The Pittsburgh Steelers defeat the Dallas Cowboys 35-31 in the Super Bowl. The game is on at 447 N. Lakewood with Jack watching. He pulls for the Steelers for his son-in-law’s sake. Jim O’Neill is from Pittsburgh and a die hard fan. Jack can’t deny if they lose, he might issue a little good-natured ribbing but he prefers to be able to congratulate Jim with a victory which he does.
The two Jack Kavanagh’s attend a Washington Capitals game on a chilly Friday night. Big Jack promises his son that as soon as he gets his license and his father is convinced he can handle it, Little Jack can start doing the driving. Jack Jr. can’t wait. He’s taking drivers ed and should have his license in a couple of months. They see a very good game with the Caps beating the Chicago Black Hawks 4-1
The work at the Shop has been steady to start the year and Big Jack is content. The weather has been cold but the work consistent. Today a short heat exchanger is made for General Plumbing Supply. The copper tubes are annealed and bent then the unit is assembled in quick order.
The heavy snow that began last night is a full blown blizzard now. School is canceled for the week and the City will be at a stand still for two or three days. The Kavanagh brothers are thrilled as they have never seen a snowfall like this one. It’s the kind of storm that happens once in a childhood. Nineteen inches in total will fall at Lakewood Avenue. Neighbors have to rally together to help out. Those who have plenty help those who do not. The working together and supporting each other reminds them neighbors are friends not just folks who live near you. Jack will close the Shop Monday and Tuesday and worry about finding his way to Central Avenue and digging out on Wednesday. Jack and Joe Kavanagh are out and about early Monday evening with Joe’s best friend, Ray French, trekking through Ellwood Park as the snow blows and piles around them. They are astonished at the mounds and snow dunes all over the park. The three boys find themselves on the baseball diamond and play a few at bats of mock baseball complete with sliding through the snow into home plate. They are quickly soaked and cold but at the ages of 13-16, cold is of little concern.
They walk home down the hill on Jefferson Street silently. The wind has picked up and the only talking would be shouting. As they pass Kenwood Avenue, the walk levels off and they move quicker when they spot a snowball battle at the intersection of Belnord Avenue. One boy seems to be pinned down behind a car while four others are pelting away with snowballs. Jack, Joe and Ray are feeling the cold now and are ready for home so they are intent on avoiding the snow skirmish. Jack Jr. looks into the wind and snow and recognizes the lone combatant. “It’s Muldowney!” Jack cries into the cold air. John Muldowney, a friend from school and the neighborhood is usually referred to by his last name as there are three Johns in the area. All three boys charge because this is different. It wasn’t some random fellow with the odds against him. Under a volley of snowballs, the three slide behind the car with John. Arming themselves quickly with the snow piling at their feet, the four stand and begin a rapid snow fire counterattack. The other boys suddenly face even odds with John Muldowney and Jack Kavanagh clearly taller and older than their biggest. They waver a bit and John and Jack lead a full frontal assault with extra ammo stuffed in coat pockets. The four aggressors retreat north along Belnord Avenue under a hail of snow spheres flying through the air.
The four victors whoop and slap five in jubilation. It’s dark and snowy so the celebration is brief. After a hasty thank you and goodbye, John races east up Jefferson while the Kavanagh’s and Ray French finish the short walk to Lakewood. Ray crosses the street to his house and Jack and Joe head through the door to their home. Betty orders them to change all their clothes. She can’t imagine how they are soaked to the bone. The boys change quickly still smiling from the win. Snowball fights are usually draws. That’s how it is as a kid. It’s a battle or a fight certainly but it’s just fun. This one though, during the biggest blizzard in years, this one they win.
The snow still lingers in white hills piled around the City but things are back to normal. A few days of clean up threw Big Jack’s crew behind but they are catching up. On this Thursday, some boiler parts and an angle stiffener are rolled for Codd Fabricators while another heater is made for General Plumbing Supply. Jack Sr. will be glad to see the snow go and looks forward to the arrival of spring warmth and work.
A Friday afternoon is spent at Memorial Stadium for the Orioles opening game. Baltimore and the Chicago White Sox are matched up with the Kavanagh’s sitting on the third base side cheering on their Birds. Ace pitcher Jim Palmer throws a solid complete game victory with the score 5-3. The Kavanagh’s are hopeful this year Baltimore can finish on top.
