1936 Joe Stands Alone

January 20

The Shop is off to a strong start this year with several orders from distilleries, several beer vats to fabricate and a boiler repair. The boiler repair is for E. J. Codd, one of the Shop’s oldest customers. A copper liner is fabricated and several flanges to go with it. Joe is happy but his mind is on the lawsuit filed by his brother against him. The two sides have been negotiating through their attorneys and Joe is more and more hopeful that a settlement will be reached. James has hired Mr. James F. Thrift as his attorney while Joe is represented by Maloy, Brady, and Yost who have helped him with several legal matters in the past, primarily automobile accidents. ( Joe was a notoriously bad driver and had his share of lawsuits filed by other drivers.) Eddie continues to make and sell his illegal rye on Lakewood Avenue. Joe has stashed away his share of those profits and he will use it to pay his brother if and when they come to an agreement.

February 29

Joe hears from his attorney and a settlement with James has been reached. Both sides have agreed that the value of James’ share, less the loans from Johanna and any other debts, is $9,000. Joe has the money; it must be paid in cash within fifteen days of this notice. James signs an official release of his share of the Shop today and Joe will sign after payment is made. Joe is thrilled and very relieved that this conflict is all over. The settlement is very clear; James will relinquish all claims to the business and the property, and Joe will assume all debts and assets of the Joseph Kavanagh Company. There had been five Kavanagh Brothers at the start, and now Joe will be the last surviving brother at the Shop. Once James is paid, the Shop will pass through Joe’s line with Leo and Eddie being the next owners.

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Financial Agreement between James D. and Joseph A. Kavanagh. Page 1. February 29, 1936.
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Financial Agreement between James D. and Joseph A. Kavanagh. Page 2. February 29, 1936.

March 30

With a couple of signatures, for the first time in over thirty years, Joseph Kavanagh is the sole owner of the Joseph Kavanagh Company. Joe visits the office of Maloy, Brady and Yost to sign the agreement; the money has already been passed on to James. The entire process takes just a few minutes this morning, then Joe drives back to Pratt and Central, relieved and happy to focus on the day to day work at the Shop. The small corner office is shared now by Joe and his sons, Leo and Eddie. Leo sits at the drafting table where his Uncle James usually sat, as they both focused on drawings and engineering. Eddie sits at the desk previously occupied by Cousin Guy, close to the door, as Eddie is always in and out of the Shop more than his father and brother. Joe’s is the largest desk situated next to Eddie’s and across from Leo’s, covered in papers and a constantly full ashtray. While eating ham sandwiches and drinking coffee for lunch, the three Kavanagh’s discuss James and the future of the company.

“Boys, it’s all behind us now. We knew it would work out and that the Shop was ours but it’s good to be done with it. Now we just need to stay busy.” Joe announces to his sons as he lit his pipe.

“We’re glad it’s over too. Do you think you’ll hear from James? Do you think he was happy with the price?” asks Leo, still sipping his coffee.

“He took it, so I guess he was, and I haven’t heard from him. I probably won’t.” Says Joe, staring at the drafting table, not meeting Leo’s gaze.

Eddie, leaning forward in his chair and crushing a cigarette into the ashtray on his desk asks Joe, “Do you think he’ll open his own coppersmith shop?”

“I think he might,” replies Joe, “he’s got some money now and that seemed to be his plan.” Joe takes a slow puff on his pipe then continues, “We’ll know. You’re General Secretary of the union.”

“I know,” Eddie says into the cloud of smoke surrounding his father. “If he hires any of the union brothers, I’ll be the first to know. And congratulations. You outlasted them all.” Eddie finishes with a bit of a grin as he tosses a stick of Doublemint gum into his mouth.

“This was James’ choice, not mine. I’m glad it worked out this way for all of us. For your children too. Before long your boys might be working here. You told me that Ed Jr. would be starting this summer. This is how it should be.” Joe snaps in response.

“We’re grateful. Eddie doesn’t mean it that way,” Leo chimes in, casting a glance at Eddie. “We know it’s the best thing for all of us and our families. We’ll keep it going and pass it on.” Leo sometimes wearied of being the occasional peacemaker between his father and brother.

