outside in the air. Johanna takes a sip of tea then says, “Joe, you do all you can to sort out the value of the business. You have cash put away from the last year or so and I have some cash. We’ll find the money if we need to. Also, remember that the Shop owes me money. Those loans I made to start the place and to help buy the building were never fully paid back. Be sure to take James’ share of those debts off the value of the business. It’s only fair and that may make it easier for us to afford the buyout.”

Joe looks across the kitchen table at his wife and smiles, “Now, that’s a good thought, Jo. He does owe his share.” Leo and Eddie both grin at their mother and nod in agreement.

“Okay, we’ll start thinking about the numbers and we’ll figure out a way, but we are not giving up the name and we will not lose the building either.” Joe finishes, and they join Anna, Maymie and the kids outside and watch the final few bursts of fireworks lighting up the warm night. The rest of the evening is spent gathered around the piano, Joe and Eddie taking turns playing while the rest listen and sing along.

August 14

Eddie, Anna, Ed Jr. and Jack take a vacation to the Eastern Shore of Maryland. There is a burgeoning beach resort town there called Ocean City. The drive is long, taking about six hours to drive North to Delaware and then South to Ocean City. The boys love every minute of it; the end of the ride is along the coast of the Atlantic Ocean. They’ve never seen anything like it and their eyes are glued to the windows as they pass several miles of pristine beach. The family stays at the Atlantic Hotel right on the boardwalk and spend several days playing on the beach, swimming and fishing. They walk the boardwalk and play arcade games and billiards. There’s a dance hall for Eddie and Anna and a bowling alley for the boys. The boys are in kid heaven as there is so much fun to be had. It’s a vacation they will never forget and Jack particularly will develop a great affection for Ocean City. He loves it all, the games, the beach, and especially the fishing. One day many years in the future, he will retire there.

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Shop Payroll Ledger. August 18, 1934.

August 30

Joe receives a letter at the Shop from James’ lawyer that states his position clearly. As James has told Joe, he feels as if the company was dissolved when in September of last year he ceased to work at the Shop. He believes the company’s assets should be split and that he and Joe should go their own ways. The letter merely re-iterates James’ thoughts on what to do with the Shop but doesn’t state there’s a lawsuit coming. It’s more of a veiled threat at this point. Joe ignores it and does not call his brother. He waits for James to call him, and then he’ll make him an offer for his half of the Shop. That’s what he will do but he’s not going to initiate it; he will wait for James to make the next move.

September 15

The Shop continues as it has been with some business but not enough to keep the full crew working for forty hours. Joe disperses the work so they all receive enough hours to make a little money; no one but Leo Giannetti and Eddie are working full time, and those two are credited with almost two weeks’ worth of hours. Eddie is credited with 79 ¾ hours this week and Giannetti with 62. Young Giannetti has been trusted to help with the bootlegging; the Kavanagh’s have taken a quick liking to the young man who is anxious to make as much money as he can. Mr. Funke is Eddie’s regular assistant with the distilling, but he is getting older and can’t put in the hours. The building on Pratt and Central has a crew in it but they are not as active as Joe would like. He rotates the workmen every couple of days, and he waits, waits for a strong run of steady work where each man can clock forty hours or more every week. That’s what Joe is waiting for.

October 5

The newspaper has been full of Jack Hart’s name for the last few days. He’s being extradited to Baltimore after serving one year in the Cicero Prison. Hart was sentenced to one to fourteen years and strangely he does only the minimum. He returns to the Maryland Penitentiary more than four years after his escape. The warden swears that Hart will never escape again. The Kavanagh’s are not happy to have Jack back in town, but this time the story disappears fairly quickly. After such a litany of escapes, recaptures and crimes, the original murder of William Norris for which Jack was convicted is a long time ago now. Twelve years have passed with manhunts, escapes, accusations against Kitty and questions and searches of the Shop and the rest of Kitty’s family and their homes. Kitty’s mother and sisters went through the same treatment by the police nearly every time that Jack was on the loose. The Kavanagh’s hope, once again, that this is the end of it all. Joe and Leo and Eddie discuss the possibility of Jack escaping again. They all agree that you never know with Jack Hart but Hart is older now and probably tired of being on the run. Also, they agree that with Kitty gone, Jack wouldn’t really be interested in escaping anymore. The Hart saga has been a long strange trip for the Kavanagh’s. They perhaps reaped what they sowed for being involved with Jack, but they had no idea of his level of criminal experience. They hadn’t known about his past, and they had paid a price for that ignorance. Years of random police appearances and searches along with countless repetitive questions, always the same thing: where is Jack Hart? They had made a lot of money quickly which helped them survive some very hard years, but they had paid a price in fear and worry. This will be the end of it though. Jack is in prison to stay.