The Shop is humming along now the warm weather is here. The crew make a set of u bends for Egan Boiler while a brass railing is rolled and a rare order of still bonnets is received from A. Smith Bowman. The bonnets are small caps for a distillery pot and the Shop has a stack in stock. They had made these for years and now if an order is placed, they are shipped out immediately. The level of distillery and brewery work is down to nearly nothing but a fair few parts are kept around for just such an order.
Joe Kavanagh’s confirmation is tonight and will be followed next week by his graduation from St. Elizabeth’s Elementary School. Confirmation is the sacrament which transitions a Catholic child to an adult in the Church. Mary’s husband Handy is Joe’s sponsor, a mentor or guide. Joe looks up to Handy and his brother-in-law has always been especially supportive of Joe. The boy is chosen to read one of the scriptures during the service and after he returns to his seat, Handy leans close and whispers in his ear, “You made it and you done good.” A smile crosses the boys face as he feels this is a step toward growing up. Handy’s words will ring in Joe’s ears for the rest of the night and his life whenever any achievement or success is felt. Simple words that carry a heavy meaning and affirmation for Joe. His graduation marks the end of almost 50 years of a Kavanagh being enrolled in the old school at Lakewood and Baltimore Street. Jack Sr. went there as a boy and so have all nine of his children. That has to be some kind of record.
Little Jack is back at the Shop for the summer. He’s learning every day and Big Jack is very proud and duly impressed with his boy’s burgeoning skills. Little Jack bends some boiler tubes in the Pines Bender today for Tydings, Lynch & Lorenz, another local fabrication shop. With drivers license in hand, Jack Jr. drives himself and his father back and forth from Central Avenue each day.
Joe Kavanagh and Ray French are at a Friday night Orioles game. Baltimore is playing well with six victories in a row. Joe turned fourteen a few days ago and his parents have deemed him old enough to take the bus to Memorial Stadium on nights the Kavanagh’s do not have tickets. The two best friends sit in the upper deck behind home plate and watch a close game. The Birds are trailing the Detroit Tigers in the bottom of the ninth and the game seems lost. Joe and Ray decide to try to beat the rush to the exit and maybe catch the bus ahead of the crowd. They stand in the aisle with one out and watch as Ken Singleton belts a homer to bring the Orioles within one. Eddie Murray follows with a single and the winning run steps to the plate. The boys take their seats as the fans start getting excited. Gary Roenicke pops out to the infield and the boys stand up again and take a few steps toward the ramp, still planning a quick escape. A dull rumble runs through the stadium as Doug DeCinces steps to the plate. “Something Magic happens,” as the song goes and DeCinces crushes one deep to left field. It soars out into the night and is gone, the Orioles win 6-5. Pandemonium breaks out as fans go insane with joy and in that moment, Oriole Magic is invented. Fans jump, scream and hug complete strangers. The boys slap hands and cheer then make their hasty getaway in the midst of the celebration. It is an incredible win but what’s more it starts something with this team. Suddenly, no opponent’s lead is safe and, in fact, another comeback win is completed tomorrow when Eddie Murray hits a walk off home run. Something happens with the City too. A sudden strength of faith in the club appears where you can’t count them out no matter the score. This day Oriole Magic becomes something real. Something palpable. The fans and the Orioles feel it and the team gets on a roll stretching their win streak to nine games. Joe gets home after walking back form the bus stop and his father is waiting to greet him. He listened on the radio and wants all the details of how it went. They drink iced tea, Joe tells him all about it and they share a sweet moment of a very sweet victory.
A special celebration is held today at the St. Elizabeth’s School for Special Education on Argonne Drive. Sister Mary Agnes celebrates her Golden Jubilee as a nun in the Visitation Order. Jack and Betty make the arrangements and fly her in from Minneapolis. The family honors here fifty years of service to the Church and on the next day, they drive her to Ocean City for a day trip visit before she returns to Minnesota.
The Kavanagh’s are spending a weekend in their Ocean City home at Royal Palm Court. Jack and Betty drive down with Ann, Jack and Joe but only Jack and the older two children will return. Betty and Joe are spending an extended vacation at the beach. They will stay there through the second week of August and Jack and the rest will come down each weekend. That second week of August will be a solid week of vacation for all of them. Mother and son walk the boards each night, read and make puzzles during the day. Betty loves some alone time with her youngest. She knows he will be working next summer and once he’s working, this time is gone. Joe loves the fact that he is older now and he can take small trips of his own during the day, exploring the beach town like he never has before. Each weekend, the rest of the family arrive and they fish and partake of the various OC amusements. Then each Sunday they return and Betty and Joe continue their quiet pastoral enjoyment of the small resort.
