There is plenty of work on the floor as the Kavanagh’s set back to it at the Shop on Pratt and Central. Leo and Eddie lead their crew as they tackle their assorted coppersmith jobs. Distillery and beer brewery work is a constant and is augmented with confectionery or cooking apparatus, railings, ornamental work and shipyard work. Today an installation is completed at United Distillers of America. It was a time and labor job which is always good. No quote necessary, UDA needed a repair and two men were dispatched for three days. A yeast coil of copper tube was replaced and some brass feet made to stabilize the coil. The brothers love a job where the order is placed and there is little concern for cost. They quote all day, every day so a straight order of time and work is always welcome. Leo and Eddie have both worked here for thirty plus years and they are confident that things will continue to go well. The Shop is certainly cemented into the alcohol production industry as both distillers and brewers call regularly. The crew are skilled hard workers and Eddie’s sons are both at the Shop. Honing and perfecting their skills, they are the next generation and some day the Joseph Kavanagh Company will fall to them one way or another.
Jack continues his studies at the Maryland Institute College of Art attending a drafting class and a mechanics class once a week while still working at the Shop. He is happy to continue his schooling, anything to keep him distracted from his worries about his wife’s pregnancy. He is so anxious to be a father but still concerned. He can hardly contain his excitement and anything to take his mind away from the approaching baby’s arrival helps.
A cold and windy March Tuesday is a busy one at the Shop. A boiler repair for E. J. Codd is the large job being finished today. Mr. Funke, Mr. Votta, Ed Jr. and Jack are putting the finishing touches on the copper liner that will complete this order. This liner is about six foot in diameter and ten feet long. Heat has to be evenly distributed onto the copper sheet before it is rolled slowly then soldered shut. The four men use their torches to temper the copper and when the seams are ready to close, they trim off any excess before soldering it. Along with some valves, fittings and straight copper tube necessary for the boiler, this makes for a good job. The rest of the boys are working on some commercial cooking vessels and a few other replacement parts for the Shop’s distillery customers.
Betty Kavanagh gives birth to a baby girl and Jack is bouncing with joy to be a father. The family is thrilled and very happy that Jack and Betty’s family has begun to grow. The baby is named Elizabeth Ann, she is named for her mother’s maternal Aunt Betty and for Elizabeth Ann Seton. The new mom is a recent graduate of Seton High School and wanted to honor her. Elizabeth Ann Seton will eventually be the first American canonized as a saint by the Roman Catholic Church. The couple are as excited as any new parents have ever been. They have this beautiful baby and they are no longer a couple but a family. Baby Betty Ann is passed around and held over and over at 434 N. Lakewood Avenue when she comes home from the hospital. Despite loving the closeness of family and the family’s happiness at the new baby’s arrival, Betty and Jack continue to plan to find their own place. They can only live with Eddie and Annie for so long. They need their own home.
The Joseph Kavanagh Company has passed through another winter and into spring without missing a beat. They stay busy with a constant flow of repair, replacement and maintenance work for the alcohol industry. Nearly every day, a brewery customer or a distiller calls for an inquiry or work. The Kavanagh’s and their crew are coppersmiths and they also make kettles and form copper and brass into shapes for any need. Today a brass railing is made to match an irregular curve around a garden outside a house owned by someone of great means; it has several radii and must be made in six pieces. Brass work is braziers work but a coppersmith can handle it too. The rail will be finished, trimmed to match a wooden template provided and then installed by the customer. The year has been strong so far and there are no signs of a slowdown.
The Shop’s year continues well but today Eddie misses one. It happens. He bids a job for a copper trough for American Brewery but doesn’t get an order. He expected this order to be placed within a day but the crew at the brewery found a way to fix the old trough and make it work. Eddie chides himself, assuming his price was too high. He always held the philosophy that if the Shop got the job, the price was too low and if it didn’t, the price was too high. A tough way to look at things but Eddie felt sure he was right.
The Kavanagh Shop on Central Avenue has received several orders from Parks and Tilford Distillers. They have worked for this customer since the end of Prohibition and Eddie has landed a good bit of work. Eddie received a call from a Mr. Springer at Parks and Tilford. They needed an emergency repair of a beer heater. An emergency fix that needs to be attended to quickly because it will take a week at least for two men to complete. Mr. Springer has told Eddie the distillery is doing a major overhaul and they will need more work and a fair bit of copper tube to stock for replacements. The tube will have to be tinned for safety and Eddie knows this is a coppersmith’s forte. Eddie arranges to set his son, Ed Jr. and Mr. Owens, a coppersmith with fifteen years experience, to work on the beer heater as quickly as they can drive to Owings Mills where Parks and Tilford is located. Young Ed and Owens find they have to replace some tubes and rivets, and perform some other repairs to the unit. They get started and it does take a week but the beer heater will be returned to full operation. It is billed on the 23rd and the first order for tinned copper tube is received by the Joseph Kavanagh Company today. Mr. Springer has assured Eddie that they will need more tube through the summer and maybe into the Fall. Recurring jobs and repeat orders are the things that can really make a profit for the company.
The crew sit on a few chairs and buckets as they take their afternoon break at 2 pm. The Shop’s office door opens and Leo and Eddie step out to smoke and chat with the boys.
“Well, fellows,” Eddie begins, “We will definitely have some overtime coming up for everybody. We got a nice one coming in. National Distillery just ordered three tanks and one is about nine foot in diameter and six feet high.” Eddie grins as he finishes, the crew answering with a few “yeah’s” and “good’s.” These men are all union workers and overtime is always coveted.
Leo speaks up, “This one comes when we already have plenty of work, boys, so be prepared to work all day Saturday and ten hours next Monday and Tuesday.” The workers to a man nod approvingly at the prospect of the extra hours.
Eddie lights a cigarette and after a slow draw, “Gents, times are good. We need to keep at this work and bang it out while we can but this is good for all of us. We gotta take it while it’s there but we can celebrate.” His mouth widens into an exaggerated grin and Eddie breaks into a quick but not sloppy little jig as the men begin to chuckle. Eddie begins clapping as he dances and the boys join in with a mix of laughs and applause. The older fellows remember Leo and Eddie’s father, Joe and his occasional dances. As Eddie finishes, the men, led by his brother Leo, clap soundly with a few comical boos tossed in, especially from Ed Jr., the jitterbug champion, but it was all in good fun. Eddie’s other son Jack laughs raucously throughout he whole scene staring with disbelief at his father.
“All right. All right. That’s enough celebrating.” Eddie says still grinning, “Back to work gents. We have things to do.” He walks back to the office door and opens it and is followed by Leo.
“That was some fine footwork, brother. Joe would be proud.” Leo chuckles to Eddie as they step inside.
“Joe’s not here,” Eddie answers. “Somebody’s gotta do the dance.”
Jack and his father drive out to Bugle Field for a Sunday spent watching some ballgames. Before the war, they would do this every week but now it is two or three times a summer. Jack is married and a father himself now so weekly games are out for now. The Baltimore E-Lite Giants host the Newark Eagles in a close contest, with the home losing 3-2, a nail biter of a pitching duel but a great game. A second game is played by two barnstorming Negro League teams and this one is a rout. There is no mercy rule in baseball and the game is a one-sided 17-5 affair. Eddie and his son head back to Lakewood Avenue chatting the whole way. When they reach the house, Jack is quick to scoop up baby Betty and smile at her thinking of when he might be able to take her out to her fist ballgame.
It’s a sticky humid Wednesday in Baltimore and 201 S. Central is a hot box but work needs to be done and the crew are busy with a handful of distillery jobs and a fountain that is being finished today. As the workers break for lunch, Joe stops in to see his sons Leo and Eddie. He settles into his old office and takes a seat in his very familiar surroundings. He has brought a bag of thick cut ham sandwiches from his wife, Johanna. They tuck into the sandwiches and Joe is quick to bring up Babe Ruth’s passing. Ruth died on Monday in New York of cancer and the funeral is today at Yankee Stadium.
“It’s a real shame about Ruth. I think it’s awful. He was such a young man.” Joe opened with a careful look at Eddie.
“Yes, Joe. He was still young and I still really can’t believe it.” Eddie replied with a shake of his head. Eddie was always a Babe Ruth fan. He was a local boy and Eddie saw him play in Club games before he was signed by Boston and long before the fame he achieved as a Yankee. The Baltimore connection and Ruth’s feats kept Eddie a fan throughout the Babe’s career. His father Joe was a constant proponent of Ty Cobb and felt sure Cobb was the greatest baseball player of all time. They sparred over the two ball players almost daily through the 20s and this was one of many things they disagreed over but seemed to enjoy the disagreement on some level.
“The Babe sure had a way. I mean besides belting the homers, he had style and loved the fans. He was always with the kids in pictures. He cared about his fans. A damn shame.” Leo opined as he picked up the second half of his sandwich.
Joe answered quickly, “Ruth did a lot for the game. That’s for certain. He brought in some fans and was a big character. And yeah he could hit that ball a long, long way. I know that. He was a good ball player.”
“But not the best, right Joe?” Eddie seemed to finish Joe’s sentence. “He was no Cobb. Different kind of players but the thing about the Babe was,” Eddie paused taking a sip of coffee, “he was our guy. He was Baltimore. He was from here and he was that good. If not the best, right up there with the best, Joe. He made Baltimore proud.” Eddie broke into a small smile.
“That he did, Eddie.” Joe agreed. “He did.”
The dog days of a coppersmith’s summer are upon Pratt and Central. As luck would have it, in the heat and humidity, the last of another batch of copper tubes are being tinned for Parks and Tilford. They range from 3/4” tubes to 3” tubes. Large vats of lead are bubbling away and making the Shop that much hotter. The Kavanagh brothers love any kind of recurring job. Something that will be ordered every month for any period of time is a great thing for the Shop. It’s work and billing you can count on and once it’s out the door you anticipate getting it back in again. Five of the older smiths handle this job then this shipment of tubes are loaded onto the Shop’s truck, with the help of young Jack Kavanagh. An order is sent out and another will come in to replace it. “It’s a thing of beauty,” is what Joe would say.
Jack Kavanagh returns to the Maryland Institute to study Mechanics. He has learned a great deal about drawings and drafting and now wants to focus on mechanics and basic engineering. He has classes two days a week, is working full time and has a wife and new baby at home. Jack is running a very tough schedule but he wants to learn what he can at MICA while he can still attend. He can manage it still while he and Betty are living with his parents as his wife does have his mother, Annie to help with the baby. Jack knows when they find a house of their own and if they have more kids, the studies will most likely have to end.
The last of the tinned copper tubes for Park and Tilford are delivered today. Twenty pieces of 3/4” tube are driven in the Shop’s old Mack Truck by Ed Jr. to Owings Mills and a job that started in the beginning of the summer comes to a close. That was a nice run of work for the Kavanagh’s. The crew remain busy on another set of distillery parts to be fabricated and a large order of copper fittings for Gunther’s Brewery. They are replacement stock items for Gunther’s and make for another day’s work for the Joseph Kavanagh Company
A large portion of the Shop’s work is small jobs, sometimes an order of just two or three replacement parts. Some are from the stock they keep of valves, fittings and couplings but they also make custom parts as needed for different distilling, brewing or even cooking systems. Today a set of unions are made, both on the larger side as these are usually two inches or smaller. This order calls for a four inch and a six inch union to connect sections of an old distilling system. Even though these are custom made, they only take a few hours and are just another small job in the pile of many that help sustain the Shop.
The Cleveland Indians win the World Series defeating the Boston Braves in six games. The series was nearly an all Boston affair as the Red Sox finished the season in a tie with the Indians for first place in the American League. Cleveland spoiled that Massachusetts match up by winning a one game playoff. This is the first World Series to be broadcast on network television. There was some limited TV coverage for the ’47 series but each game is broadcast this year. The Kavanagh’s still do not have a television set but the series is discussed game by game at the Shop as it always has been. If anything, it is more so now with Jack at Central Avenue. He, like his father and grandfather, is a passionate lover of the game. The crew and the rest of the family are fans but Jack and Eddie put the “fan” in fanatic and they examine each game and each box score, discussing and debating as each game is played. It is very similar to Eddie and his father, Joe. They spoke of baseball a lot whether at work or not. It was a neutral subject that they both shared and felt comfortable discussing. Coffee breaks and lunches are spent recounting hits, pitches and catches that make up each contest. It passes the day and makes work not just more tolerable but pleasant. They might not look forward to getting to work to do their job but they do look forward to talking about baseball.