October 9

The St. Louis Cardinals beat the Detroit Tigers to win the World Series, winning four out of seven games. The Cardinals team is nicknamed the Gas House Gang featuring the pitching Dean brothers, Dizzy and Paul. The Kavanagh’s follow the series closely as this one is a well-matched and very exciting series. As the year before, Eddie’s son Jack listens to as much as he can on the radio and tells his father all about it in the evening. The Cardinals’ superior pitching tips the scales in this one and St. Louis gains a championship. Eddie and his son Jack’s favorite player, Babe Ruth hits .288 with 22 homers for the season as his career is clearly winding down. He does eclipse the 700 home run mark for his career this year. At the time, no other player was near 500 career homers, Ruth’s teammate, Lou Gehrig came closest. This will be Babe Ruth’s last season in New York. Age is hitting him hard and the end of his playing days are near.

November 16

Joe opens another letter from his brother’s attorney. This one was very much like the previous, but it does explicitly say that if no effort to dissolve the company is taken by Joseph Kavanagh that a lawsuit will be filed in the new year. The letter requests Joe respond to the lawyer and begin the process of selling and splitting the company’s assets. Joe will not even consider such a thing and refuses to respond in any way. He is angry at James for not calling him, not talking to him. He is sure that their relationship is beyond repair but still feels bringing an attorney in to negotiate between brothers is unnecessary. Joe stews a bit about this for a few days then decides to reply after the holidays. If James’ lawsuit can wait until the new year, so can Joe’s reply. He will send him an offer to buy his half but will never sell and split the Joseph Kavanagh Company. Joe will never even think about doing that.

November 24

On the Saturday after Thanksgiving, Joe and Johanna pay a visit to the Visitation convent to see Sister Mary Agnes, their daughter who was born Anna. They often visit her on Saturdays and occasionally celebrate Mass at the convent on Sundays but they always make a point of seeing her near each holiday. Their visits are limited and under the rules of the cloistered life that the Visitation sisters follow. Joe and Jo discuss the family with their daughter as she tells them about her studies. She will soon begin teaching and is very excited about it. Her faith and devotion to Christ is matched by her enthusiasm to teach and work with children. She loves to hear about her brothers’ kids and they do come to see her as well. Joe and Jo do not bring up the unresolved problems with James. Sister Mary Agnes spends several hours with her parents, sharing tea and conversation and each other’s company.

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Shop Payroll Ledger.December 1, 1934.

December 24

A Christmas Eve Monday starts the week and also the annual holiday party at the Shop. The crew work for a half-day then begin the yearly clean up and decorating. As they do nearly every year, Leo and Eddie rush out in the Shop’s truck and purchase a tree. There are more customers this year and more employees to celebrate with the Kavanagh’s. Despite the issues with James, it has a been a good year albeit slightly disappointing. The return of the distillery and brewery work, even at a slower rate than hoped for, has bolstered the Shop’s billing, but not enough to abandon Eddie’s bootlegging. He has lost more customers as legal booze is readily available. There are no more speakeasies or pubs to sell to, but he has a few individuals who still buy his cheap rye. Joe is moving forward with the Shop without James. He fully anticipates a lawsuit but hopes that he and his brother can come to terms. Joe is prepared to do whatever is necessary to keep the name, Joseph Kavanagh Company. The Kavanagh’s have some final closure on the Jack Hart story now that Jack is back home in Baltimore, in the Maryland Penitentiary. It was a long time ago when Prohibition became law and the Kavanagh’s got involved with Hart who was married to Joe’s niece, Kitty. They had several good years where the whiskey trade kept the business alive, more than that. They made more money than they expected, and faster, but it all crashed down when William Norris was murdered. The mess that ensued may not have been worth the money. Jack’s larger than life personality made him great fodder for the press and Kitty’s flamboyant style only added to it. During Jack’s escapes the Shop had to deal with police searches and questions over many years, random and infrequent appearances by the police, but still disconcerting. Finally, Kitty died several years ago and then Jack was arrested. He resides again in prison on Madison Street not all that far from the spot where Jack and his gang killed Norris. He will serve out the remainder of his term and is by all accounts an excellent prisoner, bringing an end to a long thorn in the side of the Kavanagh’s. For years, they feared it would be found out that they supplied the whiskey that Jack sold, but that never happened. Now Joe and his sons face the challenge of buying out a partner and consolidating control of the company. Joe has been running the Shop for years as it is; James has been gone more than a year now, so now it just needs to be made official. James needs to be paid his share, clearing the way for Joe and his sons to own the business.

 

 

Franklin Delano Roosevelt is the President. The Apollo Theater opens. Albert Einstein visits the White House. The US Securities and Exchange Commission and the National Archives are established. F. Scott Fitzgerald’s “Tender is the Night” is published. The first Soap Box derby is held in Dayton, Ohio. In Baltimore, the Walters Art Gallery opens. Jim Gentile, Carl Sagan, Charles Manson, Hank Aaron and Gloria Steinem are born. It is a very bad year for bank robbers as Clyde Barrow, Bonnie Parker, John Dillinger, Pretty Boy Floyd and Baby Face Nelson are all shot to death in gunfights with law enforcement officers.

There are 48 states in the Union.

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James Connolly AKA Jack Hart. Mugshot. 1934. Baltimore Sun.

To read prior years, click on the Table of Contents link below:

Table of Contents

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