The Shop’s year begins on a fair note. The crew is busy though without much of a backlog. Dad will take that any day in January. My father has decided to buy another Roundo Roller, a small one called the R-2. The machine should arrive next month and Dad has also ordered two new sets of round tube rollers for it. These will help with some of the recurring jobs we have such as the small pipe and rod rings for EDCO(Equipment Development Corp). Jack and I are anxious to see it. A new machine is like a new toy at the Shop. Parts of a sign are completed today for Belsinger Sign Works. Signs are another source of revenue for the Joseph Kavanagh Company. When the Shop became more focused on rolling and bending, sign companies found us and now, many of the signs in the Baltimore area that require bent metal, end up at 201. S. Central Avenue.
My parents receive the news that Dad’s Aunt Anna Kavanagh (Sister Mary Agnes) has died at the age of 78. She was Dad’s father’s sister and a nun in the Visitation Order. She lived a long and very happy devout life but my father is particularly saddened. His father was very close to Aunt Anna and she has always held a special place in the family.
My parents and my father’s cousin Mary fly to Minnesota for Aunt Anna’s service. They are rather shocked to hear the ground is too cold this time of year for a funeral. The burial will be delayed until the spring. The service is a small one with a memorial mass to be held in Baltimore in the future. Jack and I are on our own for a couple days at Lakewood Avenue. After Mom and Dad leave, we watch the San Francisco 49ers beat the Miami Dolphins 38-16 in the Super Bowl. We enjoy the game but we’re also waiting to pass on any word from my parents to our sisters.
I hop off the bus and walk a block to the Shop after a Technical Drawing Class. This is one course I am certain will help me at work. I need to read sketches submitted from customers regularly and some times have to make them for our own needs. When I reach the Shop, Dad has me drill a head for a heat exchanger for the Housing Authority. It’s a solitary job for a change which is fine by me. I spend the afternoon upstairs in the machine shop in the quiet. My mind is on next week when I begin classes and lessons at Peabody Conservatory.
The Shop is steady if not busy and the crew are working on a handful of small jobs including an order from J.C. Pardo for some stainless bars and tubes. Pardo is one of Dad’s regular and most reliable customers.
The R-2 arrives mid-morning at 201 S. Central Avenue. This machine is small compared to the other Roundo Rollers and unloading and placing it goes fairly quickly. Dad and Jack run some test pieces on it in the afternoon. It takes time to get the “feel” of a machine so taking it for a spin as soon as possible is a good idea.
The Kavanagh’s attend a memorial mass for Aunt Anna at St. Elizabeth’s Chapel on Ellerslie Avenue. They mourn for her but remember the special life she chose to live. Hers was a life of service to God and the Church. Aunt Anna was a teacher and loved her students dearly. Like many in our family, she was a talented pianist too and a prolific letter writer as well. She was the last of my great grandparents’ children, the last Kavanagh of her generation.
March has not brought any warm weather as yet with today’s high still below freezing. The heat of torches does help in the old Shop. Jack anneals and bends a dozen copper tubes for Codd Fabricators. This is a repeat of a job from last month and that helps. All the development is finished. It’s simply a matter of repeating what was done last time.
My father and Pete Kolb are standing in the front of the Shop talking with Jack on a breezy Friday. Pete drove up to go over a set of drawings with both of them. Jack will be handling the job which consists of four 2” O.D. aluminum tubes each with 2- 90 deg. bends. The tolerance is critical but it won’t be a problem for my brother who jumps on the job as soon as Pete leaves. Jack anneals them, then bends the tubes on the Pines and they’ll be ready for Codd on Monday. After a few months of lessons at Peabody, I decide to purchase a proper classical guitar, a Brune. Richard Brune is a luthier in Illinois. The guitar is beautiful and feels above my station but I love it and devote myself a little harder to my lessons.
My brother Jack and his girlfriend Nancy Szakacs take a day trip to Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. Nancy is a teacher and a big history buff. They have been seeing each other for a few months and they walk a bit on the old battlefield as Jack seems to be looking for a particular spot. Whether it’s the right location or the right time, Jack finally finds it and proposes to Nancy. She says yes and soon a wedding is planned for August.
The Orioles open up their season at home against the Texas Rangers winning 4-2. The Kavanagh’s are not there for the first time in many years. With all of us working and me going to school as well, it’s impractical. Mom and Dad give the tickets to the Krahlings who own the corner store across the street. They are big baseball fans and good friends who have lived in the neighborhood as long as Mom and Dad.
It’s a disappointing end to the season for the Washington Capitals who are eliminated in the first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs. For the third year in a row, they are beaten by the New York Islanders. Jack is not fazed as he is happy and riding high looking forward to his wedding. There’s always next year for the Caps.
A rush job is pushed out of the Shop today. Ackerman and Baynes Fabricators has sent in some angles and pipes they need rolled as fast as we can. While most of the crew have time on this order, Dad hands Jack a couple of job cards for Miscellaneous Metals They have ordered some rolled pipes and plates. Jack rolls the pipes in the R-3-S and gives the card for the plates to Mike Glenn to do those in the R-5. Jack is always working on a job in the Shop but for some customers and some jobs, he also coordinates and expedites.
The work has picked up and steady has changed to busy. Dad finally has a backlog of work of two weeks. A fountain sprayer tube is rolled today and some boiler tubes as well while Jack bends pipes and rods for Lenderking Metal Products in the Pines.
The work continues to roll in and my father has begun offering Saturday hours to those who will take it. An order for Bengies Welding is finished and picked up today, a dozen pipes bent by Jack and two pipes rolled by Jerry Purnell.
I am nearly finished another year at Loyola and my first semester at Peabody. The last hurdles in this year are my exams and passing a jury of classical guitarists. I am not too worried about the exams but the jury means I must play in front of three experienced players and faculty members for their approval. Otherwise, I can not continue in the program in the Fall. I feel confident but as nervous as I have ever been. To my relief, I manage a B+ and I feel a great weight off my shoulders. The remainder of my classes and exams will be finished in a few days and I pass them all.
I am back to work for the summer and I am not alone. Ray is working at the Shop again but so is Tim Heaps, my fellow guitarist in the band. Tim graduated from high school this year and wants to work for the summer before college. Tim’s personality is different than Ray’s. He is less quiet but he fits in well. He can kid and be kidded which helps a great deal with a crew of working men. A Codd Fabricators job is completed today. The final set of 5” pipes are rolled after several orders in the last month.
The Birds are off to a very mediocre start and Orioles owner Edward Bennett Williams fires manager Joe Altobelli and lures Earl Weaver from retirement to take over the club. Coach Cal Ripken Sr. manages the Birds for one game, a win, before Weaver returns to Baltimore and takes the reins. Fans including me hope Earl can bring back the winning ways.
I spend most of my day on the phone, working on quotes and writing up job cards for the Shop. Dad has me pretty busy but I know he wants me to learn. Dealing with the crew is the easy part compared to customers some of whom still prefer to talk to my father. I know with time will come trust and comfort so I deal with any jabs about my age or inexperience. Since I have worked in the Shop, the workers know me and I have very few problems assigning work or discussing job progress with them. A pipe is rolled in the R-3 and a 10” channel in the R-6-S for Tri-Fab Co. It’s a job I quoted and expedited so there’s a little satisfaction when I call them to arrange shipping.
While the crew are finishing a structural job for W & W Fabrications, my parents inform Jack and I they will be spending the weekends in Ocean City for the rest of the summer. Dad is confident the Shop will be fine and they want to enjoy as much time at the beach as they can. I’m a little surprised but I want them to be able to do what they want plus having the house to ourselves is good on the weekends. Jack is often at church or with his friends so that leaves me and the boys in the band at Lakewood Avenue. Ray has acquired an old drum kit from an employee of the Shop, Frank Skaggs. On weekends, we finally try to jam, Chris singing and playing some on Dad’s piano, the rest of us on our instruments in a very rough fashion.
I wake up a little early for a Saturday. Jack and I have to run into the Shop and bend a set of tubes for Harvey Stambaugh but I am up to watch Live Aid. A large scale concert to benefit famine relief is planned in two venues, one in London and one in Philadelphia. The buzz of bands to be involved has been exciting and I am fortunate to see Dire Straits before we head to work. The version of “Sultans of Swing” is amazing. We bang out the tubes fast and drop them at Harvey’s then head home. The rest of the day and night is spent viewing this show with such a huge list of headliners and great acts with my friends.
My Uncle Ed takes a call from Pete Kolb at Codd. They need four 2” angles rolled quick. He assures Pete we can get them done today. The problem is it’s 2:00 pm on a Friday. There is no way to get them rolled without staying late. I realize I have to stick around after hours with someone and roll these.
“Ed? Why did you tell Pete we can get these done today?” I ask after Ed explains the situation to me.