Harry Truman wins re-election to the Presidency, defeating Republican New York Governor Thomas Dewey and Dixiecrat South Carolina Governor Strom Thurmond. This one was a close race with many calling the election early in favor of Dewey. Truman is famously pictured the next day holding a newspaper with the headline “Dewey Elected.” The Kavanagh’s voted for Truman. They are well ensconced within the Democratic Party at this time and more to the point, they credit Truman with winning the war and bringing Jack home from the Pacific. If the Japanese had not surrendered, the crew of the USS Strickland including Jack would have been right in the middle of any invasion of Japan. This is something the family will never forget.
The Kavanagh’s spend the Saturday after Thanksgiving at the Visitation Convent on Roland Avenue visiting with Sister Mary Agnes, Eddie’s sister. She is very excited to spend some time holding baby Betty Ann and catching up with her brother and his family. Her parents, Joe and Johanna, are there as well and they reminisce with their daughter, whose given name is Anna, about the first time they held Ed Jr. and Jack. Now Joe and Johanna are great-grandparents and Aunt Anna, as they call her is a Great Aunt holding a baby from another generation. The Kavanagh clan continues to grow and this Thanksgiving Saturday annual visit is always a wonderful day. The family visits Aunt Anna regularly and celebrates Mass with her at the convent when they can, but these November visits are always special. Perhaps it is the approaching end of the year or simply Thanksgiving, but the Kavanagh’s, all the generations, feel a strong sense of family on this day.
The busy year continues at the corner of Pratt and Central as winter comes on. Among the jobs spread throughout the Shop today, one of their experienced coppersmiths, Mr. Votta is making some strainers for Gunther’s Brewery. The strainers catch the hops during the beer brewing process. Copper sheet is laid out and drilled. It is a very straight forward job but Eddie can’t help but think he could have done it faster. Eddie was a real coppersmith at heart. Now in his later years, he enjoys the role he shares with his brother of bringing the work in and making the deals but he often misses swinging a hammer or drilling holes. Eddie still works in the Shop occasionally but less and less as he is getting older. Votta is a good man and skilled and it’s another small job that keeps money coming into the Shop. The best mix of work is both big jobs that might take a week or two and small ones that are finished in a matter of hours. It keeps the money coming in regularly and occasionally a big bill is paid.
This Friday finds the Shop in celebration of the Christmas holiday. The annual party is on after a half day of work, the floors are swept, tables are moved and a tree is stood and decorated. The Kavanagh’s gather with customers and employees for their yearly party to celebrate not just the Yule but also the end of another year of work. Platters are piled high with sandwiches, sides and desserts. There is a keg of beer tapped and several bottles of rye to be sampled and like every year they will sing together led by Joe Kavanagh. The family and friends have a wonderful time at Leo and Eddie’s Shop on Central Avenue. The brothers are feeling great with so much work on the books and such a good run of success. The family is growing with Jack and Betty welcoming their first child in April and the family is content and happy after such a long span of uncertainty. The Shop and the Kavanagh’s passed through Prohibition, Depression and a war and finally things have returned to some sense of normalcy. There is peace and the work of the Shop is again their main focus. Another generation is working at the Joseph Kavanagh Company and the transition from one to another has slowly begun. Just as in the past, it takes time, trust and faith to pass from one generation to another. As has happened twice before, some day the younger Kavanagh’s will replace the older. They will do the same job, in the same place and with the same tradition of quality and hard work and oddly enough they will do the same dance.
Harry S. Truman is the President of the United States. NASCAR and the Hell’s Angels are founded. The first animal, a monkey, is launched into space. The first Kinsey report on human sexuality is published. The game of Scrabble is marketed and sold by James Brunot. “South Pacific” premiers on Broadway. Alice Cooper, Donna Summer, Garry Trudeau, Gary Thorne and Kweisi Mfume are born. Orville Wright, D. W. Griffith and Babe Ruth die.
There are still 48 states in the Union.
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