Jack Kavanagh is driving home from work and going over his day in his mind. The Shop is busy to start the year which isn’t always the case. The winter is often a slow time for a metalsmith shop. Jack runs the Joseph Kavanagh Company; he’s the fourth generation to work there. He is married to Betty and they have nine children, ranging from eighteen years to eighteen months. Jack has a crew of eight men including his brother Ed Jr. who works for him. Ed has no ownership stake. The business never interested him and he had trouble getting along with his father Eddie Sr. Jack and Ed’s father lives across the street from both on Lakewood Avenue, the house they both grew up in. The two brothers each have houses on the corners of the 400 block of Lakewood, Jack at Lakewood and Jefferson and Ed at Lakewood and Orleans St. Eddie is retired and his wife has passed almost seven years ago. His health is not good. He suffers with emphysema but manages well enough. Betty takes care of him, making several trips across the street every day and Eddie has dinner with her, Jack and the children every night. As Jack turns onto Baltimore Street and drives along the edge of Patterson Park, he hears the news on the radio that Jack Ruby has died. Ruby had been diagnosed with cancer several weeks ago and his prognosis was not good. He passed away at Parkland Hospital in Dallas, the same hospital where both President Kennedy and Lee Harvey Oswald died. Jack shakes his head as he listens. He has this gnawing feeling that we may never know exactly what happened on that November Day. The Warren Commission’s conclusion that both Oswald and Ruby acted alone never really held water for Jack. He had doubts like a great many Americans. Jack admired Kennedy and felt this connection to him. What a sad tragic death his was and to never know the truth is an injustice. Jack parks on the Jefferson Street side of his home and climbs the marble steps into the house. He’ll talk to Betty about it after the kids are asleep.
Along with a mix of brewery fittings being made today, a job for Bethlehem Steel is completed at the Shop. The mill needs four copper funnels to be fabricated. These will be used in a smaller facility of Beth Steel’s on Key Highway. Making copper funnels is standard stuff for the Kavanagh’s. Jack is very happy with the start to this year. Everyone is being kept busy and they have jobs and money coming in regularly.
Super Bowl One is played between the NFL Champion Green Bay Packers and the AFL champion Kansas City Chiefs with the Packers winning easily 35-10. Jack watches and roots for the Packers. Before Baltimore had a team and the Colts joined the NFL, Jack was always a Packers fan. This game isn’t close and Green Bay takes Super Bowl I easily.
An emergency rush job is brought to the Joseph Kavanagh Company by E. J. Codd Fabricators & Boiler Works. A municipal building has a bad boiler and it must be fixed ASAP. Codd is located close to Pratt & Central, on Aliceanna Street. They deliver some steel bars and angles to be used as stiffeners for the tank. In addition, a copper liner is needed for the boiler and that will be made from thin sheet. Jack gets the crew on this right away. Several boys are led by his brother Ed in annealing and curving the sheet. Jack takes the rest of the fellows and gets to cutting the steel and rolling the stiffeners. It’s two days worth of work and they get it finished in six hours. The heat of the torches warms up 201 S. Central and the hard work and heightened pace doesn’t hurt either. Codd is a good customer who the Shop has worked with for decades. They are good pay and great to deal with and Jack always does his best to get their work done as quickly and accurately as possible. He wants them coming back anytime they need something.
As Codd’s truck pulls away, Jack and Ed stand at the garage door and lower it. “That was a son of a gun to finish in less than a day.” Jack says to his brother.
“Yeah it was. Hard to believe we got that one out of here the same day it came in. It was a good day to have a torch in hand.” Ed chuckles and Jack grins back at him, “but getting those sheets right for the liner that quick was a toughie. We needed Old Uncle Joe on this one.” Both have heard tales told by their father since they were boys of the skills of the original Joseph Michael Kavanagh.
Jack’s smile broadens, “Oh yeah, he probably could have had it done in FOUR hours.” Jack laughs, “According to Eddie anyway.”
Ed nods, “Yeah Pop always said Uncle Joe was the best. They all learned from him but no one, including Eddie,” Ed winks at his brother, “was nearly as good as him.”
“That’s what we were told.” Jack replies shaking his head. “But Pop was good for sure. I guess our old uncle was just about the best.” Ed listens and nods in agreement. “Well, put those leftover pieces of sheet back on the rack Ed, before we get out of here today. It’s almost time but we might as well clean up the mess of this job.”
