The Joseph Kavanagh Company begins its 98th year having been started by Joseph Michael Kavanagh in 1866 along with a partner George Smith. Soon, it was Old Uncle Joe’s place all alone then it passed to his nephews. The last of the nephews was Joseph Anthony Kavanagh and his sons, Leo and Eddie, who inherited the Shop upon his death. In 1963 it is owned by Eddie Kavanagh and his son Jack and Mary Kavanagh, Leo’s widow, and her daughter Mary Donnelly. Each parent and child pair own 50% and upon the parent’s death, the child will receive their percentage.The Shop is run by Jack Kavanagh though his father is in the office most days, but usually out of the way attending to recording records and notations on jobs. Mary Kavanagh and her daughter do not work at the Shop but they receive rent money each week for their part of the building. Jack is aided greatly in the office by his secretary Julie, and he has a crew of eight men. The year starts fair with some work on the books and the phone is ringing.
The Shop’s crew are busy fighting off the cold with torches and labor. A few brewery fittings are made, copper tubes are annealed for a fountain and some aluminum pipe rings are fabricated for Whiting-Turner, a local contractor who is a new customer. The rings are 10 ft. 7 1/2” in diameter and must be made in several pieces, then welded together. The ring is laid out on the floor, the pipes rolled, then fitted together for welding. It’s a nice job and Jack hopes to get more work in the future from this Whiting-Turner outfit.
A set of steel u-bends are made today for Harvey Stambaugh & Sons. Their truck drives through downtown from Woodall Street and delivers the tubes and after completion, the Shop’s truck delivers them. These are done in a day as Stambaugh is one of their best and most regular customers. Harvey Sr., and sons, Harvey and Ken, have learned that if they need it fast, they need only ask Jack and he will make it happen. The job itself is straight forward steel tube bending. The Leonhard bender is perfect for these tubes and they are knocked out quickly.
They have nearly made it through the cold weather and have stayed busy to Jack’s delight. His father keeps coming in but is less and less involved in any day-to-day activities. Eddie makes notes in records if he thinks a price is too low or has some complaint about a worker’s performance. Jack lets him do what he wants as long as it keeps Eddie busy and happy or at least as happy as he gets. An order is received for an aluminum pipe to be annealed, filled and rolled to 90 degrees, an elbow. The customer is Trailmobile which is a division of the Pullman Co. That’s another new customer and they keep finding more and more of those. The word is spreading about their enhanced pipe and tube bending capabilities and it seems to be paying off.
A typical Thursday afternoon has Jack coming through the back door a little before 5:00 pm, Betty working on dinner and the girls scattered throughout the house, helping Mom, doing homework or watching TV. Dinner is nearly ready and Jack’s father Eddie should be arriving soon. Since his wife passed, Eddie has most of his meals at 447 N. Lakewood Avenue. Tonight like every night he crosses the street and comes to dinner. Betty cooks for ten, plus a baby and is busy in the kitchen with help from the older girls while the younger girls are setting the table. Their grandfather Eddie comes through the door and hands his hat and coat to whichever girl is closest to him. Today it is Nancy. He makes his way wordlessly through the front parlor and into the living room finally walking to the dining room and sitting at the head of the table, the seat Jack used to occupy. The house becomes as silent as a library as the girls take their seats and Betty fills the table with roasted chicken, potatoes, green beans, bread and tea. She pours a cup for Eddie who glances at her as he butters a slice of bread. She returns to feeding baby Jack Jr. and there are a few softly uttered thank you’s and please’s as the food is passed around the table. A dinner that before was loud and full of talk of the day is quiet now. Since Mimi died, Eddie is much quieter and stays within his own thoughts. He was never particularly chatty but now he carries a silence with him that seems to steal the Kavanagh girls’ voices. His presence and self-imposed silence spreads to all of them as they pass each other platters, fill plates, eat and sip their tea. Jack has given up trying to engage his father over the supper table. Eddie’s replies are brief and usually mono-syllabic. After he finishes his cup of tea, he takes his hat and coat back and returns across the street to his home with nothing more than a general goodbye to the room. Once the table is cleared, one of the older girls, Betty Ann or Nancy, will go across the street and keep Eddie company for an hour or so. Jack thinks his father needs this kind of company, hoping it will keep up his spirits. They play records like Mitch Miller or watch the TV. The girls can sometimes get a smile out of Eddie before they kiss him good night and come back home.
