1952 starts well for the Kavanagh’s and the Shop. There is another new baby, Jane Frances born on December 26 of last year. Dr. Insley who delivered her said, “she was the last thing in Santa’s bag.” Jack and Betty are so happy and excited with another baby. They have four little girls now. Representing the 2nd district, Jack is preparing for the House of Delegates to begin its session next week. The Shop remains busy with a solid backlog of a month’s work. That’s great for January. Jack’s father Eddie and his Uncle Leo are very happy. Busy in January? Old Uncle Joe would be thrilled.
Frank L. Wright Distillers orders some custom quick opening valves and the Shop’s crew gets to it. These valves are made specifically to the size of the pipe or tube. It takes a little longer than anticipated to make some patterns, but the cutting, soldering and fabricating the valves goes quickly once the template is right. The patterns will be saved in case another set of valves are ever needed of this size and configuration. This is how it is done at the Shop. The first time a specific size valve or coupling is made it takes longer. Longer to develop and make a template to match so they may not make as much money as they hope but down the road they will have a pattern and the job will go much quicker.
The Shop finishes several jobs for National Brewing. These are standard replacement parts, copper lids and couplings. All small parts but these are what keep the cash flow flowing. The crew splits up on these two orders. Thin sheet is heated and shaped for the lids and the couplings are worked and machined from brass. These are parts they have been making for years. They keep a good stock of them but often they are custom made for the customer’s needs.
Leo and Eddie’s men spend a busy day primarily on a boiler repair job that includes rolled steel bands for stiffeners. The stiffener does exactly what it sounds like, stiffening and maintaining the curve and contours of the boiler tank. The more accurately this shape is maintained the better the productivity of the boiler. The quality of work of the Joseph Kavanagh Company has at this point been established. Their presence and longevity in Baltimore industry attest to their capabilities. The Shop’s work is exacting. Detail and precision matter and are maintained so their parts and pieces work better. The standard was set long ago and the reputation precedes the work now.
Betty Kavanagh is doing her exercises nearly every night while Jack watches the girls. Jack lays on the floor with his daughters and he pretends he is a baby along with their dolls. The girls giggle and tickle their Dad. An abundance of hugs and kisses from all four of Daddy’s girls are given every night. It makes Betty smile and gives her the time to exercise her legs. The doctor is sure theses exercises will speed her recovery from the effects of polio. The virus is gone but her muscles are still weak. He has given her six months at minimum before she can walk without crutches but Betty means to beat that. She goes at it hard and feels she is getting stronger and her legs are more steady the more she works.
Johanna Kavanagh falls in the kitchen of her house on Thirty-third Street just before 4 pm. She is able to make it to the telephone and calls the Shop where they are just about to close up for the day. Her sons call an ambulance and meet it at the hospital. Johanna is admitted to St. Joseph’s Hospital. She has fractured her neck and right leg. Her sons are very worried for her, a fall at her age is a bad thing. She is resting comfortably but the family’s concerns continue.
Jack Kavanagh is in Annapolis as the House of Delegates has a whole slate of bills to vote on. The primary is a bill that gives the University of MD more autonomy over its budget and purchases and control of any surpluses. The bill passes but Jack and a few others are opposed. Their thinking was this is the only State agency that would have such control. They are concerned that other schools, hospital, etc. would now demand the same power. Jack’s mind is on his grandmother in the hospital but he must be here.
Johanna Kavanagh dies at St. Joseph’s Hospital. She is the last of her generation and passes quietly in her sleep. The family grieves and her sons are both stricken hard. They were both close to her and she had a deep love for her children and grandchildren. She was a source of both comfort and wisdom, each given out as needed. She had a gentle but strong way about her. Very able to stand up for herself but much more likely to stand up for others. The family remember her as the woman she was, loving and smart. They lean on each other and think of the love she gave them. She is buried at New Cathedral Cemetery with her husband Joe and their daughter Alice and granddaughter also named Alice.
After Johanna’s death, her will is read and as expected her sons and daughter receive the bulk of her estate. A religious trust is set up for Sister Mary Agnes and her inheritance is placed there. The house on Thirty-third Street will be sold and the grandchildren and several cousins will all receive something from the estate. The biggest asset, the property on Pratt and Central goes to Leo and Eddie equally. When their father Joe died, he had already passed the business on to them so there was little change to the Shop but now the property is owned by the brothers as well as the company. The Shop is suddenly more valuable as there is no rent or note on the property anymore. Leo and Eddie work well together and get along as only brothers can. They make great partners.
The Kavanagh brothers sit in their corner office and enjoy a lunch of corned beef sandwiches. It’s still close enough to St. Patrick’s Day and they send Ed Jr. up to the deli. Ed is happy to leave a few minutes early for lunch and get a free sandwich. As they eat, Leo and Eddie discuss the news that President Truman will not seek re-election.
“I think Truman has done a good job and he stepped up when FDR died. I know people don’t like that he fired MacArthur but the president is the boss. He makes those calls,” Leo says before taking a bite of his sandwich.
Eddie picks his corned beef up and pauses, “Yup and I agree he did well but this war in Korea seems like a mess we can’t seem to get out of. That being said I would have liked to see Truman run again. He’s a good man, but I understand it. It’s a tough job and it’s gotta weigh on you.” He shrugs then continues eating.
“It’s so much responsibility and he finished Roosevelt’s term then had one of his own. I say if he wants to retire and rest, he deserves it.” Leo replies to his brother.
Eddie drops his sandwich on the desk and takes a sip of coffee. “Oh I agree. Let the man rest. He’s done his part but I wonder who will win the nomination. It sure looks like General Eisenhower will run for the Republicans.”
Leo nods, “He said he would accept the nomination if he’s called upon and I think he can do the job. If you can lead men to battle then you can lead a country.”
Eddie raises an eyebrow for a second. “You are right but there is a lot more to it than that. Let’s see who the Democrats nominate. I always feel loyal to the party but, yeah, let’s see who they pick.” The phone rings and Eddie grabs it and answers, “Joseph Kavanagh Company.” As Eddie speaks to a customer, Leo moves to the drafting table and gets back to work on a sketch for an upcoming job.
The Kavanagh’s visit Aunt Anna at the Visitation Convent on Roland Park Avenue for Easter. A sunny Sunday is spent with the girls playing on the grounds and catching up with Sister Mary Agnes. They discuss her teaching and her service while she is happy to hear about the Shop and especially the deeds of all the small girls of the next generation. Anna and her brothers speak of their mother and their shared love and memories of her are a comfort. Her brothers also promise to help her and they will manage the religious trust that is in her name. Leo, Eddie and Jack Kavanagh are named as trustees. They assure her that even if this money runs out, they will always support her and if she needs anything, she should ask them. The convent has very little amenities or comforts and Joe and Johanna always made sure Anna had anything she needed. Leo and Eddie will do the same.
Jack finishes his 2nd legislative sessions and is happy to be back in Baltimore full-time. He’s home with his girls, all five of them. He can focus on family and the Shop which is what he wants. He has enjoyed his first two years in the House of Delegates but still it is work and almost two hours away. Jack knows it’s tough on Betty and especially since she’s still fighting polio. She’s getting better and stronger. Jack sees that and he knows Betty is getting closer to walking. He wants to do something special for her when she does to celebrate and to make up for his time away.
Betty Kavanagh walks into her doctor’s office without her crutches with a broad grin on her face. Her doctor is stunned that she can move so well without her crutch or brace and nearly two months faster than he thought possible. She has a limp and is a little slow afoot for now, but she is walking and can “keep moving along” as she likes to say. Betty will get stronger and steadier still though she does have a small limp for the rest of her life. It never stops her from chasing a child, grandchild or great-grandchild or to hop up when company arrives and tea needs to be made and cookies distributed. Jack and the girls are so happy for Mom, and Betty feels much more herself. She can do what she has to do now with nothing holding her back.
The weekend ends for Jack and Betty with the Red Skelton show on Sunday nights. It is one of their weekly favorites especially one of Jack’s who laughs throughout the entire program. Skelton is a comedic master to Jack, and he is a man who loves to laugh. His laugh is loud, genuine and infectious.
Jack finishes a sheet metal table at the Shop. The place has needed a very square solid steel table for some time and Eddie asked his son to make one last week and it is finished today. Jack keeps careful records of the materials used and his time. His father Eddie likes that and records it all to assure they have a sense of how much time and money went into something as simple as a table.
The Chesapeake Bay Bridge opens to traffic led by a cavalcade of cars with Governor McKeldin at the lead. Jack speaks to his wife Betty about the two of them taking a trip to the beach. He would love to take her and get away from it all. He has been visiting Ocean City since he was ten. Every couple of years, Eddie and Annie would take their boys on a trip there and Jack is sure his parents would be happy to keep the girls for a couple days. Betty is hesitant at first bur she realizes it would be a rare chance at a break for both of them and she’s all for it if they can make the arrangements.
A busy summer day at the Shop is spent on a handful of brewery and distillery repairs and one installation. Ed Jr. and Jack along with two helpers are installing a new vat at Gunther’s Brewery. They arrive at the brewery first thing in the morning. The plan is to get this job done in one day on site. It’s a lot of work with many connections and valves involved. Having four men should help and they get to it as soon as they arrive. The vessel is hauled into the building and Ed and Jack, each with a helper, begin connecting it to the existing system. It’s a hard day but neither wants to tell their father they are coming back here tomorrow and they get it done. The four men are sweating and dirty when they pull in front of 201 S. Central Avenue with ten minutes to spare before closing time.
Jack and Betty take their first vacation and they do it without their girls. Their four daughters are staying at Eddie and Annie’s while the young couple get a weekend at the beach. Jack drives his 1946 Chrysler Windsor along Route 50 East then they cross the new bridge on their way to Ocean City. Jack and Betty marvel at the view as there is nothing but water on both sides as far as the eyes can see. It is a little unsettling for many folks on their first drive across but not to Betty and Jack. They arrive Friday evening and have a weekend of sand, seafood and boardwalking before driving back to Baltimore on Sunday. Betty quickly grows to love the town and the ocean as Jack does. It is a much needed vacation for both and a chance to spend some time together alone.
The Shop’s usual work is interrupted by an ornamental brass job for a hotel. One of the fancier downtown hotels needs a brass hand rail and foot rail for its bar and restaurant. It has to look good too. It must be cleaned and polished after bending and will take over forty feet of tube. Half of the crew attend to this one while the other half keep at their regular orders. This rail job takes heat and very careful rolling. The curve is irregular and it must match the existing wall or the customer can not use it. The tube is bent inch by inch and checked over and over closely. The finished piece looks great and is right on the template provided.
On a Saturday night, Jack, Betty and the four girls sit in front of the television and watch the first episode of a new variety series called the Jackie Gleason Show. Gleason had worked for the DuMont Television network on a show called the “Cavalcade of Stars” but CBS offered him more money and he brought the same type of show over to their network. The family laugh a lot and enjoy the show and Jack believes he’s found another comedic genius in Jackie Gleason.
The volume of work continues to be high at the Joseph Kavanagh Company. They have very much found their niche with the brewery and distilling industries. They make quick fixes and fabricate parts fast. Today a custom tee fitting is made for Calvert Distilling. Mr. Funke and a young fellow named White work on the coupling with the usual heating and hammering. Copper sheet is curved into a tube and split at one end to accommodate two of the entry points. It isn’t easy but Mr. Funke has worked at the Shop for years and he does a good job. He is Leo and Eddie’s most senior man and they rely on him in a pinch.
The New York Yankees win their fourth straight World Series defeating the Brooklyn Dodgers. This was a see saw series going back and froth and it comes down to a winner-take-all game seven. The Kavanagh’s usually root for the Yankees due to Eddie being such a Babe Ruth fan but this year, they are split. His son Jack is pulling for the Brooklyn Dodgers. Jack wants to see another team win for a change as the Yanks have done it three years in a row. Also, the Dodgers have Roy Campanella on their team now and Jack was a fan of his from the Negro Leagues. He came up playing for the Baltimore E-lite Giants and he was Jack’s favorite player. In Jack’s eyes, he was the greatest baseball player he ever saw. He had all the tools and knew how to use them plus he was a catcher, Jack’s old position when he was a kid. New York does win that final game and take the championship. Eddie and Jack watch games four and five at 434 N. Lakewood, both cheering hard and analyzing the games as they are played. Father and son are students of the game and they talk about every play and discuss strategy throughout each match up. Even when they disagree, they enjoy talking baseball.
Today in addition to their usual copper work, the Kavanagh’s are refurbishing an old lathe. They have always maintained a machine shop for tools and parts but this lathe will give them the chance to make bearings and other parts to make their job easier. They purchased the lathe along with some other items from Medler’s Copper Shop. Medler’s was going out of business and Eddie paid them a visit. He bought the lathe, a hand truck and some tools and with time and a little money the lathe and everything else will make money for them. Eddie is sure of it and the lathe is set up and running in short order. The Shop’s machinist John Benser is glad to have it. The bigger lathe has wider jaws and larger sections can be spun and shaped.
This Friday, Halloween is celebrated on Lakewood Avenue and the four Kavanagh girls are all in costume. The oldest at four, Betty Anne is a majorette, Nancy is Bo Peep, Mary is a bunny and not quite one year old Jane is a clown. Their mother has a bowl of candy but she doesn’t take the girls trick or treating. This is a new tradition to Betty. Her family did not celebrate Halloween in this way and besides, she has candy. She does hand it out to kids who knock on the door but she keeps her girls on the steps of 447 N. Lakewood Ave. She will give her girls the right amount of treats for the night and she really loves their little costumes. Jack does too but he loves any time he gets with the four girls who seem to be growing faster every day. Betty and Jack sometimes can’t believe they are the parents of four.
Republican Dwight D. Eisenhower wins the Presidential Election defeating Democrat Adlai Stevenson. This year, the Kavanagh brothers vote for different men. Leo voted for Ike impressed with the man’s military experience and his drive. Eddie voted for Stevenson. Eddie is involved with the Democratic Party and was always a Labor man with so many years of leading the coppersmith’s union. It doesn’t matter at all between the brothers. They simply have different views on this election and in those days, such a thing was typical and acceptable.
Despite the House of Delegates not being in session, a resolution is signed by nineteen Democratic members of the House looking for a change in leadership. Theses members, including Jack Kavanagh are challenging John Luber as speaker and they wish to replace him with Chester Tawney. Tawney is a 3rd District representative and the insurgents choose him because they want a stronger City representation at the top post in the House of Delegates. It will be resolved when next year’s legislative session begins.
The Shop’s Yuletide celebration is an even madder rush today as a job ran late into the morning. Several workers were still finishing soldering on a tank while others were sweeping and making room for a tree. The tank is finished and delivered with the Shop’s truck beating guests by five minutes when the party starts. Leo, Eddie and family welcome their customers, vendors, employees and friends to a yearly gathering in honor of the holiday and the Shop. Good times or bad times, the Joseph Kavanagh Company has held a Christmas Eve party for years and it has come to symbolize the end of another year of work. A great sense of completion is felt by the Kavanagh’s who work at the Shop. There is some satisfaction in being able to turn the calendar again and move forward. The guests have a grand time eating, drinking and singing with the family. Leo and Eddie are both grandfathers now, ready to lead the family forward. They miss their mother, Johanna. She was more than the matriarch of the Kavanagh’s. She was the family’s heart. She had a caring way about her mixed with more than the average dose of wisdom. Her sons were both more apt to ask her advice or guidance than their father Joe. She was that wonderful mother and grandmother who made the perfect peach pie and ran a household so that it appeared effortless but she was also that suffragette who fought for the right to vote, to have her voice heard and even to drive. In fact, she was one of the first women in Maryland to receive a motor vehicle license partly due to her husband’s horrendous driving. She was Joe’s wife and played that part but she was never invisible or silent. When Joe and his brothers broke from Martin and formed the new Shop, she was the one who came up with the money. She loaned them the starter money and was always last in line to get paid when other things came along but she did get paid. That money she had saved was for her children and Johanna made sure it was paid back. She was never a wallflower and was very comfortable expressing her opinions. She was way ahead of her time and both lead and loved this family for years; but they will be fine. Her mark is left on all who knew her, her children and grandchildren most of all. Her love is carried on through them and passed on in the same fashion. To this writer who knows a thing or two about Joe Kavanagh’s, she was the best of them and certainly the kindest.
Dwight D. Eisenhower is elected to the Presidency. The bar code, roll-on deodorant, Mr. Potato Head and the hydrogen bomb are invented. The first Holiday Inn and the first Kentucky Fried Chicken open. The Today Show premiers on NBC. “The Diary of Anne Frank” and the first issue of “MAD” magazine are published. The films “Singin’ in the Rain” and “The Quiet Man” are released. The Korean War rages on with little or no progress on the armistice talks throughout the year. There are over 50,000 cases of polio reported in the US. Mr. T, Roseanne Barr, Paul Reubens, Alfre Woodard, and Douglas Adams are born.
There remain 48 states in the Union.
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