“You got it Jack. Me and Wortman will put them back up.” Ed answers and finds his helper to get back to work.
Spring is nearly here and the Kavanagh’s and crew are looking forward to the baseball season. The Orioles are the defending World Series Champions and everyone can’t wait to see that banner raised at Memorial Stadium. The work has stayed strong and in addition to a railing and some distillery parts being made today, a set of stainless steel flat bars are rolled for E. A. Kaestner on Orleans Street. Kaestner makes sanitary equipment for the food service industry. The bars need to be rolled to a 72” Radius the Hardway. The Hardway refers to which surface of the bars you are rolling across. If it’s the bigger face of the bar, that is the Hardway. Rolling across the smaller face of the bar is the Easyway. After Charlie Owens makes a template, Jack and a helper curve these bars right up.
Jack is having a very busy day on the corner of Pratt and Central. A fountain and more distillery work dominates the Shop but they also have a small tinning job for Bossalina Machine Co. Jack is mostly busy today because he is leaving early tomorrow to attend opening day with his girls. Anytime Jack has to be out of the Shop for an extended period of time, a great deal of planning and preparation goes into it. His secretary Julie is very helpful and will handle any phone calls and take messages. The Shop is trickier as they do not have a foreman. Jack is essentially the foreman and boss combined. His brother, Ed is there but he’s never been one to like telling people what to do or being in charge. He’s a topnotch coppersmith and prefers to focus on that. Jack will have to plan out the few hours he will be gone tomorrow. He’ll prepare several extra job cards in case the crew gets more finished than anticipated. It’s a frantic day for Jack but he is determined to get to that game tomorrow.
Orioles Opening Day is on a Tuesday and the Kavanagh’s are there. Jack leaves work early and picks up the girls and they head to Memorial Stadium. The pennant from last year’s World Series championship is raised before nearly 40,000 strong. The Birds start off hot In the bottom of the first. They score four runs before the first out. Curt Blefary is hit by a pitch. He’s doubled home by Luis Aparicio who is singled in by Frank Robinson. Brooks caps it off by knocking one out and the Orioles are up 4-0. They win 6-3 and it’s a great way to celebrate last year’s success and start off this one well.
Last year, the Joseph Kavanagh Company saw a significant uptick in their brewery work and it has continued thus far. A steady stream of fittings, couplings and other parts have been made this year for National, Gunther’s and Schaefer Breweries. It’s Carling Brewing’s turn today. They have ordered several bronze elbows all with associated fittings to go along with them. Brass work is something the Kavanagh’s have done for many years. Even Old Uncle Joe did brass work despite copper being his focus and primary product. This job is finished and the parts are delivered to Carling as quickly as possible.
Jack and Betty are proud parents of the graduate, Nancy Kavanagh who finishes her years at Catholic High. She plans to go to college and decides to attend Duquesne University in Pennsylvania. This is tough for her Mom and Dad for her to not only move onto campus but to another state but they trust her and she has worked hard to get this opportunity. In August, she will head to Duquesne.
An emergency repair at Schaefer Brewery is handled today by Jack’s crew. A line is leaking and they need this fixed immediately. A call is made to Jack and he quickly gets together a plan of what needs to be done and sends off Charlie Owens and his helper, Wortman to solder the holes closed and fix the leak. Charlie is their most reliable employee and a skilled coppersmith. Jack trusts him a great deal and he occasionally helps around Jack’s house besides working for him at the Shop.
The Kavanagh’s spend a Monday evening at Memorial Stadium watching a doubleheader between the Orioles and the Minnesota Twins. Jack takes his youngest five girls to this one leaving his young boys home as it’s two games and may go late. The two older girls, Betty Ann and Nancy are still fans but both are college girls now and have other things they are interested in besides baseball. The Twins win the first game, 4-0, and the Birds take the second winning 9-5. The Orioles stake themselves to a 6-0 lead by the fourth inning and never look back. Jack and his daughters have a great night cheering on those Birds but he decides to leave in the eighth inning. Ann is still only six and he wants to get her home plus he has work tomorrow so it’s best to sneak out a little early. The Orioles have struggled a little this season after their fabulous championship year of 1966. They are still just under a .500 record due to injuries and some bad playing. Jack hopes they can pick it up the rest of the way.