For the last few weeks, the crew have been working on multiple repairs at Majestic Distillery. Mostly small things, but they all add up to good steady billing for the Joseph Kavanagh Company. Today a bigger part of the repairs is finished. A replacement line of tinned copper tube is installed at Majestic. It runs across their yard and connects two of the buildings used in the distilling system. Eddie spent about a half hour out in the Shop yesterday observing the tube being tinned. He was thinking back to when he did such things. He offered no advice this time, not a word, but he watched carefully and seemed intent on taking it all in. The installation is complete and Majestic is a happy customer.
It’s the Orioles home opener on this Wednesday. Jack is listening on the radio at the Shop and the Orioles do not disappoint. They are down 2-0 going into the bottom of the ninth and rally back to score three and win. A home run by Jackie Brandt leads off the inning for the Birds and after tying the game on a bases loaded walk to left fielder Boog Powell, Jerry Adair drives a deep fly ball to center to score the winning run. The crowd goes wild and Jack is clapping his hands and rubbing them together in celebration.
The strong start to the year continues with the crew busy on a backlog of small jobs this week. One is for the Slaysman Co. They need some small copper tubes bent into U’s and some elbows must be brazed on each end. This is a combination of their newer tube bending work and the old coppersmith stuff they have done for years. It’s a quick one and in a few hours, Slaysman picks up and takes them back to their shop.
It is the last day of the school year for the Kavanagh girls. Their mother Betty decides to reward the girls on their first day of summer so she sends Jane across the street to Coby’s Store for some penny candy. Coby’s is located on the corner directly across Lakewood Avenue from the Kavanagh’s home. The store is in a walk down basement of the house and in such a small space, they seem to have everything. The Krahling’s, Coby and Dutch, own the place and it has been there for at least ten years. The Kavanagh kids are in and out of that store almost daily for beans, bread or whatever might be needed. The Krahling’s are staples of the neighborhood and everybody shops there. For most, they are a short walk to whatever you want on any given day. The store closes every evening, but just a tap on the window brings Coby to open up when the unexpected need arises for the quart of milk or baby aspirin.
The Joseph Kavanagh Company is suddenly busier and they are working Saturday half-days now to keep up with the pace. This week a nice order is finished for another distillery customer, the Joseph E. Seagrams Company. They need some replacement copper troughs and the Shop fabricates them. Sheet is cut, then annealed to allow for bending the sides. They are soldered shut all around and the long troughs are ready. The sheet is thicker than normal and each one is heavy. The job takes a good amount of copper which is fine with Jack. The heavier the copper, the more they can charge for it and the more they can charge to work it.