The summer has brought heat and work to the old Shop. Ten 6” Angles are rolled for Danzer Metal while a small tube coil is curved for Russell William Ltd. Little Jack is bending a set of u bends for J.E. Hurley. Big Jack is on the phone most of the day coordinating deliveries of material and pick ups of completed parts. Jack Sr. likes these days. Keep him on the phone or in the Shop, as long as it leads to work, he’s all for it.
A rush order of copper u bends is received from Harvey Stambaugh. The tubes need to be knocked out quick because a municipal building is without hot water so several fellows jump on the job with Jack Jr. doing the annealing. He’s nearly mastered the skill of softening metal with heat. He can do copper and brass with ease and his father and the crew trust him to do so with no supervision necessary. His last test is annealing aluminum, the most challenging metal. This takes more heat and a very careful eye to avoid melting the piece. He’s practicing and progressing under his father’s watchful eyes.
As the crew counts down to their oncoming vacation, a set of stainless steel tubes are bent for Harvey Stambaugh. Stainless steel requires no annealing and the men are happy. A torch in Baltimore’s summer heat and humidity is unpleasant to say the least. The crew handle their assignments well but most of them are looking forward to the end of the week and the start of a holiday.
Right after work on this Friday, Big and Little Jack and Ann drive down to Ocean City to join Betty and Joe. The usual week of family time with carnival fun and food commences. The kids are old enough now to take care of themselves. They visit with their older sister JoAnn who works at the amusement pier and knows all the best places in the beach town. Jack and Betty enjoy their time alone and continue to dream their dream of living here full time some day. The week goes by in a flash and before they know it, the Kavanagh’s are packing and heading home. This will be Joe’s last long visit to OC with work starting for him next year. His thoughts are not on work but school. In September, he will begin at Our Lady of Mt. Carmel High School.
Jack and Joe catch a very early bus to Mt. Carmel in Essex. It’s a big adjustment for Joe as the ride is about forty minutes each way. The days start early and end late. Joe feels very out of place in this new school but his brother being there helps a great deal. Not to mention, being friendly with a Senior is good for any Freshman. Jack Jr. has already begun petitioning his father to drive to school. In addition to the old station wagon Big Jack takes to work each day, the Kavanagh’s own a Chrysler Cordoba. Jack and Betty use the Cordoba on weekends for day trips, church and errands. Little Jack is doing his best to convince his father to allow him to drive that car to Carmel.
The Baltimore Colts are hosting the Buffalo Bills in a football game and the two Jacks are there. They both love the Colts deeply and keep waiting for a return to the glory days of old. It won’t be this year as the fans must suffer through another disappointing season. The team finishes in last with a record of 5-11.
The American League Championship Series starts today with the Orioles playing the California Angels at Memorial Stadium. The game begins at 8:30 pm and it runs late with the teams stuck in a tie going into the ninth inning. Betty insists they go home as the boys have school tomorrow. Jack Sr. knows not to argue with Betty when she is determined and the family grudgingly leaves their seats and drives home. The game is on the radio and it goes into extra innings. The Kavanagh’s walk through the door, flip on the TV and see pinch hitter John Lowenstein blast a 3 run homer to win in the bottom of the 10th inning. It’s Oriole Magic again.
The Kavanagh’s are watching game 4 of the ALCS from home. The series has moved to California and the Birds need one win to go to the World Series. There is little doubt in this one with Baltimore leading the whole way, winning 8-0. Manager Earl Weaver’s formula for winning proves true, good pitching and the three run home run. Scott McGregor contributes the pitching by throwing a shut out and outfielder Pat Kelly adds the three run dinger.
It’s game 7 of the World Series in Baltimore. The Birds had a 3-1 lead in the Series but lost the last two, one in Pittsburgh and one here. This game is a winner take all for the championship. Snow falls early in the evening and the field conditions are rough. Left field has a large gash of mud in the green outfield. The Kavanagh’s are there pulling with all they have to see Baltimore’s Birds win. It’s not to be. The Pirates led by Willie Stargell are too much for them and win 4-1. The family and the rest of the fans sit almost transfixed as their hopes of celebrating tonight are gone. When the last Oriole out is recorded, much of Baltimore’s faithful suddenly get the same idea. The fans charge onto the field as the Pirates players are jumping up and down in victory. It wasn’t planned but both Kavanagh brothers and Ray French find themselves on the field. Third base is grabbed by one fan and carted off within seconds. People are gathered around home plate trying to dig it up. The boys not knowing what else to do stuff dirt from the infield into their pants pockets. It’s a chaotic scene as disappointed fans mill around excited to at least be on the diamond. In the midst of the insanity, Jack Sr. appears and ushers the boys to him with an understanding but scathing look. They make their way through the crowd and back over the barriers into their seats. Betty glares as they walk up the aisle, out of the park and drive home in near absolute silence. They had their dance on the field but not one of victory.
Jack Kavanagh Sr. is watching the news and is shocked to hear of the events in Iran. After a revolution, Iranian protesters take 63 American hostages at the US Embassy in Tehran. Americans around the country feel the same way and they will begin checking for daily news updates as the hostage situation plays out over the next year with little progress.
The sting of the World Series loss is still felt but the approaching holidays should hopefully push it out of everyone’s mind. On Central Avenue, another job is bent for Baltimore Tube Bending. This order is some 2” OD Aluminum tubes bent in the Pines. With his son at school, Big Jack anneals these himself. He has a habit of singing as he anneals. It helps him focus and also keeps a good rhythm with the movement of of the torch along the tube. Jack’s song of choice is Frank Sinatra’s “Fly Me to the Moon” and his voice is audible but muffled in the blowing of the propane torch. Jack Sr. times it just right as the last “I love you!” is uttered right before he blows out the flame.
The year’s end gets closer and it has been a good one. The heat exchanger work and their fabricator customers keep the Shop busy. Big Jack is pleased with his oldest boy’s work and can’t wait to get him back to 201 S. Central Avenue. Next year, he’ll be joined by his little brother and Big Jack looks forward to having them both there. As a father, he missed so much of their younger years due to the Shop. Working together will be a pleasure for him. Splendor in Brass, a brass bed and furniture maker, has an order for some tubes being bent today. The pieces will be used as part of a few brass headboards.
December 8. (The writer takes his place at the Shop)
My mother is waking me from a deep slumber. She’s talking to me. I can see that through half-closed eyes and shaking me. It’s Saturday? In a moment it comes to me, last night my father told me he needs some help at the Shop today. I’m going to work. I was surprised not only did I want to sleep but there was no warning. I knew it was coming but I assumed next summer. I convince my mom I’m awake by putting my feet on the floor and she scuttles off down the stairs to make breakfast. I get myself dressed and ready and plop down in my usual chair trying to catch a few more winks of sleep the whole time. A plate with three chocolate chip cookies is in front of me. I am not much of a breakfast person but I sleep and chew through two of them while my father reads the paper and my older brother Jack devours an inordinate amount of cornflakes floating in milk. In ten minutes, we are out the door and in the car driving to 201 S. Central Avenue. Jack is at the wheel and he and my father are in conversation about the Colts. It’s been a rough year again for the team. I’m closing my eyes and relishing the heat coming on in the car as we bump along. I convince myself I am asleep and get some rest until we pull up in front of the Joseph Kavanagh Company. Jack and Dad unlock the padlocks and swing the big green metal door wide and in we go. Jack puts on the lights and Dad checks for phone messages in his office. I wander around a bit. I’ve been here many times. We would often stop on the way home from Ocean City. Dad always seemed to want to check on the place. If we were downtown for any reason at all, we drove by the Shop, and as young boys, Jack and I played in the office every once in a while as Dad did paperwork. The door of the office swings open and out comes my father and he calls us to the small room behind the office on the Pratt Street side of the building. Jack flicks the power switch on the old roller that has been in the Shop for decades. This machine has an old manual crank to control the tightness of the curve and is particularly useful if the bend needs subtle adjustments. We are rolling a foot rail for a local bar that is being renovated. The contractor has furnished a wooden template and the curve is a little irregular. This machine will work well for those small changes in the radius. My father tells me my only jobs are to keep my side of the tube flat, keep my eyes open and if something goes wrong, get out of the way. Jack slides a 12 ft. long piece of brass tube into the machine and Dad begins passing it through a couple times until the contour is close enough by his eye to check. He backs off the rollers and we lift the tube out and check it against the template. It needs to come in more my father mutters with Jack agreeing. That means nothing to me as I stand freezing in the cold Shop. What he meant was the radius had to be tighter at some spots. Dad makes some marks with soapstone on the tube and we put it back in the machine. This process is repeated four or five times for three sections of brass rail. Each time Jack listens intently to our father and defers to his decision while I continue to be cold and bored. My father occasionally tells me to hold my end up higher or lower but otherwise I do very little. I wonder why I am there though later I think my father believed it was time and wanted me to have a little taste of what the Shop was like. Just after 11 AM, the bar rail is finished: three sections which the contractor will combine and they all look good on the templates. Jack shuts off the lights, my father locks up the office and soon the big green doors are closed and padlocked. We drive home and Dad and Jack’s chat about the Colts seems to pick up where it left off while I sit in the backseat watching houses go by. When we step through the door to 447 N. Lakewood, Jack races upstairs and my Dad puts a hand on my shoulder to keep me from following him.
“What did you think?” He fixes his gaze upon me.
Not knowing what to say I answer, “It was okay. It was cold though.”
Dad grins wide and reaches into his pocket. “Well it is December. You know.” He hands me a ten dollar bill. “You did alright when you were awake.” He walks toward the kitchen with a twinkle in his eye to greet my Mom. I stand there holding probably the first ten dollar bill that was all my own. As a boy who still measured currency in candy bars and comics, I felt like a rich man. That was that. My career at the Joseph Kavanagh Company begins quietly and with very little fuss at all.
Four 1 1/2” aluminum pipes are annealed and bent for Mr. Rogers at Baltimore Tube Bending as the holiday gets closer. The workers are hard at it but restless. All are very anxious for Christmas as Jack has decided to close the Shop on the 25th and not re-open until the 2nd of January. Another full week of vacation for his men with pay. Big Jack wants the time off and in order to get that, he must do the same for his crew. Fair is fair, thinks Jack.
On Christmas morning, I wake to the sound of conversation downstairs. My brother is still snoozing loudly in the next bed. It’s Christmas and I hop out of bed faster than any other day. When I was a small boy, Jack and I would be up at the crack of dawn. As it is, we sleep until 9 and instead of a mad rush along the stairs, I walk quietly down them. I avoid glancing into the front room as instructed but at fourteen, the amazing mystery that is Christmas is a little muted. I know there are presents in the front room but the piles will be smaller though each item most likely will be more expensive than in the past. As I reach the bottom of the steps, I see Mary and Handy are already here and in discussion about the holiday with Mom and Dad. I pull down my stocking and find baseball cards, candy and a few other small goodies inside. Merry Christmas is wished around the room and soon Ann and Jack are up and about and the Kavanagh’s begin assembling on the corner of Lakewood and Jefferson. The O’Neill’s and the Ballard’s are there. JoAnn comes in from Ocean City and Jane and Jackie drive over from their apartments. The full clan is here including the three grandchildren. A big holiday turkey feast is served and consumed, presents are exchanged and then the home is filled with songs, both Christmas and old standards. It’s always a festive home this time of year and always full of music, laughter and good cheer. Newly received games are opened and played. Eggnog, beer and whiskey are shared by the adults and sweets, treats and in particular Mary Brandenberg’s chocolate chip cookies are enjoyed by all. It’s a long crowded holiday just like Jack and Betty love. Christmas is a big affair at the Kavanagh’s, loud and boisterous throughout the day and into the evening. When the last of the siblings are gone and it’s just my parents and Ann, Jack and I, things settle down. The night grows quiet and sleep begins calling us. Christmas is over and the year nearly too. I head to bed with thoughts of sleeping in late and having the week off of school. As I turn to climb the stairs, I take one last look right and see the lights, the tree and the piano, vestiges of the holiday. I glance left and see my mother sitting on the arm of my father’s chair. They are hand in hand smiling at one another in silence. Another Kavanagh Christmas is a success and somehow, my parents made it look easy.
Jimmy Carter is the President of the United States. The Three Mile Island accident occurs when the nuclear reactor has a partial meltdown. The space station Skylab crashes back to Earth. The US and China establish full diplomatic relations. Seven die during a riot at a Who concert in Cincinnati. Pope John Paul II visits the US. The Happy Meal, the Walkman and the snowboard are invented. The first version of Trivial Pursuit is sold. ESPN is launched. “Star Trek: The Motion Picture,” “Alien” and “Apocalypse Now” are released. Chris Pratt, Pink, Kate Hudson, Drew Brees and Chris Daughtry are born. John Wayne, Nelson Rockefeller, Thurman Munson, Jack Soo, and Richard Rodgers die.
There are 50 states in the Union.
To read prior years, click on the Table of Contents link below: