The Shop’s year begins on a cold Thursday and I am working until the Spring term at school begins. I hand out job cards while my father begins going through the Christmas mail which usually includes late holiday cards, junk, but also the occasional check. When I return to the office he’s found something to show me, a letter from the Liberty Production Company.
“What’s this?” I ask and give it a quick read.
My father leans back in his chair while sipping a coffee. “We lent them some of the old coppersmith stuff for a movie. They were filming it right here in Baltimore and they called one day. Then a guy came in. Nice fella and I said fine if they wanted to borrow some things. They used some of our tools, pitchers, pots and some other old stuff”
I settle into Ed’s chair. Ed doesn’t come in until 9 a.m. “Where was I? I don’t remember this. Was I at school?”
Dad nods and places his cup on his desk. “Yeah, I thought I mentioned it to ya but you know it’s so much going on. I guess I forgot.”
“Well, it’s kind of cool.” Doing something for a movie definitely seemed cool and I wish I had been in for that. “I’ll have to try to see it, Dad.”
“It’s a TV movie. I think ABC. Anyway, it’s TV. This year is the 100th Anniversary of the Statue of Liberty.” My father glances over at my Mom who is sitting quietly drinking her tea and recording yesterday’s time sheets. “J-J-Joe?” I look directly at my father. When he says my name with that cadence, he is going to tell me something important. “Your mother and I found a house we like in Harford County. Near Jack and Nancy’s house.” My brother and his wife had purchased a home in the new Box Hill North development there last year.
Mom leans forward in her chair. “It’s a beautiful home with a big yard and lots of grass and there are only three houses on the block. You’re gonna love it.”
I knew my parents were looking to move and they liked Jack and Nancy’s neighborhood, but I am taken aback for a moment to hear the reality of it. We were going to move away from Lakewood Avenue. “Well, that’s great. I’m glad.” I feel more of a mix of concern and indifference to any change but I know I will only be living home for a couple more years.
Dad and Mom exchange looks and seem relieved, then Mom continued. “We’ll drive you out this weekend, Joe. We’ll show you around and you are going to have two rooms. The upstairs has a master bedroom and two other, connected bedrooms, and you can have them both. One will be like your den.” Mom’s eyes glinted and she smiled reassuringly in her effort to convince me I would be happy.
“Sounds good to me.” The phone rings and Mom grabs it.
“Joseph Kavanagh Company,” she says into the telephone while Dad and I wait to see who it is and who they want to talk to.
Mom and Dad purchase a home at 6 Kensington Parkway in Box Hill North. They begin moving immediately while I will stay at Lakewood and Jefferson until that house is sold. Mom and Dad are ready for a change and some space after living in rowhouses their whole lives. For me, I welcome the alone time as I am getting older and I am sure I can handle it. Also, the guys and I are able to set up our musical equipment including Ray’s drum kit in the living room. Lakewood Avenue becomes Lethal Injection’s first practice space. At the Shop, the year is off to its typical slow start but today some angles and pipes are rolled for Bethesda Iron Works and a heater is begun for the Housing Authority.
The month gets a boost from a job for Codd Fabricators. Fourteen 5” X 3” steel tubes must be filled and rolled and it adds up to a lot of hours. Any order for over two thousand dollars is greatly welcomed in the winter.
One of the Shop’s recurring jobs is completed today. EDCO orders large sets of small pipe and rod rings at least several times a year and Dad is happy to see it. Overall, this January is working out much better than anticipated. The pieces for this job are rolled in the R-2 and the smaller machine does a nice job. Besides being more acclimated to the small rings than the large Roundo machines, it also frees them up for other jobs.
It’s Super Bowl Sunday and I have the game on as Lethal Injection jams a bit at Lakewood Avenue. The dining room set is there, the television and three chairs. Dad’s piano is still in the front room but apart from my bedroom furniture, the rest is gone already. Mom and Dad were quick to get into their new home and the next phase in their lives. The Chicago Bears crush the New England Patriots 46-10 after going 15-1 on the season. I watch but with only tepid interest much more involved in playing with the guys. We are still starting out and our efforts are largely experimental and improvisational. At the Shop, Ann has decided to come to work and will begin next month. My father often said my Mom and he had three families. The first four girls who were born in consecutive years, Betty Ann, Nancy, Mary and Jane then JoAnn and Jackie who were born a few years later and three years apart. Finally, after another few years, Ann, Jack and I came along. He called us the third family and now, we will all work for him.
I am at Lakewood Avenue on a Tuesday doing some homework. I came home right from school as I have a German assignment due tomorrow and the Shop is not terribly busy. I have the television on as I conjugate some verbs and I’m watching the Space Shuttle launch when something horrible happens. The Shuttle Challenger explodes just after liftoff. I can’t believe my eyes as it all turns into a ball of smoke and flame. The entire crew is lost and America slips into a heavy state of shock and mourning for these lost astronauts. This is one of the worse space disasters in history and it becomes indelibly etched into the nation’s memory and mine.
On the corner of Pratt and Central, a set of steel channels is completed today for the Camwell Corporation. The work remains steady for the winter for a change and that’s a good sign for the year. Half of these channels are rolled in the R-5 and the rest in the R-3-S.
Another order for Codd is sent out the door on this chilly Thursday. I arrive at lunch after my classes and get to work. Dad has me call Pete Kolb at Codd and let him know his boiler tubes are ready for pickup. Codd is the Shop’s most valuable and regular customer and we have done work together for nearly a century.
My sister Ann begins her tenure at the Joseph Kavanagh Company on this Wednesday. She becomes the second female Kavanagh to work at the Shop after my mother. Ann has worked for a lawyer and for a bank so she has a good business background. She will eventually be partners with Jack and me as we begin planning the changeover from Dad owning the place to us.
Spring arrives a little early this year or at least the warm weather does and the sun beats down on Central Avenue accompanied by a cool breeze. This time of year is often the best time weather wise. It’s much more comfortable than the freezing cold or the sweltering summer heat and it is much more conducive to working. Gischel Machine sends its truck over for some rolled rings that were curved in the R-5. The bars are chained up and lifted with the overhead crane and placed neatly in the bed of the truck.
This Monday is the Orioles Home Opener and this is always an exciting day in Baltimore. The Birds lose today 6-4 but hope springs eternal and the fans are looking for good things from the Orioles this year. We are not there again as work precludes our attendance. The tickets are given away to friends in the neighborhood while we listen from the Shop’s office. Another large order of filled pipes is finished for Codd today and it seems this customer has an order for us every week so far this year.
The Washington Capitals finally get their revenge on the New York Islanders sweeping them out of the first round of the playoffs. The Isles had eliminated the Caps three years in a row. Next comes a match up against New York’s other team, the Rangers in the Patrick Division Finals.
The Rangers best the Capitals 2-1 tonight and send the Caps home and out of the Stanley Cup Playoffs. Jack is ever positive and confident this team will be competitive for a long time and will reach their goal of winning the Cup soon enough.
A sign job is completed for Belsinger Sign Works. Several tubes and bars, all made of aluminum, are rolled to their specifications then they will construct the sign at their shop. Most sign work is aluminum due to the lightness of weight which is another reason they come to the Joseph Kavanagh Company. We work with aluminum and have done so for many years.
I finish another year at both Loyola and Peabody and I am ready to return to work for the summer. Things are changing and the sale of 447 N. Lakewood is about to be completed. I will move next week to Harford County and join my parents in Box Hill. At the Shop, a mix of pipes, angles and plates is rolled for Miscellaneous Metals while a set of copper heater tubes for Harvey Stambaugh are being bent. The work has increased and Dad has begun Saturday hours for the crew if they want them.
I am back at work for the summer full time and I am expediting a job for Fountain Craft. Copper tubes must be rolled into rings then the customer will drill holes to allow the water to flow. Several of the rings are small and must be annealed first. I take care of that myself then pass the tubes on to Mike Glenn to roll in the R-3-S.
The Kavanagh’s home for nearly forty years is sold and we officially move out of Baltimore City to Harford County. I have lived on this street my entire life as has my father. He grew up on the other side of Lakewood Avenue at his parents’ home. The move is a big adjustment. The drive in the morning is a long one and it takes some time to grow accustomed to it. I’m used to being able to shoot to work in fifteen minutes but now it takes three or four times that long. Also, the first time clock is installed at the Shop. Previously, workers filled out their cards and noted the time of start and stop on a job but modern payroll needs verification and accuracy. The time clock brings exactly that.
During lunch at the Shop, a Board of Directors meeting is held. Mom and Dad will begin working part-time and my father resigns as president and new officers are elected. My brother Jack Jr. becomes President, I become Vice-President, Ann Secretary and Mom is now the Treasurer. The changeover is happening quickly yet at a deliberate pace. These generational shifts must be made with care and due diligence to consider all the possibilities and protect both the Shop and all interested parties. This is the fourth time the Shop has passed to the next generation and each time it is different. This time there is hope for a long well-deserved retirement for my father and mother.
The Shop’s phone seems to be ringing all day and Ann, Jack and I along with the crew are busy from start to the end of the day. Jack is bending some pieces for Baltimore Tube Bending while I fill out a job card for Gischel Machine to get that job rolled. Ann takes calls while doing all the Accounts Receivable and Payable as well as Payroll. Even at work, a busy day like this goes by in a flash.
My friends and I begin discussing a possible trip to Europe next year. Chris has been there before and his stories of his trip are where this notion comes from. He told us of the fun he had and it seems like a good idea. We will all consider it and decide if we can come up with the money and the time off.
Some stainless steel pipes are rolled for Codd Fabricators in the R-3. Mom and Dad pass along some news. The family is getting bigger again because Jane and Jeff will have another baby in October to join their little boy, Phil.
It’s a Friday night and the members of Lethal Injection are playing at Kensington Parkway. Mom and Dad spend most of this summer in Ocean City so again I have a place to myself and the band has a practice space. We finally can play together but our style is still very much improvisational. We make some recordings of our first efforts including the punk rock, “I Wanna Loot the White House” and our ethereal drone infused version of “Louie Louie” which we dub “Louie Louie Gets the Bomb Bomb.” My brother makes a guest appearance on the second tune when he calls on the telephone and the ringing is recorded and brings the song to its close.
Summer takes its steps toward vacation next month and the crew and I can’t wait. The week in August is always a nice respite from the job. My friend Tim and I discuss it briefly during the day. He certainly is looking forward to it as he is helping fill some big structural tubes for Codd Fab, a hot and unpleasant job in the summer. These are similar to an order we had for Codd in January. The filling is time consuming and expensive but the hours do pile up on these type of orders.
I’m moving back and forth at the Shop from office to the crew when I take a step into the office and see everyone is standing and upset. Mom is crying and tells me my brother-in-law Michael had a terrible fall. He was working on a roof and there was an accident. Dad asks Mom a question and she turns away from me as there is a great deal of talking going on. When Dad steps away, I ask is he going to be okay and she squints her teary eyes and says he’s gone. Again, Dad gets her attention and she turns away from me. It hits me slowly. The thought of it takes a moment after the words are said. I open the office door and step through the small vestibule to the Shop. I walk to the open garage door and feel a slight breeze. The men are working and I stand staring at Central Avenue with light traffic stopped at the corner. Michael is dead. The idea makes no sense. He’s so young and this is a strange feeling for me. At twenty-one, the deaths I have experienced as yet were my elders, Eddie when I was five and Nanny when I was ten and a few other’s of that generation. Michael is my generation. Granted, Michael was older than I because with nine of us the span of ages is stretched a bit but he was one of us. One of the kids we would say even with me being the youngest at twenty-one. I think of Betty and April in a flash. I can’t imagine their shock and grief. I can’t guess at their pain. My family is close. I spent a lot of time with Betty and April at our house, playing with April when she was very young. I think of the last time I saw Michael. It was at the house where Betty and Ann lived on Parkwood Avenue. My friends/bandmates and I would visit and hang out. If Michael was there, he would talk with us. He had a very gentle nature. Michael was soft spoken and thoughtful in conversation though I occasionally witnessed him raise his voice when joking but never in anger. He helped Jack and me for a couple of hours at the Shop one Saturday. He happened to drive by and ended up helping us get home earlier. Micheal was active in the peace and environmental movement and a farm boy from Kentucky. Michael was raised in the same traditional large family environment as the Kavanagh’s. I learned from him and he influenced me. He was different than most men I knew and that was a very good thing. I looked up to him. He was a rebel in some ways but always a kind one, a gentle one. The most gentle rebel I have ever known.