Independence Day is spent at home on Lakewood Avenue. Betty steams a bushel of crabs in their small kitchen and the house smells of summer with the scent of black pepper, Old Bay and sunshine wafting through the open windows. The girls play hopscotch on the Jefferson Street side of the house while Betty sets Little Jack down for a nap. One of the benefits of living on a corner is you do get a long piece of sidewalk to play on. Later in the morning, Jack comes out with a whiffle ball and bat and the game is on. Jack pitches to his daughters and they all get some at bats and time in the field or sidewalk as it were. This is as good as it gets for Jack, playing baseball with his kids. The deadening dunk of plastic bat hitting plastic ball is heard as neighbors pass by and wish them “a happy 4th.” The game pauses as neighbors approach, some on the way to parties or home and some crossing Lakewood Avenue to see if Coby’s is open this morning. They are indeed open for a few hours on Independence Day to accommodate last minute burger bun needs and such. In the afternoon, Eddie crosses the street and joins them for crabs. Jack puts the Orioles game on the radio and that fills the silence that comes along with his father. He and Eddie talk a little about the game here and there as the crabs are cracked open and consumed. Eating crabs does take some time and work and the sound of the game on the radio is background music. The Orioles are in tune today. They are off to a hot start and in first place. The Yankees are visiting Baltimore and the Birds win 3-1. The Yanks strike first when Mickey Mantle drives a home run into the right field bleachers but Boog Powell answers with a 2- run shot of his own. An insurance run is added later when Shortstop Luis Aparicio triples and Second baseman Jerry Adair drops a perfect squeeze bunt bringing Aparicio home. Steve Barber and Dick Hall take care of the rest holding the Yankees to that one lone run. Jack and the girls cheer loudly when the final out is recorded and the silence is broken. A very fleeting flicker of a smile flashes over Eddie’s face but he becomes impassive immediately and returns to the duty of pulling crab meat from shell. After the game as Jack talks about the win, Eddie offers a couple of short nods and brief comments as he eats his fill. When finished he washes his hands and departs quickly, lighting a cigar on his way out. The remnants of the crab feast are cleaned up. The newspapers that they were eaten upon are folded carefully to drop as few shells as possible. The curled papers are slipped into a trash bag and taken outside and put into a can. It’s best not to keep crab shells in your house for very long. The Kavanagh’s head to Patterson Park. Jack and Betty make the brief trek with daughters, Betty Ann, Nancy, Mary, Jane, Jackie, JoAnn, Ann and baby Jack in a carriage. They walk down Lakewood Avenue for five blocks until they reach the park. It is the best place to view the fireworks downtown and much of the neighborhood is gathered on blankets, some with picnic baskets. The booms and flashes of color brighten the night sky and the younger girls love it though Jack Jr. is none too thrilled with the explosions. The older girls have seen it before but they still enjoy it and love being in the park on a warm summer’s evening. As soon as the fireworks are finished, they are off home. Jack has work the next day and the baby needs to get to sleep.
A new brewery customer has come to Kavanagh’s for fittings. F & M Schaefer Brewing joins Gunther’s, Hamm’s and National Breweries in ordering its replacement parts from the Shop. The Kavanagh’s have a lot of these in stock whether they be fittings, couplings or some other connectors. They need to be modified slightly for each customer’s needs but that does not take long. Jack has a brief chat with Eddie about this new brewery customer and his father seems interested but not overly so. Jack focuses on the Shop but he wonders if his father will ever come out of this deep sadness he seems buried in.
Jack is sitting at his desk after his father leaves in the afternoon. Eddie works usually 9 AM to 2 PM, then drives home. He hands his son a stack of recorded jobs each day. Jack glances through them, then puts them with all of their job records. Today one strikes his eye. It’s Eddie’s assessment and recording of an A. Smith Bowman Distilling job. The Shop fabricated and installed a bottling tank there and Eddie was none too thrilled with Charlie Owens’ performance on the project. Jack shakes his head as he reads Eddie’s criticism. Jack knows Charlie or “Chollie” as everyone calls him is a top notch smith and a good worker. Jack sighs and realizes he may never understand his father and this incessant need for criticism which has been part of Eddie’s personality for as long as Jack has known him. He files the record but knows to disregard it when referring to Charlie Owens’ work.
The infant son of the President and the First Lady has died. He was named Patrick Bouvier and was born prematurely two days ago. The baby had some respiratory problems and he only lived for thirty-nine hours. America grieves along with the First Family and this includes the Kavanagh’s. Betty is heartbroken for Jackie. Betty has miscarried twice and she knows what Jackie Kennedy is going through. Jack and Betty Kavanagh and their family pray for Jack and Jackie Kennedy not because they are President and First Lady but because they are parents who have lost a child.
It’s the beginning of September and time for the Kavanagh girls to get back to school. Nancy joins Betty Ann at Catholic High on Edison Highway. They take the 22 bus to school while Jack drives Mary, Jane, Jackie and JoAnn to St. Elizabeth’s. The girls, like most kids, dread that return to school but soon enough the Kavanagh household is back in the swing of it. Homework, school projects and fundraising drives are brought home by each of the six girls who are at school. Ann and Jack Jr. are home with their mother Betty and the house seems strangely quiet even with a toddler and baby.
60,000 fans fill Memorial Stadium for the Colts’ first game of the season Jack and his brother-in-law, Bumpsy and Bumpsy’s wife Shirley are in that crowd, The fans are as crazed as ever but the Colts drop this one 37-28 to the New York Giants. Jack and his in-laws have a great day at the football game and the loss doesn’t bother them. Their team does okay this year, finishing 8–6 but they again miss the postseason.
Another order is completed for Majestic Distillery today, several open-topped copper cans that are 10 inches in diameter and 9 inches high. It’s very standard stuff for a coppersmith. Sheet is rolled into circles and a bottom is soldered on to each. Mr. Funke who is one of their most experienced smiths takes care of this one in about two days of labor. The rest of the fellows focus on two brass railings that are being curved and fabricated. The Shop has stayed busy this year and they continue working Saturdays to stay ahead of the work.
The Los Angeles Dodgers sweep the Yankees to win the World Series Championship. The Dodgers’ pitching is absolutely dominant. Sandy Koufax sets the tone by striking out the first five Yankees he faces in game one and totaling 15 K’s in the game. After winning game four as well, Koufax is named the MVP of the Series. LA’s pitchers are so effective, New York only scores four runs in the Series and never leads in any of the games. Jack watches the last two games on Saturday and Sunday with his father. It is not quite like old times because Eddie is still morose and not very talkative. They do chat a bit during the games and are both duly impressed by the brilliant pitching of the Dodgers. The Orioles have a fairly good season finishing with 86 wins against 76 losses. It is only good enough for 4th place and once again, Jack dreams of his home town Birds some day making it to the World Series. He managed to take his kids to a dozen games this year. They mostly go on the weekend but the occasional weeknight match up is fine too. Jack and Betty have talked about getting season tickets, perhaps a half of a season so they could take the kids to more games. With so many children, it will be tough but they will do it when they can.
It’s a cool Fall day and that is comfortable weather to work in as the Shop’s crew attends to some brewery parts and more repairs for both Majestic and Seagrams. They also have a small order for the Maryland Cup Co. One piece must be bent on the Pines Bender and Jack does it himself instead of interrupting one of the boys. Jack still enjoys getting his hands dirty and doing the real work of the Shop. He likes dealing with customers, quoting and pursuing jobs but there is something special about working metal with his hands. It feels natural to him.
On this Friday, President John Kennedy is assassinated in Dallas Texas at about 1:30 pm EST. Jack is in the Shop’s office when he gets a call from Betty. She is crying and tells him that the president has been shot and it’s bad. Jack can’t believe it. This is a man he admires highly and supports completely. Betty is watching it on the television and Jack tells her he’ll put on the radio. He flicks the switch and listens as the news of the shooting in Dallas is passed along. Kennedy has been rushed to the hospital but has been gravely wounded in the head and neck. Across all of America, people are hearing the news from the media. In schools, teachers are informing students and then putting on the TV or radio if they have one. Tearful tales of the shooting are spreading everywhere. The Kavanagh girls learn of it at school like most children. At St. Elizabeth’s and at Catholic High, nuns are passing the word and there is a stunned moment for all involved. Soon the kids are let out of school early and make their way home. Jack and Betty’s daughters reach the corner of Lakewood and Jefferson to find their mother ironing, giving sheets a work out with steam and force just like she might do on any other day. This time she is crying all the while. The girls feel the palpable grief from their mother and Betty is like every adult American at this moment. They share a sudden deep sadness as the president is dead. Jack has his crew finish a few things then sends them on their way. He drives home knowing this man, this leader who he felt such a connection with is gone. They both were Navy Veterans and Irish Catholic Democrats who went by Jack. When Jack Kavanagh reaches his home, he walks into a quiet room with Walter Cronkite on the TV somberly speaking of this sudden and violent end to John F. Kennedy’s life. Jack hugs his wife and they gather before the television and watch, listen and cry.
Most of America spends the day watching the TV coverage of the situation in Dallas. A man has been apprehended and charged with the murder of JFK. His name is Lee Harvey Oswald and as much detail as can be found is passed to the viewers. He worked at the Texas Book Depository where the shots came from according to the police. The Kavanagh’s watch and mourn along with the rest of the country. Meals are eaten quickly and silently at the dining room table, then everyone returns to the television. The President’s body has been returned to DC to lie in state. Vice-President Lyndon Johnson was sworn in as the President yesterday on the plane that brought JFK’s body home. The tears have stopped now but the stunned silence still fills Lakewood Avenue and houses all over the nation.
After Mass at St. Elizabeth’s, Jack and Betty are again sitting in front of the television and watch as prisoner Oswald is being moved from police headquarters to county jail. As he is escorted down a corridor, a sudden shot rings out. Oswald has been shot on live TV. Jack and Betty stare in horror and disbelief as a mass of men converge on Oswald and the shooter. It is chaos and millions around the country are watching. After some order is restored and the shooter is questioned, the country learns he is a Chicago club owner named Jack Ruby. Oswald is rushed to the hospital and dies shortly thereafter. Jack and Betty discuss these events in hushed voices and can’t make any sense of it. Like most of the country, they spend the rest of the day staring at the television, the only sound the voice of the broadcaster with details about Oswald or Ruby and then the family watches as President Kennedy’s casket is taken by horse drawn carriage from the White House to the Capitol with a single riderless horse following. The president’s funeral will be tomorrow.
President Kennedy is laid to rest at Arlington National Cemetery. Schools are closed and businesses too, including the Shop. Americans watch and say goodbye to this young president who was taken so violently and so abruptly from them. The Kavanagh’s view the funeral solemnly and share the Kennedy family’s and the nation’s grief. Grief is silent. When spoken, grief is a whisper. For a few days, Americans whisper to each other because this feels like a death in the family. This young president represented hope and the arrival of a new generation to power. The country expected something special from him and feels cheated that he was not afforded the time to deliver it. They pray and weep for the man they hoped he would be and the man he was. His voice has been silenced and America’s with it.
President Lyndon Johnson orders an investigation into the Kennedy assassination to be led by Earl Warren, Chief Justice of the United States. Part of their focus is to be the murder of Oswald and any connection with Ruby.
The Shop’s Christmas party is held today on a very cold Tuesday. The temperature barely gets above freezing which contributes to the party continuing to get shorter and smaller. A few customers stop by in the afternoon but the party is mostly for employees and family. There is food and drink but no singing this year. The weight of what happened still hangs over most folks. The party does have good cheer and hopes of a good holiday for all. Afterward, Jack drives a couple of employees home and he starts thinking of not holding this party. His family is so big and he has only so much time with them. The employees might prefer to be home with their families anyway. He will consider it. When he returns to Central Avenue and collects his family, the station wagon is filled with the singing of carols and the voices of his children. He relishes the sound and grins. The girls have a chorus of “Jingle Bells” going in the back seat and Jack glances over at Betty holding Jack Jr. who has turned one. She smiles back and touches her belly for she is pregnant again and Jack and Betty are hopeful for baby #9. The car pulls next to 447 N. Lakewood Avenue and they unload, visions of Santa and Christmas fill the kids’ minds while Jack thinks of the piano in the front parlor and playing a few Christmas tunes so the Kavanagh girls will sing.
After Kennedy’s assassination, Lyndon Johnson is the President of the United States. LBJ assures Vietnam we will continue to support them financially and militarily. The Zip Code, the touch-tone phone and the lava lamp are invented. The films “the Great Escape” and ‘the Birds” are released. Betty Friedhan’s “The Feminine Mystique” is published. Martin Luther King delivers his famous “I have a dream speech.” Medgar Evers is assassinated. Michael Jordan, Johnny Depp, Whitney Houston, Natalie Merchant and Len Bias are born. Rogers Hornsby, Robert Frost and W. E. B. Du Bois die.
There are 50 states in the Union.
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