Dad, Jack, myself and our brother-in-law Handy Brandenburg are at 447 N. Lakewood Avenue watching the Super Bowl. My sister Mary(Handy’s wife) is talking with my Mom. The Washington Redskins beat the Miami Dolphin 27-17. It’s a good game and everyone enjoys it but I am a little more focused on doing some homework. I’m finishing my Senior year at Our Lady of Mt. Carmel High School and making plans to enroll in Loyola College and start there next fall.
The Shop’s start to the year has been mediocre at best. My father has a little work but it’s very similar to every winter. Jobs come in but in dribs and drabs. Machines are repaired and the place is cleaned during any down time. Dad isn’t worried. This is how it goes most years and he has a few jobs to work on including a 4” Pipe being rolled for Codd Fabricators.
My brother Jack and I are at 201 S. Central Avenue on a chilly Saturday morning. We’re annealing and bending some tubes for the Harvey Stambaugh Company. We knock them out quick then run them across downtown to Woodall Street where Stambaugh is located. I am blissfully unaware that my future wife is playing in one of the row houses across the street. I’ll meet her in ten years. On the way home, I ask Jack if my father has been using the Bow Formula I came up with last year. He says yes they are checking it on each piece but Dad still has the crew making templates in the street. Jack thinks Dad knows it works but he’s not ready to trust it yet. Change can be hard I suppose. We get home about noon with Burger King for lunch with sleep and rest on our minds.
My family like much of the country are gathered around the television tonight watching the last episode of MASH. The series has become a viewing staple and it’s sad to see it end. That being said the show has run longer than the Korean War in which it is set. A mix of humor, good writing and acting has made the program one of the most successful ever and it will be missed.
The crew of the Joseph Kavanagh Company are scattered around the Shop today. Three fellows are upstairs putting away stock tubes while the rest are on the first floor rolling parts for Stromberg Sheet Metal. Dad would rather have the whole crew on paying jobs but the stock does have to be put away and the floor does need to be swept so whenever there is a slow time, these are the things that are done.
After several months of listening to music and trying our hands at free form stream of consciousness poetry, my friends and I decide to take up instruments and form a band. The band starts as Jack, Greg and Tim Heaps, Ray French and me. After much debate and discussion, we agree to call the band Lethal Injection. We take our name from the new “painless” form of execution invented last year. We consider misspelling one of the words as this has worked for bands like Led Zeppelin but decide against it. We become a band with no musical skills or instruments but many plans for songs, albums and more. We have a lot of scraps of poetry but not much more. Jack and I can both tinker on the piano since we’ve had one in the house our whole lives. Over the years, Dad has sat us all down next to him on the piano bench and taught us a few notes and chords. Just as with the Shop, my father enjoys teaching. In fact, the piano and how to lay down a bunt may be the only things he liked teaching more than his Shop skills.
I acquire my first guitar. My sister Mary has an old C.F. Martin acoustic. It was new in 1968 and it’s a beautiful instrument. Too nice for a beginner but by fortune, I learn on this guitar. I buy books and try to teach myself to play. The guys and I talk a lot about playing though we aren’t nearly ready for that and we listen to music, broadening our musical spectrum a little at a time. Mostly, we have fun and dream of being a Rock ‘N’ Roll band.
My father is buried in paperwork today. He has five sets of drawings to review and three quotations to finish. Sometimes the boys in the Shop aren’t the only ones who have such crazy days. Dad gets through it as he always does but this time, he’s tired and happy to get home. Without being aware of it, I’ve rarely noticed my father bothered or frustrated by work. Even as he sips a beer, his mind is on the Shop. He makes a mental note to call Union Iron Works tomorrow to let them know they have a completed order for pick up.
My brother Jack is jubilant. He is as excited as I have seen him because the Washington Capitals have made the postseason. They will make their first appearance in the Stanley Cup Tournament. This is what my brother has been waiting for since the team was formed and he began following them. He’s gone from curious about hockey to a hockey player and diehard loyal Capitals fan. Unfortunately, the Caps will lose to the New York Islanders in the first round three games to one. Jack is disappointed but he loved his first experience of cheering his team in the tournament for Lord Stanley’s Cup.
Led by Eddie Murray, Rookie of the Year Cal Ripken Jr. and new manager Joe Altobellii, the Orioles open up the season against the Kansas City Royals. I am there with five friends this year. Mom, Dad and Jack are all working so the tickets are mine to use. KC wins the game 7-2 with young Dennis Martinez tagged with the loss. It’s disappointing but I am confident this team can compete. They were so close last year to the playoffs, I feel sure we will make it this time.
The busy spring continues with most of my Dad’s crew spread over a handful of fabrication jobs including angle flanges and pipe rings. In addition, the Shop completes a job for Playcatering, Stan Edmister’s company. Stan is a local sculptor who has found a niche designing and building sculptural playgrounds for Baltimore City Schools. Dad has known Stan for about ten years and always makes a point of getting his work done fast. On top of Stan’s job, an order for B & B Welding is begun.
A rainy Friday is spent finishing an order for Ramar Manufacturing and beginning one for Ackerman & Baynes Fabricators. My Dad has everybody busy on these two jobs while Jack bends and assembles a heater for Johns Hopkins. Jack will disassemble it and get things ready then he and I will make the tubes tomorrow.
I am a high school graduate and finally done at Mt. Carmel. Loyola College awaits me in September. My Mom and Dad are very proud and to show their appreciation, they let me use our house at Royal Palm Court in Ocean City for a week, Senior Week as it were. Suddenly, I am very popular and three friends and I will have a great week there with lots of my classmates stopping by. It’s a lot of grownup fun for a gang of seventeen and eighteen year olds. Sunday we drive home and I start working on Monday at the Shop.
I return to the Shop for another summer of work. I will be starting college soon and working feels different. It seems more permanent since I am not in high school anymore. I am glad to see the guys and there are a couple of new faces. It is often like that at the Shop. The basic core is usually the same for years but there are often one or two additions and subtractions throughout the year. Mom and Dad pass on some news. My sister Jackie is pregnant and is due in November. This baby will be grandchild number five for my parents.
The Kavanagh’s gather together and celebrate the marriage of my sister Jane to Jeff Morton. Jeff is from Delaware and Jane met him through work. My Mom and Dad like Jeff and the families get on well. Their wedding rehearsal dinner is a memorable and entertaining dinner at Carson’s Restaurant in Middle River. Many stories and laughs are exchanged and both party and wedding are a lot of fun.
Jack and I are working on a big heater for Egan Marine, fifty tubes and three brass baffles to go along with a steel head. The head and baffles must be marked and drilled and the tubes annealed and bent before the unit can be put together. Most of the rest of the crew are rolling some structural pieces for Bethesda Iron Works. It’s a breezy day on Central Avenue and not a bad one to work. Even with a torch in my hand when the wind rolls through the second floor of the Shop, it seems cooler than a blast of winter. A pleasant day at work is still a day at work but I am finally having more of these. Work is hard but I am older and have grown accustomed to it after after three summers.
Dad has everyone working on Saturdays and busy through the week. August vacation is getting close and Dad doesn’t want anything hanging over. Jack and I make a heat exchanger for the Housing Authority while the rest of the crew roll some heavy angles and bars for Codd Fabricators.
The busy and hot summer continues and my brother and I are stuck on a tough job. We need to bend some aluminum tubes for Baltimore Tube Bending. The die is old and the tools do not match as well as we’d like. As always, I’m annealing while Jack is bending. A couple mandrels get broken in the process. The mandrel is a round rod that sits inside the tube during bending with a ball attached that moves with the curve and keeps the tube round. Occasionally, the balls don’t pass through smoothly enough and are pulled off the mandrel. Between needing to replace two mandrels and the slow deliberate pace the job is on, my father isn’t very happy and he rides us pretty good through the day. When four o’clock arrives, Jack and I are not too happy with Dad either. It happens. You are working and he’s the boss. His job is to yell sometimes and he needs results. That being said, I rarely saw Dad yell at anyone but Jack and me. My father is decidedly tougher on us. We both know it. Dad expects more from us but today it doesn’t matter. We just want to get home and we are both silent on the ride. Dad tries to engage us in chat about the Orioles who won last night on the West Coast defeating the Mariners 8-1. Ripken hit one out. We are fairly non-responsive when he addresses our silence.
“Are you mad at me? The both of you?” My father looks left to Jack in the driver’s seat then over his shoulder at me in the back. I avoid his eyes. “Well you can’t be.” He continues angrily, his voice not at the yelling volume but loud enough to make his seriousness clear. “You think I like yelling at you, giving you a hard time? It’s the job, boys.” He looks back and forth between the two of us. Neither of us responds. “I got a job to do just like you do and that’s just how it is. If you are mad about something, you gotta let that go.” His voice rises a bit. “As soon as I get in this car and for sure when I step ONE FOOT on those marble steps, it’s over. I forget it all. If not, it will eat you up.” He turns and faces forward. “This is the job. This is how it is. The both of you better damn sight learn what the life is like and the sooner the better.”
The car moves along Lakewood Avenue in silence again. Jack pulls up along the Jefferson Street side of our house and as we come to a stop Dad speaks again. “So, you can’t be mad at me. You’re not allowed.” He places his hand on the door handle and climbs out. “Just forget about it.”
Jack’s eyes meet mine in the rear view mirror, then we both hop out of the car and wish we could forget it.
Brooks Robinson is inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown. He was and is one of my heroes. The man could pick it at third and he could hit pretty well but mostly, he was genuine. Even as a boy, I like to think the honesty, fairness and every man approach he exhibited is what drew me to being a Brooks’ fan. Of course, in Baltimore, EVERYone was a Brooks’ fan. I’m proud and happy for my hero and the whole of the City feels the same way.
After a week of playing around and cleaning the Shop, we enjoy our vacation at Royal Palm Court as a family. I’m eighteen now and spend much of my time alone or visiting my sister JoAnn. JoAnn takes me to the Cork Bar for the coldest beer on the beach and it lives up to that reputation. I roam the boardwalk and hit the arcades or rides whenever I want. It’s a fun week and when it ends my thoughts are on college. I’m attending Loyola next month and it will be a big change. I don’t really know what to expect.
It’s a typical hot August day but it feels even more sweltering to me. Most of the boys are busy on two railings from steel molded caps and a job for Imperial industries but my father has given me the job of annealing several thousand short pieces of aluminum tube. They must be loaded in and out of the Shop’s old annealing oven. I spend most of the day on the second floor monitoring and annealing these tubes which Jack will bend for C.R. Daniels. The oven is heated with propane and it throws the heat right in my face every time I move the tubes in or out. My father’s only advice is to not get drowsy. He tells me a quick story of him using this oven to anneal small copper fittings for his father in the same Baltimore August heat many years ago. I sense a certain satisfaction in his assigning me this task. Jack takes some delight in the “drowsy” comment and periodically through the day, he sticks his head through the doorway and asks if I am drowsy. I’m soaked in sweat and stink of the place when I get home and a shower is now my favorite thing in the world.
It’s another Housing Authority heater for Jack and me as the summer is drawing to a close. Work will be ending for me soon and college starting. The band is coming more into shape if not into being. Jack and Greg who were never seriously interested are out. Greg will be too busy with college and Jack with the Shop. A friend of mine from Mt. Carmel, Chis Voxakis is in and we are now a foursome. We have finally agreed on instruments largely decided by me having the Martin. Tim has purchased a guitar and Ray is looking for a drum set. Chris can sing and play some piano already so he is a welcome addition. Now with very little talent and very few instruments, we at last seem to be a band in some way.
It’s a hot Thursday night at Memorial Stadium and the Orioles are in the midst of a Pennant Race. The Birds are in second place behind the Milwaukee Brewers with three other teams right behind us. Jack and I and our friends are at the game cheering our team on against the Toronto Blue Jays. It’s a nail-biter with the game going into extra innings. The Jays get a run against our closer Tippy Martinez in the top of the tenth but it’s Oriole Magic again in the bottom half of the frame. A two-run double by Dan Ford give the Birds a victory in walk off fashion, 2-1. We drive home in a great mood but know we have to get to bed for work tomorrow. The Minnesota Twins come to town this weekend and when they leave on Sunday, the Birds will be in first place and never relinquish it the rest of the season.
My classes begin at Loyola College. I am majoring in Computer Engineering with the thought being some day the equipment at the Shop will have digital controls and it would be helpful for me to understand such things. Also it sounds better than Business Administration which makes a little more sense but sounds exceedingly boring. I enjoy the computer classes from the start but the curriculum is a challenge compared to Carmel. I do my best to focus on schoolwork but I’m distracted by the Orioles. They are winning and look destined for the playoffs.
Today is the first Colts game of the season and they face the Denver Broncos and lose 17-10. Jack and Dad are there at Memorial Stadium while I work on some German homework at home. The night before was spent with the guys talking about all the great albums and songs we would write while we each begin to learn our instruments. I have begun guitar lessons at Baltimore Bluegrass on Belair Road as has Tim.
The Shop is still rolling along very well and Dad is still offering Saturday hours to everyone. Most of the guys are in for any extra money they can make but usually every week, two or three fellows pass on it. Jack and I have no option so we are there weekly. Today a job for Barrera Corporation is completed. Barrera makes furniture and we bend some flat bars for parts for chairs. It’s a good-sized order and has taken a few days to get them all cranked out.
Dad, Jack and I are watching game four of the American League Championship Series with great interest. The Orioles are playing the Chicago White Sox and after the Sox won game one, the Birds have taken two in a row. With a win tonight, the Orioles punch their ticket to the World Series and that’s just what happens. The two teams play nine innings of scoreless ball until the Birds put up three in the 10th starting with a home run by Tito Landrum. The three of us cheer and celebrate with excitement for we are World Series bound.
Here I am at game one of the World Series with my family and my buddy Ray French as well. My Orioles are hosting the National League Champion Philadelphia Phillies. I’m ready for the first step toward a championship but it doesn’t happen tonight. The Birds lose to the Phillies 2-1 with a Jim Dwyer homer the lone Oriole score. I worry that maybe we’ve run out of steam after the ALCS.
The ballgame is a 5:00 pm start on this Sunday and I can not wait. The Orioles have a chance to eliminate the Phillies and win it all with a victory today. Just as happened in the Championship Series, the Birds lost the first game only to storm back and win three in a row. This time they need to make it four and the Word Series is theirs. The Orioles take an early lead and behind two homers from Eddie Murray and a complete game shutout by Scott McGregor, they take the day. Jack and I are exuberant. We are crazy with excitement. My Dad takes it all in. He gets some pleasure out of seeing my brother and I celebrate probably more than I think. Dad’s grandfather was a fan of the old National League Orioles and his father was a fan of the Birds when they returned to Baltimore. Baseball has been part of my father’s entire life and sharing a championship with us must mean the world to him. Jack and I decide to circle the block banging pots and pans and cheering. We take off with Mom frowning at our borrowing a soup pot, pans and spoons and are greeted along the way by neighbors and friends. Some are doing the same thing but all are cheering and celebrating a Baltimore victory. The team and its fans are in bedlam. There will be parties, toasts and a very big parade. The Orioles are World Series Champions. All is right with the world.
With thoughts of the Birds’ World Series still fresh in everyone’s minds, the work has finally slowed a little and Dad has ended the Saturday hours for the crew. Jack and I will still be there. Dad always finds things for us to do whether it be a small job, a set of tools or some machining to do. He makes sure we are in every Saturday morning. My brother and I have gotten rather good at it. We maximize our time and find a way to do four or five hours of work in closer to three hours. We are extra motivated to get home and get on with our weekend. Despite stopping the weekend work for the crew, the Shop is busy otherwise with two sets of square tubes being rolled today, one for Bethesda Iron and one for Washington Stair. Both jobs are 2” square so only one set up is required. Any time my father can group two jobs of the same size together, he does it. Saving setup time will make a job more profitable and sometimes makes the difference between making money or not
The weather has turned cold and I rush across the Loyola Campus. After finishing my morning classes, I hop on a bus and head home. I feel I have ten times the homework at Loyola than I did at Mt. Carmel and I am always busy. In addition, I am learning the guitar, and the guys and I continue to make our plans and continue to write poems, stories and songs. We are learning slowly but progressing. My Dad and Jack are at Central Avenue finishing another workday. Just before closing, Dad has an angle rolled for Stan Edmister. Stan is Dad’s first sculptor customer and we do a few jobs a year for him but this one is small. It’s one little ring for a personal piece of Stan’s. Dad gives him a break on the price and clearly doesn’t make any money but he likes Stan. My father always said Stan was a bit of an odd ball but he liked him.
Lisa Kavanagh Bosse is born to Jackie and Richard Bosse. Mom and Dad are so happy at the arrival of grand daughter number five. The Kavanagh’s are excited with this family continuing to grow and the next generation getting bigger. I continue to assume I should be in the Guinness Book of World Records since I am an uncle five times over at eighteen.
The usual Kavanagh Thanksgiving feast is held and there is a crowd at 447 N. Lakewood Avenue. The food is delicious as always with turkey, ham, stuffing, potatoes and parsnips, the Kavanagh traditional favorite. After the meal and before the sisters and their families leave, Christmas is discussed. All the grand daughters want a doll called a Cabbage Patch Doll. They are the biggest thing this holiday and are very popular. My mother has never heard of them but she decides if the girls want them then each shall get one.
My father and mother are eating their sandwiches for lunch at the corner of Pratt and Central. They are talking about the Shop and what needs to be finished before the holiday but much more importantly, my Mother is updating my Father on the Cabbage Patch search. These dolls have proven to be more elusive than originally thought. My Mom is undaunted and has recruited all the sisters in the search. JoAnn is looking in Ocean City while Mary ferries Mom around in her Dodge Dart from store to store. Mary’s in-laws, the Brandenburg’s in Ohio and Michigan have even been looking. Mom tells Dad she is getting close to having enough for all the girls. They will all have one of these Cabbage Patch dolls she assures him. Dad smiles. He loves her determination and has no doubt she will find the little ones their dolls. He has never regretted Mom coming to work and it makes his days better. He’s happy about the successful Cabbage Patch campaign but is more focused on the Shop and a job for Superior Iron. This order is a mix of angles, channels and flat bars. That’s a few different setups, two on the R-5 and two on the R-6-S.
The Baltimore Colts win their final game at home over the Houston Oilers, 20-10. Jack and Dad are there and enjoy the win but the Colts finish the season 7-9 and do not make the playoffs. They show some improvement over last season and my father says, there’s always next year. Only this time, he is wrong. There will be no next year for the Baltimore Colts.
The Christmases on Lakewood Avenue seem to be getting bigger again. When I was small, the sisters started to move out but now they come back with husbands and kids, more every year it seems and my parents love it. They truly love family. They want all the girls, with their spouses and their little girls. Mom and Dad love a holiday with more food than anyone needs and ample drink and enough song to fill their hearts and lift their spirits. Dad holds court when he’s at the piano. I marvel at his level of play. Now that I am learning the guitar, I really have an appreciation for Dad’s musical skills. He can play it all if you have the sheet music. If not? He can fake it pretty well too. He looks as comfortable at the piano as he does standing in the front of 201 S. Central Avenue surveying his crew at work. The man knows fun and loves to pass it around. It’s a wonderful holiday with every granddaughter receiving their very own personal Cabbage Patch Doll including the new baby, Lisa. If Dad has his music, Mom has this, a resiliency to her love. A matter-of-fact confidence that when her kids or grandkids need something, it’s done. They will get it. There are no ifs, ands or buts about it. The Cabbage Patch Doll is the opening salvo in the annual “must have” Christmas toys. There will be many more but Mom shall be up to the task. For my part, it’s been a great year. My hero Brooks Robinson is in the Hall of Fame. My Orioles have won the World Series and I have begun college, I am working at the Shop and have three years of experience under my belt. I have begun learning to play the guitar. I am in a rock band and I’m eighteen.
Ronald Reagan is the President of the United States. The President proposes a space defense system called the Strategic Defense Initiative dubbed by the media “Star Wars.” The US begins deploying cruise missiles in Europe. Martin Luther King Jr. is honored with a federal holiday. The IBM PC XT goes on sale. Microsoft Word, Lotus 1 2 3 and Chicken McNuggets are invented. The US invades the island nation of Grenada. The Space Shuttle Challenger has a successful maiden voyage. Sally Ride becomes the first American woman in space. Guion S. Bluford becomes the first African-American in space. Michael Jackson does the Moon Walk for the first time. The movies “the Right Stuff,” the Big Chill,” and “War Games” are released. Carrie Underwood, Nick Markakis, Jeff Eldon (author of the Giant’s Rebellion), Matthew John Benecke (author of the Kosomogonia Series) and Renee Hurteau (author of the Antiquity’s Gate Series) are born. Tennessee Williams, Jack Dempsey, Muddy Waters, Ira Gershwin and Eubie Blake die.
There are 50 states in the Union.
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