The Joseph Kavanagh Company starts its 90th year in business with little fanfare but rather with the heat of torches, the clang of hammers and men shaping and bending copper like any other day. It’s a cold January Monday and the crew are busy with a few fittings and repair parts for breweries, distilleries and a small boiler repair. During lunch, Eddie speaks to his son Jack about the idea of running for State Senate. Jack failed in his re-election bid for the House of Delegates last year but a run at the Senate might be worth a shot. Eddie is confident Jack would find support within the Democratic Party.
“I don’t want to run for Senate, Eddie. I lost last year so I probably wouldn’t win. It hardly seems worth the try,” is Jack’s first response to his father’s question.
“You don’t know that. The Senate is a different thing and Jack Pollack would be supportive. He would love to have another of his guys in the Senate. You could do a lot of good work, Jack. You were good in the House and you could do even more as a Senator.” Eddie says as he warms his hands by holding a cup of hot coffee.
“No. I want to be close to home and Betty doesn’t want me back in Annapolis every day for three months a year. It would be more in the Senate. And they call you in for special sessions. I want to be close to home.” Jack counters and then bites into an apple.
“Jack, you should think about it. Look, Betty’s a good girl. She’ll understand. You know it. I think you should really consider it, son.” Eddie persists.
“No, I want to be here in Baltimore. You need me here at the Shop. You do. It will be too much if I’m not here all year.” Jack replies with the argument he didn’t want to use with his father.
Eddie’s eyes open wide and he answers quickly, “Oh, Jack. I’ll be fine. I can handle it. It would be like last year. You help out on Saturdays and we plan the week. I don’t think it will be a problem. I’ve worked here for forty years and you don’t have to worry about the Shop. Can you give me a really good reason you don’t want to run?”
“Well, Pop, we got a baseball team here now. I want to be around for the whole season including Opening Day. I want to go to Opening Day some day and that won’t happen if I’m in Annapolis. Every summer there are several emergency sessions it seems and that’s more games I won’t be around for. I want to be here.” Jack answers with a thought that he assumed would sway his hard-headed but baseball crazy father.
After a long pause, Eddie says, “Well, that’s a good reason. Okay. I can understand that.” He takes a sip of coffee and seems lost in thought for a moment when he continues, “All right. You want to be in Baltimore. What about City Council?”
Jack is thrown by this suggestion for a second, “City Council? I never thought of that, Pop.”
“Well think about it.” Eddie grins and picks up the telephone to order some stock steel from Seaboard Steel. Jack waits a moment thinking, then rises and heads into the Shop to check on the crew. He will talk to Betty about this City Council idea.
Jack tells his father he spoke to Betty and she is supportive of him running for City Council. He will be close to home and that’s what matters most to her. He’ll give it a shot, and his father is very excited to hear it. Both Jack and Eddie get in touch with the Democratic Party leaders they know and a campaign to send Jack to the City Council representing the second district is set in motion. Jack will meet with groups and individuals and speak of what he will do for Baltimore if elected. He always is a strong supporter of the working man. Jack believes in the better nature of most people. If given an opportunity to work hard and support their family, he always thought most people would take that opportunity and do it. “A Vote for Kavanagh is a Vote for Progress” is his campaign slogan.
A photographer visits 447 N. Lakewood Avenue to take a promotional photo of Jack, Betty and the family for his campaign. The picture is taken in the front room of Lakewood Avenue with parents and girls all sitting together on the couch. The picture is printed in election flyers supporting Jack’s campaign. Jack holds Mary. Betty holds baby Jackie and Betty, Nancy and Jane are seated before their parents.
A frigid day is spent at the Shop working on distillery and brewery fittings, valves and other parts. A boiler replacement job is brought in by E. J. Codd Fabricators, one of their oldest customers. Copper sheet is heated then curved around blocks and wheels to reach the diameter necessary. The liner serves to smooth out the inside of the boiler which is made of steel and has a rough texture. The copper liner improves the efficiency of the boiler. The most popular part of this job, in the winter anyway, is the annealing of the sheet. Three fellows with torches heat the sheet and for a few moments the whole crew gathers close to get warm. The sheet glows red and throws a lot of heat back and that is very fine with the workers. A blast of heat from a torch and then from copper is very welcome in February at 201 S. Central Avenue.
Eddie has high hopes for his son’s election but Jack loses the primary in his run for City Council. He finishes sixth in a field of seventeen with the top three receiving a nomination. This will end his political career but Jack is not very disappointed. He enjoyed his time in Annapolis and the idea of serving in Baltimore City appealed to him but it didn’t work out. Eddie is more disappointed than his son but he too accepts it and realizes that politics isn’t going to work out for Jack. It might even be for the better as Eddie knows that soon enough, his time at the Shop may be over and Jack’s time has only just begun. He knows that his oldest son Ed Jr. enjoys coppersmithing but is not interested in running the Shop and that Eddie’s job will certainly fall to Jack. Eddie decides it’s best to focus on preparing Jack for this.
The musical “Peter Pan” is broadcast on NBC and the Kavanagh girls are so excited. They watch with their Mom and Dad eyes fixed on the television. It stars Mary Martin and is a huge hit around the country.
It’s Opening Day in Baltimore for the Orioles and over 38,000 fans flock to see the Birds’ first home game. They lost their first game in Washington to the Senators 12-5 and the home opener isn’t much better. They lose 7-1 to the Boston Red Sox. It will be another tough year for the Orioles. The start of the season is horrible. The team loses the first six games and can never recover. Fans can’t imagine a worse start then 0-6 but they still support the team enthusiastically. This includes the Kavanagh’s who have begun a love affair with this team that will continue and grow for the next sixty plus years. Eddie and Jack discuss the game at the Shop and the team in general. This season will be a struggle but the Kavanagh’s will enjoy every minute of it and they know eventually this club will be much more competitive.
Eddie quotes Mr. Fred Schneider at National Brewing for a few replacement parts. Mr. Schneider assures Eddie that this will be a job but it may be down the road a bit so Eddie makes note of it and waits for an order to come. The Shop is still busy with a few drip pans being made for Calvert Distilling and a brass railing being rolled for a fancy residence in Baltimore County. Brass is more difficult to anneal and bend than copper. It is still well within the scope of the Shop’s capabilities but it takes an experienced hand to curve it properly and not damage the material. Jack and two helpers tackle this one. They heat it carefully then after cooling, it is slowly pulled around wooden dies and wheels to get the radius that the customer wants. After bending, the rail is cleaned and polished. The rail looks great and Eddie knows the customer will be happy. This is why Eddie gave this one to Jack personally. He knows he has great skill as a coppersmith and also is a good leader of a crew. Jack does good work and he also seems quite adept at getting the best work from his helpers.
The Shop on the corner of Pratt and Central is humming along with plenty of work. Today the usual mix of brewery and distillery parts is augmented with a fountain that is fabricated. They have worked on fountains nearly since the company’s inception. Copper tube is annealed, then drilled to allow the water to pass through it. The now soft tube is gently and slowly pulled around blocks to achieve the diameter the customer wants then the ends are soldered together to form a ring. It’s slow work but when finished, the customer picks up and covers the copper tube in the marble or the stone that is visible when the fountain is installed. The Shop makes the interior that controls the water in the fountain while the stone mason or contractor will do the exterior work.
A hot Monday morning at the Shop is spent making spare brewery parts and another railing. The talk among the Kavanagh’s and the crew is baseball. The Orioles split a doubleheader with the Kansas City A’s the day before. The A’s were sold and moved from Philadelphia during the off-season and Eddie thinks of his father Joe. Joe was an old acquaintance of Connie Mack, the A’s former owner and manager. Joe would occasionally take the train to Philly, visit Mr. Mack and take in a game. Eddie’s father loved baseball and that is where his son got his passion for it. He wonders what Joe would think of the team moving. Teams move so rarely Eddie was taken by surprise by it. The country has grown and cities in the midwest and the west coast are clamoring for teams. Jack and Eddie both are curious if and when another club will move.
Jack and Betty take their four oldest girls to the movies to see Disney’s “Lady and the Tramp.” Not quite one year old Jackie stays with Jack’s parents, Eddie and Mimi. The girls love it and they chatter all about it on the way home in the back seat of the car. Jack and Betty smile at each other and say no words but the joy of their children makes them happier than anything else.
The Shop is flush with work and they have a solid three week backlog. Today it is more replacement parts for National Brewery. Several Beer Nose Couplings are fabricated for them. The breweries certainly help keep the place busy especially National and Gunther’s. Gunther’s has an order for some special bronze caps that will be made next week. The Shop and specifically Eddie has a great reputation with the beer brewing industry. In the twenty years since Prohibition was repealed, Eddie and his crew have made countless parts and many repairs that have helped his friends in the industry. Emergency and rush jobs are dealt with expeditiously and Eddie’s customers don’t forget that.
A large repair job for Calvert Distillery has been the focus of the Shop’s workers for the last week. Copper plates needed replacing in a section of a column still. The plates need to be drilled and 3” copper cups soldered to them. There was a lot of soldering in this job but Eddie is very proud of the crew’s performance on this one. They promised it would be completed in two weeks and they did it in one. That makes them more money and makes them look good to the customer. Eddie knows the money is good but the latter is just as important.
The Shop completes a heating coil for the City of Baltimore. The City furnished a set of drawings and under Eddie’s supervision, 3/4” copper tube is annealed and bent with multiple turns and the coil is braced with brass and copper to immobilize it when in use. Eddie kept a careful eye on this job because he very much likes the idea of doing work for the City. Of course, he wants as many customers as possible but with the City, the chances of them going out of business is slim. The coil is a good job that makes some money including 39 cents in scrap.
Another of Jack and Betty’s girls, Mary, begins kindergarten at St. Elizabeth’s School joining 2nd grader Betty Ann and 1st grader Nancy. Jack drops off his girls at school every morning and Betty picks up Mary at lunch then the older girls later in the afternoon while Katherine, Betty’s friend and babysitter stays with the younger girls, Jane and Jackie.
Jack, Betty and their girls attend a Saturday afternoon Orioles game against the Washington Senators. The Birds win 3-1 in a close ballgame. The Kavanagh’s and the rest of the 5,000 + fans at the game cheer on their team enthusiastically. A young rookie make his first appearance. He goes 2 for 4 in the game and drives in one run. He plays third base and will become one of the greatest players to ever put on an Orioles uniform and will eventually be considered the greatest defensive third basemen in baseball history. His name is Brooks Robinson.
Jack and his friends head out to Memorial Stadium to see the opening game for the Colts and he finally gets to see his first Colts win in person. He’s been to several games over the first two seasons but all losses. The Colts defeat the Chicago Bears 23-17 and will go on to win their first three games. Unfortunately, they will only win two more the rest of the way and though they do not make the playoffs, the team is getting better. The fans have embraced this team just as they have the Orioles. Baltimore loves having two sports represented in the City and they are confident that both teams some day will bring a championship home to them.
The Mickey Mouse Club premiers and the Kavanagh girls love it from the start. The program runs for an hour each weekday starting at five pm. The four older girls, Betty Ann, Nancy, Mary and Jane eat their dinner as quickly as they can then sit in front of the TV and watch every minute of the show, including “Spin and Marty,” on ongoing series about two young cowboys. The girls become Mouseketeers, regular viewers; they sing the theme song loud and clear, M-I-C-K-E-Y M-O-U-S-E!
The Brooklyn Dodgers beat the New York Yankees in the World Series. The Series goes seven games and the Dodgers win the finale 2-0. The Dodgers lost the first two games but win four of the next five to take the championship. Jack is thrilled for the Dodgers; he pulls for them because his favorite player, Roy Campanella is on the team. Campy smacks two home runs out of the park during the Series while playing stellar defense behind the plate. After seeing the Yanks beat Brooklyn several times, this one is particularly satisfying to Jack. His father Eddie was always a huge fan of Babe Ruth and thus a fan of the Yankees. Jack’s team finally gets the win in this one and he is happy about it but dreams of the Baltimore Orioles playing in a World Series some day. The Birds finished the season by winning ten out of twelve to total three more wins than 1954. Jack and Orioles’ fans throughout Baltimore take that as improvement but they know that a World Series won’t happen for a while.
The Joseph Kavanagh company remains steady. They have jobs though not quite the three week backlog they had earlier. Still, they have work to do and more coming in. Today, a dozen bronze caps are made for National Brewing. These caps are used to close off pipes that are not in use. A brewing system is complicated and built to fit the building it is housed in and often section of pipes and tubes are not used and closed off for periods of time to be cleaned and sometimes repaired.
Thanksgiving is a busy day for Jack and Betty and their girls. They have dinner at Betty’s mother’s house first around lunch time. The girls call her Nannie and she is as sweet as could be to them. Very loving and caring and she loves every second she can get with her granddaughters. Betty’s brothers “Buddy”(Lawrence) and “Bumpsy”(Howard) are both there as well. Buddy is married and his wife, Mack and young sons Barney and Steve are there and the boys play with Jack and Betty’s girls. The food is good and plentiful and it’s a wonderful holiday feast. After several hours there, Jack drives them all home and they walk over to his parents house at 434 N. Lakewood for another turkey dinner. Annie or Mimi as the girls call her is very similar to Nannie. She cherishes the time with the girls and cooks a terrific dinner. The girls love both their grandmothers a great deal and everyone eats until fully stuffed in the Thanksgiving tradition. Jack is particularly happy because both his mother and mother-in-law serve parsnips with their holiday dinner.
Eddie has John Benser make several beer cocks for stock this week. These are custom fittings that are used to connect tubes to the beer vats and pass the beer through the different stages of brewing. The cocks are different for each brewery but they know which to make for Gunther’s Brewery and which for National Brewery who are their two biggest brewery customers. They get regular calls for replacement parts from both so stocking some is a good idea. Benser is a vary talented machinist and he takes care of the cutting, machining and drilling all on his own. Eddie also sends out Christmas gifts to several customers. As in the past, most get ties but a couple receive a bottle of rye whiskey as well. The list is dominated by his pals at the breweries and distilleries who regularly order repairs and parts from the Shop. Eddie is on friendly terms with these fellows and he wants to thank them for their loyalty and patronage.
Another Christmas Eve party is thrown at the Joseph Kavanagh Company for family, friends, customers and employees. After a Saturday morning of work, the Shop is cleaned and decorated, then guests begin arriving. The number of customers that attend has gone down the last few years but there are still a few gents from Gunther’s and National Breweries and Calvert and Seagrams’s distilleries. The Kavanagh family are all there and the Shop’s employees. There is food, drink and song as there is every year. It’s not quite like it was when Eddie’s father, Joe was there. He would sing old Irish songs, Christmas carols, of course including “O Holy Night” but the this year’s party is a fun affair and everyone has a good time welcoming the holiday and celebrating another year finished. Just as last year, Jack drives several employees home or to a bus stop that is halfway home. He drives those fellows who celebrated a bit too much and either don’t drive or shouldn’t drive in their state. Jack doesn’t mind it at all and his father will take his family home for him. Jack takes these workers to their destination each with a Christmas turkey in hand. Jack goes over the year in his mind as he passes Pratt and Central on the way back. He ran for City Council and didn’t win but he’s okay with it. He enjoyed his time in the House of Delegates but political office just may not be for him. Also, his responsibilities at the Shop have increased and certainly will continue to do so. Finally, he’s happier to be able to spend as much time as he can with his growing family. The Shop takes enough time away from that so perhaps it’s for the best that he did lose. He cruises along Patterson Park on Baltimore Street and turns left onto Lakewood Avenue. In less than five minutes he is parking at 447 N. Lakewood Avenue ready to see all his girls. And ready to pull out that red and white suite to be Santa. It is one of the highlights of the holiday for him. He climbs the marble steps and walks in the door with a bright Merry Christmas to Betty and his daughters.
Dwight D. Eisenhower is the President of the United States. He sends the first American military advisers to South Vietnam. The Pentagon announces it will make a new missile called an ICBM, an Intercontinental Ballistic Missile. The first McDonald’s opens. Chuck Berry records his first record, “Maybelline.” Disneyland opens in Anaheim, California. Rosa Parks is arrested for refusing to give up her seat on a bus to a white person. The American Federation of Labor and the Congress of Industrial Organizations merge and form the AFL-CIO. “Rock Around the Clock” becomes the first rock and roll song to reach number one on the US record charts. John Grisham, Bill Gates, Whoopi Goldberg, Reba McEntire and Eddie Van Halen are born. Charlie Parker, Emmett Till and Albert Einstein die.
There are 48 states in the Union.
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