The summer has brought an increase in work and that’s enough to get Jack to bring the boys in on Saturdays for a half-day. The crew welcomes it because it means a little more money each week. Today, another rush repair is needed at Schaefer Brewery. This time several holes need to be cut in a wall to allow the brewery to move a beer line. This is not something the Shop would normally tackle but they have been working at Schaefer’s a lot over the last month or so and when the request is made, Jack takes the job. He has Charlie Owens and a helper ride over there and cut two holes in the cellar of the brewery. Jack knows if you keep doing work fast for a customer and you are willing to try to fix any problems they have, they will grow to rely on you and count on you. This is always a good thing in business.
Several serpentine coils are bent today for Baltimore Gas and Electric Co. They are made from 1 1/4” Copper tubes. The tubes are annealed and bent to 180 degrees. There are several bends in each piece and they turn back and forth to create the coil that is needed. These are for heating the BG&E building so in July, no rush is necessary. These are a standard maintenance item that the gas company wants dealt with before the cold comes back in a few months.
The Shop at 201 S. Central is a hot and busy place on this Tuesday. A set of pipes is rolled for for J. E. Hurley and several 3/4” Pipes are bent for Western Electric. The pipe and tube bending work does seem to keep augmenting their traditional coppersmith jobs. Jack knew all along that there were many applications for bending but even he is surprised with some of the calls they get. Hurley has been a customer for a few years but Western Electric is a new one. They are a big company and Jack is particularly happy to do some work for them. It might be a one time thing but you never know. They might turn into a regular customer with returning work throughout the year.
A hot summer day is a busy one for the Kavanagh’s and crew. Jack and his brother are working on a set of copper spray tubes for a fountain while the rest of the crew bend some rings for the Slaysman Company and make some bronze fittings again for Schaefer Brewery. Heat is thrown around to anneal the copper sprayer tubes and that just adds to the discomfort of an August day on Central Avenue. They are accustomed to it but it is still hot no matter how used to it you are.
It’s a warm autumn Monday and after a hard day’s work, Jack sits in his chair watching TV with the kids and Betty. They watch “the Andy Griffith Show” then “Family Affair” from 9-10. Jack is a big Andy Griffith fan while the girls especially the younger three, Jackie, JoAnn and Ann are fans of “Family Affair.” They love Buffy’s doll Mrs. Beasley. When Betty gets the girls to sleep, she and Jack decide to watch a new program at 10 pm. “The Carol Burnett Show” is a comedy/variety program and this is its premier episode. Jim Nabors is the guest for this week and there are show tunes sung and a few comical skits. Jack laughs throughout loving Burnett and Harvey Korman’s humor on display. Both he and Betty love the music too and this show becomes one of their favorites very quickly.
The first Colts game of the season is played today at Memorial Stadium and Jack and his brother-in-law and sister-in-law, Bumpsy and Shirley Crew are there. The crowd is wild and loud as they always are. They see a close one but Baltimore pulls it out, beating the Atlanta Falcons 38-31. Later in the evening, the Kavanagh’s are watching the Ed Sullivan Show and a new rock and roll band called the Doors are performing. Jack pays little attention to it but his teenage daughters are watching the band. The lead singer named Jim Morrison says the word “higher” in their song, “Light My Fire”, and the show’s producers had explicitly asked him to change that word. He said he would but live he sings it out loud and proud. The Doors are banned from appearing on the Ed Sullivan Show henceforth.
The St. Louis Cardinals defeat the Boston Red Sox to win the World Series in seven games. Red Sox outfielder, Carl Yaztrzemski is Boston’s top player after winning the Triple Crown. Just as Frank Robinson did last year, Yaz led the American League in batting average, home runs and runs batted in. Orlando Cepeda who will win the National League MVP is the leader of the Cardinals this year. Jack watches games three and four with his father at 434 N. Lakewood Avenue as they have for years. Jack takes advantage of the weekend World Series games to watch with Eddie. It’s a back and forth series but St. Louis prevails after very strong pitching from Bob Gibson who wins the MVP of the Series. It was a tough year for the Orioles who dropped deep into the standings after winning only 76 games. They had some injuries, no doubt, but mostly they took a step down and did not play very well. Jack was disappointed but after winning it all last year, he can’t complain. There’s always next year.
The Shop’s work has slacked off a bit and they are back to just five days a week. It’s traditional to do more Saturday work in the summer when the jobs are more plentiful. On this Wednesday, the crew are busy with a railing, some copper U-bends for Harvey A. Stambaugh & Sons and a set of 3/4” steel pipe coils for Stieff Silverware Company. Jack and three others handle the Stieff job with Jack doing the rolling and the bending of some sharp bends on the end of each coil. The bends at the end will be for the inlet and the outlet of each coil.
Robert McNamara resigns as LBJ’s Secretary of Defense. He had recommended freezing troop levels in Vietnam but was rebuffed by President Johnson.
A job for Culp Welding is completed today. It’s a set of 30” Dia. Rings made from Aluminum Pipes. Aluminum is unpredictable and it can be a challenge to get each ring to match but Jack rolls these himself and he knows they will be fine. He has the most experience on the rolling machine and Jack’s tolerance is always tighter than the customer needs. The rings turn out well. They are crated and delivered to Culp.
Jack and most of Baltimore are watching the Colts take on the Los Angeles Rams on the road in the final game of the season. Baltimore leads the division and are undefeated with 11 wins and two ties. They are one victory up on the Rams and if LA is victorious today, they slip into a tie with the Colts. The Rams have the tie breaker and they do win 34-10. Despite tying for the lead in the standings, Baltimore’s football team does not make the postseason. Jack can’t believe it. They don’t make the playoffs and only lost one game but it was the most important game of the season.
The Shop’s Christmas Party is held on a Saturday the day before Christmas Eve. The crew will have a long weekend having both Monday and Tuesday off. Jack will close the Shop Tuesday to give everyone an extra day of holiday. The workers are thrilled and appreciative. His men do like and respect Jack. He’s fair and treats his employees well. For the last several years, Charlie Owens or Mr. Chollie as the girls called him takes up a collection from the crew and brings a few dollars to Betty to purchase a Christmas present for Jack. He is always surprised and thanks them. It is given to him during the party but he would prefer if they spent their money on their families. Jack belongs to the Sheet Metal Workers Union. When he was in the House of Delegates, he was a strong supporter of the working man and his management style is similar. He believes in his crew and treats them as well as he can. The party is brief but festive and as the boys leave with bonuses and turkeys in tow, everyone is wished “Merry Christmas.” Jack drives a couple of his employees home. Both have had a little too much beer or rye whiskey but they are not downright sloshed. He drops the first off downtown where his sister lives and the other is driven to a bus stop. He lives over near Wilkens Avenue and this saves him one bus ride on his route home. Jack waves goodbye as the fellow sits on the bench with his arm wrapped around the turkey. Jack finally can drive home and spend the evening with his kids and he’ll still have all day Christmas Eve with them too.
At 8 am the phone rings on Lakewood Avenue and Jack answers it. It’s a call from an employee’s wife asking about the Christmas turkey. This is the employee who was dropped off at the bus stop last night. Her husband didn’t bring it home with him and his wife is frantic for a turkey on Christmas Eve. Jack is befuddled. He had it on the bus stop. She says he never brought a turkey in the house. She checked the freezer, the fridge and all over the house. It’s not there. Jack assures her the Shop did not cut out turkeys this year and her husband got one. Jack can’t help that it didn’t make it home. She isn’t exactly satisfied but she wishes him a merry Christmas and hangs up. Jack shakes his head and he decides then and there to cease these Christmas parties. The men probably want to be with their families anyway. Jack certainly does. He can’t get the thought of this out of his mind and keeps visualizing a bus pulling up to a stop with a turkey sitting on a bench in the middle of the night. He can’t help but wonder. Did the bus stop?
Lyndon Johnson is the President of the United States. American troops in Vietnam rise to nearly 500,000 and protests against the War spread from one college campus to another then to major cities in the US. The 25th Amendment is ratified. The Six-Day War is fought in the Middle East. Thurgood Marshall becomes the first African-American Justice of the Supreme Court. The Corporation for Public Broadcasting is formed. Jimi Hendrix’s album, “Are You Experienced?” is released. The Big Mac is invented. The movie “Jungle Book” is released in theaters. The Outsiders and the first issue of Rolling Stone Magazine are published. Elvis gets married. Curt Kobain, Julia Roberts, Toni Braxton, Michael Johnson and Harry Connick Jr. are born. Robert Oppenheimer, John Coltrane, Carl Sandberg, Woody Guthrie and Otis Redding die.
There are 50 states in the Union.
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