Ed glibly answers. “It shouldn’t be a problem. I’m sure he’ll get them right up here. He said he needed them as fast as we can get them.”
“Did Pete say they had to be today? Couldn’t we do these tomorrow morning? I mean I’m in here tomorrow.” I answer.
“No, he didn’t say he’d need them today. I just figured we could get them finished.” Ed replies.
“There’s no chance we can get them ready by the end of the day. We’ll have to work late to get them. It’s two o’clock for God’s sake and the angles aren’t even here yet, Ed.” My head shakes back and forth in bewilderment.
Ed rubs his forehead. “I guess you are right. I thought we’d have the time.”
“You shouldn’t have done this Ed. I’m sure tomorrow would have been fine. Why did you tell him tonight?” I fire back.
“You’re right. I guess. I can call him and explain.” Ed begins but I cut him off.
“Oh no no no. We don’t work like that. If we say it will be done, it will be done.” I grit my teeth a little as any thoughts of getting out of work on time disappear. “I’ll stick around, Ed. I’ll stay with Mike and we’ll get them done but you can’t do this to me. This is crazy shit. You shouldn’t have done this.” I angrily stomp out of the office.
I feel a little bad but not much. Ed put me in a bind here and he should have known better. Ed leaves at 2:30 anyway and as he goes he tells Mike to do whatever I say to do. As if that wasn’t the case anyway. Pete drops the angles off himself in his pick up and we have them ready for him just after 5:30 pm. He picks up and we head home. I wonder what my father will think of this. What will Ed think of it on Monday? I know I did the best I could and got the job done. I may have hurt my uncle’s feelings but I was doing my job.
When my parents return from the beach I quickly fill my Dad in on what happened with Ed. He listens as I recount the events and my response. I make sure to be clear we got the job done. He doesn’t pause and tells me I did the right thing. He tells me Ed will be fine tomorrow.
Joseph Kavanagh Company’s collection of Kavanagh business cards. Photo taken 2019.
After a hot sticky day at the Shop, my father and I sit in the front room, he at the piano and I on the couch with guitar in hand. We’re playing around with “King of the Road”, one of his favorites to play. The chords are simple enough so I can play along and he definitely gets a kick out of it. As I pack my guitar up and prepare to head to Tim’s house for practice, I bring up my uncle who did indeed act as if nothing unusual happened on Friday. He was the same Ed he always was.
“You were right about Ed, Dad. He seemed okay. Didn’t even mention Friday.” I look up as I snap my guitar case closed.
Dad turns slightly on the piano bench to face me. “I told you. Ed understands and he knows it’s the job. Sometimes,” Dad pauses as if searching for the right words. “Sometimes Ed gets too excited about getting a job. He gets caught up in it and doesn’t think of the time to do it or whatever.”
I nod. “You mean like the thrill you get when you quote and it becomes a job?”
His eyes narrow and he looks more directly at me. “You feel it already? You get charged up a bit about jobs?” I nod again. “Good. Good. You should be but you gotta keep your mind on the actual job too. You can’t get too caught up in the excitement of it. That’s part of Ed’s problem but I told you he would be okay.”
“I know, but he’s your brother. He’s my uncle. It’s different.”
“I know he is but,” he stops himself again. “We’re all brothers, and uncles here, Joe. At the Shop. I mean. Always have been. It’s just how it is. We work together and the job is what’s important. No time for hurt feelings.” He rubs his fingers over his chin and looks thoughtful for a moment. “Brothers and uncles. I believe just about every Kavanagh who worked here has been both.” A second later a warm smile covers his face then he nods me out the door. “You did the right thing. You did fine. Now, go play that rotten roll you play with your friends.”
I chuckle and grab my guitar and gear. “Okay, Dad.” I leave and walk the short distance to Kenwood Avenue and the Heaps’ house. My father is right. In my research, I have found that with one or two exceptions, every Kavanagh at the Shop has been both brother and uncle and all worked with brothers and uncles. I never called Ed, Uncle Ed and it was the same for my predecessors. We just don’t use “uncle” at the Shop if at all. The word being a formality eliminated by working every day, every week, every year for a common cause.
Today is my brother’s wedding day, a much anticipated event. My parents are busting with pride and happiness for Jack and his bride. Nancy is family as soon as Jack introduces us to her and the wedding will cement that. Our family gathers with hers at Cub Hill Church and before us all and God, Jack marries the love of his life. I am very happy for him. Love is the endgame for most of our lives. To see Jack find that love, to find Nancy brings us all a lot of joy. I wish my big brother well and smile as Nancy and he begin their life together as a couple, as a family. In true Shop form, Jack scheduled his wedding and honeymoon for our week of vacation. That’s very much my brother’s style.
We are back at work after a brief respite and the place is busy with several railings and a few structural pieces to roll. One job for Union Iron Works is picked up today, a small pipe which is easily loaded, but there are 2- 12” Channels and those are a bit of a problem to get on the truck. The overhead crane is used and through swinging the channels slowly and carefully, we get them to fit.
I am finishing my summer before soon heading back to school. I take calls and quote jobs. At first, I would have shown the price to my father for approval but I know now he trusts me. I learned his system for pricing pretty fast and I always have the old job records to defer to if necessary. I also write up the job cards and distribute them to the crew. When Mom and Dad are at the beach, I am in charge and it’s a little daunting but it’s the job. I grow into it quickly probably due to a slightly over-inflated sense of self or confidence whichever you want to call it. I have lunch on those days with my uncle and Ed is fine with me making the calls. As he does for my father, he prefers more of a support role. We talk politics and he tells me stories of the Shop, his father and even Old Uncle Joe. He tells me the tale as he heard of it of the first Joseph Michael Kavanagh working on the Statue of Liberty and much more. Ed likes to laugh and I can often make him do that. My days are busy but they go quickly. I reach that point where the days go too fast to get everything I need done. That’s a big change from being a worker and never having the day go quickly enough. It’s part of being a boss. At the end of the day, I call “Big Mike” Winchester at the Housing Authority to let him know a heater for the Gilmor Projects is ready.
I return to Loyola and Peabody for college. This is my third year at Loyola studying Computer Engineering and my second at Peabody studying classical guitar and music theory. I find my music classes and lessons far more interesting than computer engineering. I work hard and my grades are fine but not the high grades I held in high school. I still go to work several days a week, taking the bus from Loyola to Central Avenue to finish out the day helping Dad in the office or wherever he needs me.
I drag myself out of bed on this Saturday after a night of band practice and shenanigans. We are making our first steps to learning to play together while we still learn our instruments. Jack has moved to Harford County with his new wife purchasing a home in a new development called Box Hill. He swings by Lakewood Avenue and picks me up then heads to the Shop. Most of the crew is there but Dad is not coming in. He only comes in on the weekend if he absolutely has to do so. He knows Jack and I and trust us to handle things. A couple jobs are dealt with including one for A Touch of Brass Company. They make brass beds and furniture parts and have been a customer for almost ten years.
The Capitals lose their home opener to the Philadelphia Flyers 4- 2 after losing the first two games on the road. That’s a rough start but they will get it together this season and win eight in a row at one point and nine of ten at another.
While I begin another week at school, the beat goes on at the Joseph Kavanagh Company. Dad has eliminated the Saturday hours for the crew after a slight drop in work. It happens this time of year regularly. Dad is on the phone much of the day, updating and replying to customers. Jack is coordinating and doing some of the rolling for another Miscellaneous Metals job. Miscellaneous has sent in a good bit of work this year and Jack has taken the lead on most of it.
Dad and I are having a beer and watching game seven of the World Series. The house has felt strangely quiet with Jack moved out and me the only one of my parents’ children still living at Lakewood and Jefferson. We talk baseball as we watch the Kansas City Royals host the St. Louis Cardinals in the deciding game. Of course, we talk about the Orioles. Even with Earl Weaver’s return, the Birds fell short this year finishing in 5th place. KC takes an early 5-0 lead than piles on six runs in the 5th inning and takes the championship. It’s a good game and it ends about 11 pm so Dad hops right up from his chair and heads to bed. I stay up a bit watching the news then Benny Hill.
Dad and I are sitting in the front room of Lakewood Avenue and I have talked him into playing some of that rotten roll that I play. I’m a big fan of Pink Floyd and love the piano in the song, “Sheep.” I convince my father to give it a go with me on the guitar.
We start the song and he comes to a sudden stop. “These chords sound like jazz. You know that, right?”
“I guess. Some seventh chords anyway. It’s not jazz with the way they play it.” I reply and we begin again.
We get almost through the first pass when he stops again. “Why is it like a dirge or something? Why is it so slow? Did somebody die?”
“No.” I smile. “It’s Pink Floyd. It has a sort of deliberate pace to it.”
“Yeah, whatever. Slow. Can’t I speed up the tempo a little” He looks over at me.
“No, you can’t. It’s at the right tempo.”
“Can I double up the bass a little to pep it up.” He shoots back.
“No, it’s Pink Floyd. No doubling up the bass.” My smile widening.
“Can I bounce the bass?”
“No. That’s the same thing. Geez. Dad. Let’s just try it as written.” I chuckle a bit and he nods. We start again and make it through the first verse and chorus. He stops again.
“Sheep? That’s what it’s called huh? What the hell are they writing about. Must be a bunch of weirdos. I bet they were smoking plenty of that marijuana while they wrote this one.” His eyes meet mine.
I laugh “Probably but tell me. You think Frank Sinatra had a few scotches when he recorded “My Way?” I raise an eyebrow as I look at him.
He bursts into hardy laughter which stops with a smile. “Yes, I guess he probably did. “
We get back to it and manage an odd and slightly up tempo version of “Sheep” in a couple of hours. Mostly it was fun and despite his protestation, I am sure Dad had fun too.
The Joseph Kavanagh Company finishes more work for Miscellaneous Metals. This time it is three big 10” structural channels and two pipes for a railing. My father takes note of how much this customer has kept us rolling much of the year.
My sister Ann turns twenty-five today and Dad and Mom take her out to dinner at Haussner’s to celebrate. Haussner’s is a very popular Baltimore establishment on Eastern Avenue. The food is delicious and the décor unique with most of the wall space covered in paintings and sculptures placed about the dining area. Occasionally, one of us will drive over from the Shop and pick up turkey clubs for lunch and this time of year their thin and crispy sugar cookies are a regular holiday treat. My parents want to have some birthday time with Ann but they have another motive as well. Unbeknownst to Jack and me, they ask Ann to work at the Shop. If she would be interested in taking over the billing, payroll and other parts of the business end, they would like her to work at the family business. Ann has worked for a lawyer and a bank so she has a good bit of experience in the field. She also has a good head for business and my parents know it. She tells them she will think about it and let them know after the holidays.
I am still at school but finishing in less than two weeks. Then, I’ll be back at the Shop full time and devoting the rest of my time to Lethal Injection, a band in name only but slowly becoming the real thing. More big structural channels are rolled in the R-6-S today for Thrifty Iron Works. The channels will be used for a stairway landing and there are a dozen pipes to make the associated railing.
Christmas Day is here and the Kavanagh’s assemble for the annual feast, party and celebration. What no one knows is this will be the last Christmas at 447 N. Lakewood Avenue for us. My parents will make a move next year, several of them in fact. The house is filled with the tearing open of presents, the happy exclamations of grandchildren, much laughter and my father’s music from the piano. The small rowhouse is crowded but the closeness only comforts us. A crowded place feels right for the Kavanagh family, a hazard of having nine children and now six grandchildren. When it’s time for the songs to be sung with Dad leading us from his piano bench, Jack’s wife Nancy is right there with the rest of the siblings and her voice is added to ours. I enjoy the day but also look forward to a few days of no school or work. I’ll hang with my friends and we’ll practice and plan for that big day when we are a real rock ‘n’ roll band. I realize now that Dad has been preparing Jack and me to take his place and much sooner than I thought. Very much like my ancestors, my father is putting together a team, a team of Kavanagh’s. The team usually includes a top mechanic or Shop guy, a business person and someone who understands both and makes the deals and handles customers. When the Shop came to Central Avenue, it was Frank Kavanagh the coppersmith, James Kavanagh the businessman and engineer and Joe Kavanagh, general manager and showman, all brothers and uncles. Dad has two of those things now but he needs a business person. I don’t know it yet but he’s found her too. Brothers and uncles will soon be joined by a sister and aunt. The time of the fifth generation of the Joseph Kavanagh Company is about to begin.
Ronald Reagan is the President of the United States. President Reagan meets with Mikhail Gorbachev of the Soviet Union for the first time. The song “We Are The World” is recorded to benefit those suffering from the famine in Ethiopia. A blood test for the AIDS virus is developed. The first Wrestlemania is held. New Coke is introduced by the Coca-Cola Company. The Discovery Channel premiers. Calvin and Hobbes debuts in newspapers. Windows 1.0 is released. The films “Back to the Future,” “The Breakfast Club” and “The Color Purple” are released in theaters. Michael Phelps, Joe Flacco and Adam Jones are born. Orson Welles, Ruth Gordon, E.B. White, Roger Maris, and Dian Fossey die.
There are 50 states in the Union.
To read earlier years, click on the Table of Contents link below: