1953 The Colts and the Orioles

January 5

Another year starts with the Shop still busy and the Kavanagh’s are happy. Busiest of all of them is Jack who besides the Shop and having four little girls, is also a member of the Maryland House of Delegates. He is a Democrat as is his father and his father before him. Jack is happy to serve and is getting more experience at legislating as well as the ins and outs of politics in Annapolis, but it is a grueling haul sometimes. He lives in Baltimore, but while the House is in session he must be in Annapolis five days a week. It is a lot of driving and a lot of relying on his wife, Betty. Betty has almost completely recovered from polio and walks freely now with just a small limp. No crutches or wheelchairs in sight and she manages the four girls and the household well. She occasionally gets help from one of the young women in the neighborhood who will stay with one or two of the girls while Betty goes to the store or takes the other girls to the doctor or wherever. Still, Jack knows it’s hard work for her, though she is as supportive as she could be. They have a very busy life and are handling it as best as they can.

The Joseph Kavanagh Company. 201 S. Central Avenue. Picture taken in early 1970s.

January 15

The NFL awards a football team to a Baltimore group of investors lead by Carroll Rosenbloom. The team is named the Baltimore Colts, a new franchise built from what was left of the Dallas Texans who had folded after one year. Baltimore is very excited and that includes the Kavanagh’s. There was a Baltimore Colts team in a rival league for several years but this is the NFL, the big leagues of football. Jack Kavanagh is very interested and makes plans to attend some games and will become a big fan of the Colts. To Jack, it’s sports. It’s a local team, a Baltimore team so he is all for it. They will play at Memorial Stadium on Thirty-third Street.

January 19

On a very cold Monday night, nearly 70% of the country watches on TV as Lucy from the I Love Lucy Show has a baby. Jack, Betty and their four girls sit, watch and laugh along with one of the most popular shows on television. Each week the Kavanagh’s and most of America tune in for laughs with Lucy. This episode will become a classic in TV history.

February 11

The Shop’s crew are busy laboring through the day while Leo and Eddie take calls and prepare jobs for the next day. It’s a typical Wednesday at the Joseph Kavanagh Company, a winter’s day whose chill is fought with the heat of torches and the annealing oven. February is not such a bad time to be a coppersmith at work. The men of the Joseph Kavanagh Company are working on a variety of jobs today including a brass railing, a storage tank and some custom brewery fittings. All of these require heat so the place is warm at the very least. The Shop has always worked on a wide scale of jobs. Large jobs that take weeks, the average job that takes a few days and the small one or two hour job. Today machinist John Benser threads some copper tube for Brass and Copper Supply Co. The Kavanagh’s have accumulated a large inventory of copper tube of different sizes. A nine inch piece is cut from an old drop or leftover piece and Benser does the threading. Five dollars is made on this job.

The Shop’s job book entry. Brass & Copper Supply Co. job. February 13, 1953.

March 13

Friday the 13th is good luck in Baltimore today because news reports are stating that Bill Veeck, the owner of the St. Louis Browns baseball team, has reached a deal to move the team to Baltimore and they will begin play this season in Memorial Stadium. Baseball fans in this City are joyous and celebrating in the streets. The Kavanagh’s are among them. There is much slapping of backs and clasping of hands between them. To finally have a local major league team after all these years is a dream come true, especially for Eddie. He’s a die hard fan and is old enough to remember the old Orioles that his father loved so much. Leo and Eddie reminisce a bit about their father and the tales he would tell of the old Orioles. The brothers know he would be thrilled.

March 19

On this Thursday at the Shop, a few custom unions are made for Gunther’s Brewery. These parts are their bread and butter and hardly a day passes without some brewing or distilling parts, large or small. The rest of the crew are making brass fittings and two copper liners for a boiler repair job. It’s a very typical spring day in Baltimore, but tonight the Academy Awards is broadcast for the first time on television and Jack and Betty Kavanagh watch it live. This is the first time they have seen most of the stars out of their film roles and they both enjoy the show. “The Greatest Show on Earth” wins Best Picture.

The Shop’s job book entry. Gunther’s Brewery job. March 19, 1953.

March 23

The baseball season gets closer to starting but there will be no Opening Day in Baltimore. The American League owners have voted to block the Browns’ move claiming it would be impractical to relocate a team this close to the start of the season. Baltimore baseball fans are enraged and rightly disappointed while Mayor Tommy D’Alesandro threatens to sue. These are moot points as the St. Louis Browns will begin the season April 14 by hosting the Detroit Tigers at Sportsman’s Park but a move by the Browns is not out of the question. Rather it is merely tabled until after the season. The Kavanagh’s slip into a “I’ll believe it when I see it” mentality.

April 10

The regular session of the House of Delegates comes to an end and Jack is happy for it. He does enjoy his involvement with the Assembly but he misses his family. He knows that Betty has a lot on her hands and Jack is very glad to be home so she can get a break. He is happy to be back at the Shop full time as well. As much as likes politics and being involved in the General Assembly, coppersmith work/ Shop work is his forte and what he has done since he was an apprentice.

Delegate Jack Kavanagh. Democrat. 2nd District.

May 14

A railing is finished today at Pratt and Central. This rail is long and serpentine with curves that twist back and forth to match a winding sidewalk. It is made in sections, then will be assembled on site. The crew heat brass and pull the pieces around blocks and dies to match a thin flimsy steel rod they are given as a template. They will match it as close as possible to make the contractor’s installation easier. It’s acceptable to the customer and picked up today. Another job out the door and they move on to the next.

May 25

Nine steel tubes are bent today for a new customer, Sterman Mechanical Laboratory. They have needed a few bends several times this year and have another order placed for June. The Shop, after so many custom bends for still parts and brewing parts, has acquired a fair stock of bending dies. The die is a steel block that is rounded and tubes are bent around them manually with heat if necessary. They come in different sizes depending on the curve needed. A die is grooved to fit different size pipes or tubes as well. It is grooved to keep the pipe or tube from flattening or collapsing as it is being bent. Eddie believes this is another area of work where they can make some money. Even for a few pieces, if they have the tools, they can find a way to make money. While they eat their lunch, Eddie talks to his brother Leo about having John Benser, their machinist make some more dies.

“Leo, I think we should have John (Benser) make some bending dies whenever he gets the chance.” Eddie says chewing his sandwich as he shuffles through some orders on his desk.

“It sounds like a good idea but we can’t spend too much time on it or too much money unless we have a specific order to fill.” Leo sips his coffee as he considers his brother’s idea.

Eddie replies, “I only mean when he has some idle time. There are a few hours every week when he does some clean up and organizing. I’m not saying that isn’t important but he could set a piece in a lathe and take some cuts while he does all that. There would be no rush since there’s no order but bit by bit, he can get some tools made.”

“He does have a few hours here and there. I agree on that. It’s fine with me but it can’t interfere with any real jobs he’s working on.” Leo stands and pours himself another cup of coffee, “Jobs need to always take precedence.”

“Of course,” his brother answers, “but I’m confident that pipe and tube bending for these sort of general mechanical purposes is a good market for the Shop now and down the road. The more tools we have, the more variety of bends we can make.”

“Well, we have received some work like this and it seems to be increasing. Let’s do it. Tell Benser to start fitting in some die-making, but we should figure out what sizes to make first. Maybe give him a list. We can use any spare steel that we have laying around but not buy any steel for these. Just use some excess.” Leo says as he bites into an apple.

Eddie lights a cigarette, “Fair enough. We won’t buy any steel. We’ll use what’s laying around and I’ll give John a list of sizes to start making.” He takes a long puff, “It might not be much but I’m sure we’ll make some money at it.” The phone rings and Eddie quickly grabs it. The brothers get back to work and in the morning, Eddie has a chat with John Benser, who starts making dies whenever he can.

The Shop’s job book entry. Sturman Mechanical Laboratory job. May 25, 1953.

June 29

The crew discusses the new football team. Leo and Eddie are baseball fans almost exclusively and have only a passing interest in football but Ed Jr., Jack and some of the younger workers are very interested in this new Baltimore Colts team. This is a local team in the National Football League and having your own team makes it more fun as you have someone to root for. Several fellows are already set on going to a couple games including Jack. Another set of unions are made for Gunther’s Brewery, who have sent a steady stream of work in all year, and a large circular fountain is fabricated.

The Shop’s job book entry. Gunther’s Brewery job. June 29, 1953.

July 7

The Shop completes a copper water bath for Calvert Distillery. It is a rectangular basin that is tinned completely on the inside. The tinning will stop any contamination. This is another fairly standard part for the Kavanagh’s and crew. Sheets of copper are heated and bent vertically to make a box. The seams and corners are soldered and the inside surfaces are tinned. Then some clean up to finish the bath and it is ready for installation. The Summer has been a busy one and they are working five days plus a half-day on Saturday. The crew welcome the extra hours. Summer is a good time to have a little extra money to spend.

The Shop’s job book entry. Calvert Distilling job. August 7, 1953.

July 27

The US, the People’s Republic of China, North Korea and South Korea sign an armistice agreement bringing an end to the Korean Conflict. Leo and Eddie, sitting in their corner office, discuss the story in the paper, both relieved this war is finally over. It always seemed so far away to them but they knew there were Americans in danger, fighting for our country. Like most Americans, regardless of the result, they are happy to have our soldiers home. The Korean War started so soon after World War Two ended, the nation is war weary and happy for peace.

Quotation for Calvert Distilling. August 20, 1953.

August 28

The Shop is busy on one of those hot and hazy August dog days. The crew are heating and hammering, working hard while Eddie is putting the finishing touches on a quotation for Calvert Distilling for a heating coil. The coil will be made from 5/8” copper tube and he has quoted it two ways. They need a heating coil with two passes through its system and Eddie has given them a price but also quoted the cost of a four pass coil which will perform must better. Calvert will order the two pass in a few weeks but it’s always worth a shot to try to get as much work as possible especially to Eddie. He took his shot and perhaps next time, they will order the four pass.

Quotation for Calvert Distilling. August 28, 1953.

September 7

Betty Ann, the oldest of Jack and Betty’s girls begins kindergarten at St. Elizabeth’s of Hungary School. St. E’s is located at the corner of Lakewood and Baltimore Street just four blocks from their house. Parents and daughter are nervous but excited as Jack drops her off for her first day of school. Betty will walk down to pick her up at lunch time while a neighbor keeps an eye on the girls. Young Betty does fine and tells her mother and sisters all about her first day at school. Jack and Betty will grow very accustomed to this school because they will have at least one child in St. Elizabeth’s school for the next twenty-five years.

B N M J 5
Betty Kavanagh with her daughters, Betty Ann, Nancy, Mary and Jane.(left to right). 1953.

September 27

The Baltimore Colts play their first game at Memorial Stadium on Thirty-third Street. The stadium is a work in progress with construction not quite finished. The Colts beat the Chicago Bears 13-0 in their inaugural game before a crowd of 24,000 very excited Baltimoreans. The Kavanagh’s listen on the radio, rooting and cheering for their new and victorious team.

September 29

The American League owners meet and vote to approve the sale of the St. Louis Browns to a group of owners in Baltimore headed by Jerry Hoffberger. The owners dislike Bill Veeck; his showman’s ways and unusual approach to promotion rankles the more traditional owners in the league. They only approve the move if Veeck agrees to sell his shares completely. Baltimore is one very happy town. This time it is for real, a done deal and there will be no changing it. The other owners wanted Bill Veeck and his large personality and flair for the unconventional out of baseball. Once it was clear that Veeck would sell out completely, an agreement was reached quickly. The team will no longer be called the St. Louis Browns but the Baltimore Orioles just like that team of old. Leo and Eddie can’t believe it. Their memories of the old National League Orioles and their short-lived appearance in the new American League are vague at best but their father’s stories of that team were a constant in the two brothers’ lives. Joe spoke often of the Orioles and how they played such a hard-nosed style and were always competitive and more often than not, winners. Eddie’s son Jack is jubilant. He has an NFL team to pull for and the Baltimore Orioles are coming back to town. Jack too heard Joe’s stories and he thinks of his grandfather and how happy he would be at this moment. It’s slightly bittersweet for Joe’s sons and grandsons who know what this would mean to Joe, but mostly it’s a very good feeling and they can not wait for Opening Day.

B N M J & DAD 1953
Jack Kavanagh and his daughters, Nancy, Betty Ann, Mary and Jane(left to right) 1953.

October 3

Jack Kavanagh and several friends attend their first Baltimore Colts game. They are very excited to be at the game, but are disappointed as the home team falls to the Detroit Lions 27-17. Jack has a great time despite the result and will soon become an ardent fan of this team. Though always a baseball fan, he finds a special connection to this Colts franchise. This first year will not be a good one record wise as the team finishes with three wins to nine losses but the fans hardly care as they begin to love these chilly Fall and Winter Sundays of football.

October 5

The Yankees beat the Brooklyn Dodgers again in the World Series. It’s a repeat of last year except it only takes New York six games this time. Just like last year, Eddie and Jack’s loyalty is split with Eddie pulling for the Yanks and his son rooting for Roy Campanella’s Dodgers. They watch games four and five together over the weekend while sharing a beer. It’s an exciting series with offensive highlights from both teams. In game six, Brooklyn rallies from two behind in the top of the ninth to tie the game at three but in the home half of the inning, second baseman Billy Martin lines a single up the middle to send right fielder Hank Bauer scampering home with the game-winning and series-winning run. Martin records twelve hits to lead the Yanks to their record setting fifth World Series Championship in a row. The Kavanagh’s love every minute of it but are more excited about the prospect of having their own team in the league next year.

October 22

Eureka Coppersmiths & Plumbing Company orders some steel u-bolts from the Shop. These are annealed just as copper is but you have to do the bending while it’s still very hot, cherry red. Eureka doesn’t bend steel but the crew at Central Avenue are well trained in using heat and working with steel whenever necessary. The rod is clamped down and then the torch is put on them until they are red. Next, the piece is pulled over a round die while the heat is still on them. For good bending with steel, it’s best to keep the torch on it as you work it, a hot job, for sure, but on a cool October day, a torch is a welcome tool to have in hand.

The Shop’s job book entry. Eureka Coppersmith & Plumbing Co. job. October 22, 1953.

October 27

The Joseph Kavanagh Company will finish the year strong as they continue to have a great mix of big jobs every month along with a steady stream of small repairs and replacement parts. Today some nose couplings are fabricated for National Brewing Co. They do these all the time and even these small orders help keep the doors open.

The Shop’s job book entry. National Brewing job. October 27, 1953.

November 11

The Shop purchases another old lathe from Medler’s Copper Shop. Medler’s closed up last year and Leo and Eddie bought several pieces of equipment from them and today adds another one, a twelve inch lathe. It is re-conditioned and cleaned up for use in the Shop. The Kavanagh’s have one of this size but it’s even older than the one from Mercer’s. They haul this one up to the second floor with a block and tackle. It swings in the air for a moment but these men know what they are doing. Once it’s high enough, the lathe is swung into the large upstairs side door and placed where machinist, John Benser wants it. Soon, it is set and anchored upstairs and ready to be used as needed.

The Shop’s job book entry. Re-conditioning a lathe purchased from Medler’s Copper shop. November 11, 1953.

November 26

The Sunday after Thanksgiving is spent at the Visitation Convent visiting Aunt Anna, Sister Mary Agnes. The family spend some time on the grounds taking pictures and letting the girls run and play. Afterward, they have tea and talk, catching up on the family and speaking of the coming Christmas holiday. Aunt Anna grins and chuckles a bit as Eddie speaks of the Orioles return. She agrees that Joe would be very happy and her brother’s excitement reminds her of when he was a young man and she a small girl. The family is close and has been so since she was a girl and through the nearly twenty-five years of her vocation.

Kav at Visitation
The Kavanagh’s at the Visitation Convent. Eddie and Annie with their sons, Ed and Jack, their daughter-in-laws, Lillian and Betty and granddaughters, Patsy, Betty Ann and Nancy. 1953.

December 24

The Shop’s Christmas Eve Party is held as it is every year on the corner of Pratt and Central. In short order, the dirty, messy Shop is cleaned and decorated for the holiday. Friends, customers and employees celebrate with the Kavanagh’s. The party is not merely to welcome the Yuletide holiday but also to toast another year of work finished. It has been a good year with the work remaining abundant. The guests mingle about the first floor of the building, eating, drinking and singing together. They talk of the City and the Colts who finished their first season. They finished next to last in their division but hopes are high for improvement. The partygoers speak quite a bit in anticipation of the new baseball team with the old name. Baltimore will get its Orioles back. This is what truly has the Kavanagh’s anxious for the Spring. This City has not had a team in over fifty years but the memories are still there of that old National League team led by John McGraw. Leo, Eddie and their children are reminded of their father Joe and his strong love of the Orioles. The man truly loved the game and when the Birds were here, he was a mad fan. Even with the passing of Joe and Johanna in the last two years, three generations do party and play in the Shop this year. The brothers, Leo and Eddie and their children and grandchildren are all there. Leo’s grandson Jimmy and Ed Jr.’s daughter Patsy play with Jack and Betty’s girls, running about the place. Leo and Eddie drink a quiet toast together as they watch the fun. They are doing well and keeping the Shop and its tradition alive. They are honoring the past and preparing for the future. Today they are watching the future as the kids run by them laughing. Sitting with Betty, Jack smiles to see his girls having such fun, knowing that they can’t wait for Santa to come. This part of being a father is something that thrills Jack. He has another thing to be happy about as well. No one else knows yet but Betty told Jack last night, she is pregnant and next year they will have baby # 5.



Dwight D. Eisenhower is the President of the United States. The first Corvette and the first color television go on sale. Hugh Hefner publishes the first issue of Playboy Magazine with Marilyn Monroe on the cover and in the centerfold. Swanson sells its first TV Dinner. The first Denny’s opens. Narcotics Anonymous is founded. The films, “From Here to Eternity,” “The War of the Worlds” and “Gentlemen Prefer Blondes” are released. The first polio vaccine is developed by Jonas Salk. The Korean War ends in a stalemate. 33,000 Americans die and over 100,000 are wounded. Hulk Hogan, Ken Burns, Cyndi Lauper, Pat Benatar, and John Malkovich are born.

There are 48 states in the Union.

Dad & Eddie (Father)1946
Eddie Kavanagh and his son, Jack. Late 1940s.

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

Table of Contents

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