“Of course, I’m grateful. You know that, Joe.” Eddie looks directly at his father as he speaks. “And yes, Ed will start his apprenticeship this summer. It’s time.” Eddie nods and continues, “I do feel like I want to ask you something about your owning the Shop completely now. No brothers. No partners. Is this what you always wanted?”

Joe hesitates as both his boys sit silent waiting. For a moment, he remembers his four brothers. There once were five nephews of Old Uncle Joe at the Shop and now Joe stands alone. Joe stirs and says, “Yes. This is what I always wanted.” He turns his chair back to his desk and picks up the phone, placing a call to Seaboard Steel and purchases some steel rods they need in the Shop. Leo turns to his drafting table and resumes sketching a doubler for a distillery repair and Eddie stands, lights a cigarette and walks out into the Shop to get back to work on a domed lid for a large beer vat. It will take Eddie and two helpers two days to shape the lid.

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Settlement agreement between James D. and Joseph A. Kavanagh. 1936.

April 4

Eddie is doing his best to move some more of his whiskey, but his list of customers has shrunk. It’s mostly friends or friends of friends who he has sold to for years. He has talked to his father and brother and it’s time to think about stopping the bootlegging. The Shop’s work is picking up, and the concerns over James are finished. Eddie decides to keep selling to his regulars for a few more months until the end of summer but no later. He tells his remaining customers that he may be getting out of the game and they may want to stock up before he stops. He receives some bigger orders from his friends, nothing major, but two or three bottles instead of one. Today he’s delivering two cases of whiskey throughout the City and he needs to take his car. This is too much for the motorcycle. He takes his son Ed along, and allows the boy to drive. Ed does fine and is excited to take part in his father’s bootlegging. His father swears him to secrecy, but young Ed still brags to his little brother Jack about it at the first opportunity.

April 25

A Saturday evening meeting of Coppersmiths Local #80 is held. Eddie attends as General Secretary and as the Shop’s representative. Eddie will announce that the Shop is hiring another coppersmith and two helpers. In addition, there are more jobs coming back for other companies in the trade. The rank and file are happy as they head home; finally jobs are here and the men hope that the Depression is coming to an end. Eddie cruises home on his motorcycle, a cool spring breeze blowing through his hair as he turns onto Lakewood Avenue. He parks in his yard and heads through the door; he takes a seat at the dining room table for an evening cup of tea with his wife, Annie. He fills her in on how the meeting went while she catches him up on what their boys were doing today.

May 30

Eddie has more whiskey to sell and deliver before ceasing operations. Today Eddie drives off on his bike while Ed delivers in the car. This time, young Ed brings his little brother Jack who begged his father to let him help. Jack was jealous of his older brother and Eddie knew it was safe, so he allowed his younger son to take part on a run. Jack’s older brother Ed often teased him but this time he was glad to have him along. They chatted baseball as Ed drove from street to street. Jack stayed in the car and Ed handled the whiskey and the money but still, Jack was thrilled to be involved. What kid wouldn’t get a charge from riding shotgun on a whiskey run in those days?

June 7

Another generation begins working at the Shop as Ed Kavanagh Jr. starts his apprenticeship today. Ed is sixteen and the Shop is busier now so it’s high time he begins at the Shop. He’ll work during the summers first, as his father and uncle did, then be back to school in the Fall. His apprenticeship starts as they all do, as just a helper/laborer, but gradually he’ll be taught the heating and bending skills that are essential to coppersmith work. Ed grumbles a bit, but not much as he gets to work. His younger brother Jack has a change this summer too, but a much more pleasant one. Jack convinces his mother to allow him to skip his piano lessons for the summer and join a Little League Baseball team. Jack loves the piano but is thrilled to have a chance to play ball on a neighborhood team. He plays at St. Elizabeth’s Elementary School, where they have a team in several sports including baseball. Playing baseball and being part of a team is a thrill for young Jack. He’s nearly jubilant when his mother agrees; and he has no idea that Eddie did his best to sway Annie’s decision on this matter.

July 11

Eddie delivers two bottles of rye to Thomas Cunningham, his friend from Chester Street who is celebrating the birth of his third grandchild, Audrey. Eddie and he toast the new baby’s birth and Eddie informs Thomas that he will soon be retiring from the “Radio Repair” business. Thomas understands and tells him he’ll keep buying until Eddie gets out of it, then he’ll go to the bar like everyone else. Eddie smiles and promises to share a drink together some time soon, then heads off on his bike to finish his rounds.

July 18

The family visits Sister Mary Agnes (Joe and Johanna’s daughter) at the Visitation Convent on Roland Avenue. Joe and Johanna are there with both sons, Leo and Eddie and their families. Aunt Anna (Sister Mary Agnes) is thrilled to see the children. They play on the grass of the grounds, sit, chat and catch up. Joe tells his daughter that he has bought out her Uncle James and owns the Shop outright. She’s happy for him and promises to pray for them all and the business. She is delighted for Leo and Eddie as she knows soon it will be their place to share as brothers.

August 1

Eddie has a very busy and long Saturday between the Shop and delivering his rye throughout the City. He works at the Shop in the morning on some drip pans for a still. Copper sheet is bent into a box shape that is used to catch slow drips from the distilling system. They make them all the time at the Shop as standard fare for their whiskey-making customers. Eddie returns home for a quick lunch, then is off to take some of his rye to his last customers. Today he makes eight trips to different parts of Baltimore while his sons make several deliveries right in the Lakewood Avenue area. Ed Jr. drives and twelve year old Jack accompanies him. They stop at homes in the neighborhood, dropping off a bottle here and there and Ed takes the cash for his father. The boys return and sit listening to the radio when their father finally gets home for the evening. He greets his wife with a kiss and Ed Jr. passes the money along to his father who pours himself a glass of his own rye. He takes a sip then stretches out on the couch with today’s newspaper as the boys listen to the Lone Ranger. Ed Jr. has had a good first summer at the Shop; learning the basics of torch work, hammering and shaping, but more to the point, it was his first experience of working hard all day in the heat of the summer. He has learned a lot but will be happy to get back to school after his first months of apprenticing at the Shop.

August 23

Eddie and his younger son Jack spend a Sunday afternoon at Bugle Field in Baltimore. A doubleheader of semi-pro teams is scheduled on a hot and hazy day. Jack is very excited and he sits with his father sharing a bag of peanuts and a Coke. He watches intently as the first baseball game is played and then another follows it after a brief intermission. The players are mostly local fellows who play for businesses and municipal groups, many of whom have teams that play all over the City. It’s a thrilling day for Jack as he loves the game so much. He talks with his father about the particulars, the players and the rules. Eddie passes along the store of baseball knowledge that he possesses. For just a few cents, father and son have this wonderful day and Eddie promises Jack they will do it again.

September 4

In New York, a letter is sent to the Director of the National Park Service from an administrator at the Statue of Liberty. The National Park Service as part of the Department of the Interior is charged with the care and preservation of national monuments certainly including Liberty. The letter details some damage to the left foot of the statue that was discovered during a standard inspection. The copper chains that should be attached to the left foot are worn and some have broken away. They must make a careful evaluation of the damage because the last thing they want to do is make it worse. Copper needs to be treated with a skilled hand otherwise you can hurt more than you help. The maintenance department of the Statue will make an attempt to fix the chains as soon as possible. Some renovations and repairs are already underway on Bedloe’s Island to celebrate the fiftieth anniversary of the Statue’s dedication next year. Every effort is being made to have the Statue in top form for this occasion and this newfound damage must be dealt with as well.

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Letter to National Park Service from Statue of Liberty administrators. September 4, 1936.

September 5

Another Saturday afternoon is spent by Eddie delivering his whiskey but this will be the last. He has sold nearly all of the last of his rye. He will save several bottles for nostalgic purposes but the rest are handed off to a few final customers. Thomas Cunningham and T. J. Burns buy their last several bottles and that’s that for Eddie. He speeds back to Lakewood Avenue and spends a quiet evening with his family. He does give great thought to what he’s been doing, this bootlegging/“Radio Repairs” work that he has kept at for over five years. He knows it has helped them with cash and it has helped to buy out his uncle but he won’t miss it. The hours got to be too much especially with the Shop busy now. He will miss his customers and friends, but the rest of it? No. He’s happy to stop.

October 6

The Yankees defeat the Giants to win the World Series in six games. It’s the first championship for the Yankees without Babe Ruth and the first with up and coming outfielder, Joe DiMaggio. DiMaggio sets a Yankee rookie record by blasting 29 home runs in his first season, a record that will stand until 2017. The Yanks offense powers them to the championship including a game two 18-4 shellacking of the Giants. In this game, Tony Lazzari joins Elmer Smith as the only players to hit a grand slam in World Series play. Young Jack still races home to listen to all he can of each game on the radio. He and his father discuss each game during dinner throughout the series. Both still pull for the Yankees, as a residual loyalty to Ruth.

November 3

Roosevelt wins re-election to the presidency by a landslide defeating Republican challenger Alf Landon who only wins eight electoral votes to the incumbent’s five hundred and twenty-three. Landon was the sitting Governor of Kansas and after this defeat he retires from public life. The Kavanagh’s voted for FDR; the end of Prohibition was enough to secure their votes but the improvement in the economy in other areas only makes it easier for Joe and his family to support Roosevelt.

December 24

On a cold Thursday, the Joseph Kavanagh Company throws its annual Christmas Eve Party. The Shop is transformed from its dirty and cluttered self to a wide open space with a tree and decorations in a matter of an hour or so. Friends, both of the Shop and the family, stop by and help the Kavanagh’s celebrate. It has been a very good year and Joe is relieved that the issue with James is over. James is out and Joe stands alone. He is the last of Old Uncle Joe’s nephews and he retains the Shop. The Joseph Kavanagh Company will go to his children now, and in saving Uncle Joe’s legacy, he is also ensuring his own. He can see the future before his very eyes now with his boys carrying on as he and his brothers did. They have a good building, there is work with more on the way and his sons and the crew are a good team. They work well together and are highly skilled and experienced. Joe sneaks out of the party for a minute to smoke his pipe outside on the corner. He smokes silently in the chill December air looking up and down Central Avenue. He recalls so much of the Shop’s history. He started in 1895 but he was born the year the Shop started, 1866. Technically, he’s about six months younger than the Shop. He has seen so much pass through its doors and so much happen to this family over the same years. Joe does miss his brothers and remembers fondly those days when he, Martin, Eugene, James and Frank worked for their uncle. They too were a good team and did a lot of work, but time took its toll. Eugene was killed in a horrible train tragedy. Martin was a crook and nearly destroyed the Shop. Frank’s life was a sad one with deaths to his wife and son, then his own from malaria at the Panama Canal; finally, this fight with James which was a long time coming. Joe knows that James was not happy with the way things were going. He just didn’t realize how bad it was, but it’s over now and Joe is the last brother remaining. He is proud of what he has done to secure his family’s future and even his own legacy. Joe was not a man of small ego, he worked at a place called the Joseph Kavanagh Company, but was never the sole owner. Most folks thought he was when they met him, so it may have galled him a little occasionally that he was not, maybe not much, but enough to bring some satisfaction in owning the place, though he knows it won’t be for long. Joe is content as he can be and thinks now of when he will be gone. He envisions the days with Leo, Eddie and their sons all working together, his sons owning and running the Shop while his grandsons work there. Joe knows soon the time will come when the Shop will be out of his hands; he needn’t worry about it. He’s quite sure it will all be fine.

Roosevelt is re-elected to the Presidency of the United States. The Hoover Dam and the Golden Gate Bridge are finished. Bruno Hauptmann is executed for the infamous murder of the Lindbergh baby. Margaret Mitchell’s “Gone With the Wind” is published. American Jesse Owens wins gold in the 100 meter dash and the US Men’s Basketball team wins its first gold at the Summer Olympics in Berlin. The YMCA is founded. Barbara Mikulski, Robert Redford, Buddy Holly, Mary Tyler Moore, and Jim Henson are born.

There are 48 states in the Union.

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Jack Kavanagh Sr. in his Little League uniform in front of 434 N. Lakewood Avenue. Age 12. 1936.

To read past years, click on the Table of Contents link below.

Table of Contents

2 thoughts on “1936 Joe Stands Alone

    1. I wish I could say yes but no. Not due to any lingering hostility that I know of. Mostly due to losing track of each other. I know that James’ sons did not have sons but daughters. That makes it tricky to find them as they are not Kavanaghs. Not sure what his descendants are named. I would be open to it. I am in contact with Martin’s family & Eugene’s family. Some more than others. Frank has no descendants. His surviving son becme a monk so that was the end of Frank’s family. I would be pleased to hear from James’ family but it would be tough to track them down. If they sought us out, I would be happy to hear it.

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