A memorial mass and service is held at St. Anthony’s Church for Michael. The family gathers still in shock and disbelief. We mourn for our brother and friend. We speak of him and seek comfort in each other and our memories. Michael is the first of the kids to pass away. It’s a sobering wake up call to all of us and to our mortality. I think it changes all of us and we are suddenly aware that we are adults now and getting older. Mostly, we miss the man we knew and his kind and loving way which came so naturally and with such ease to him.
I return to school with some trepidation. With Dad retiring, I know I will be needed at the Shop. I can do both as I have been but it will be a challenge. I considered not returning to school at all and bailing. I want to try to make it work but the thought of withdrawing is still in my head.
The busy summer has given way to an equally busy fall and today another heat exchanger is made for the Housing Authority of Baltimore. Housing is a good regular customer and the copper heater work is one of our most profitable items.
Some structural angles are rolled for Southern Iron Works while small pieces for a sculpture are finished for artist, Liza Kaslow. Lisa has been coming into the Shop for a few years for her work and today I finally meet her. Dad and Mom like her a great deal and spend a few minutes going over the details then they chat for about thirty minutes about their families. That is very much how my parents were with customers.
The Capitals lose their home opener in an ugly game, 6-1 to the Philadelphia Flyers. Jack isn’t there but is watching at home ever the vigilant and devoted Caps fan. The Home Team Sports Channel began on cable two years ago and their Capitals’ broadcasts are on every night at Jack’s house.
I withdraw from school and inform my parents, Ann and Jack. I will work full time until and if I ever become a real musician. I have been giving it great thought and attending Loyola seems pointless now. Clearly the major of Computer Engineering is not going to give me much insight into modern machines and equipment relevant to the Shop. That’s not to say, it doesn’t help. I’ve learned basic electrical circuitry and have a working knowledge of computers. I know I’ll be working at the Shop for the rest of my life unless the band makes it big. Though we often talk of big shows we would do and albums we would release, we don’t dream of millions of dollars very often. More we dream of being able to play what we want and make music we like. We do hope to be professional on some level which makes me consider continuing at Peabody. I could re-register as a pure Peabody student not just a Loyola student involved in their cooperative program. It seems complex and the schedule of school, work and band was very demanding. This is only tougher now that I live in Box Hill. It would be a lot of driving. I come to the conclusion to focus on work and the band while continuing music lessons if possible. I am fortunate in that both my classical guitar teacher and my music theory teacher also give classes from their homes. I make arrangements with both and that softens the blow of withdrawing from college. I feel disappointed and like I’m a quitter most certainly but I feel it’s the right thing to do. No one told me to quit school. Not my father, mother, brother or sister for sure. They were certain we could make things work at the Shop until I finished. It is my call and I make it mostly to simplify my schedule and focus my attention. As a bit of a reward, I have decided to do the Europe trip next year. Tim and his brother Greg and Chris are coming too. Unfortunately, Ray is not. He’s too concerned about the money and he’s not sure he can afford it. We understand and he’ll be missed on the trip. This European vacation will be the great adventure of my life and as each day gets closer, the more excited I become.
Jane Morton gives birth to a baby girl, Sarah Jane, and Jane and Jeff couldn’t be happier. Mom and Dad drive up immediately to meet grandchild number seven. At the Shop, Ann, Jack and I are passing on the news to all our siblings who don’t know. The family is excited again for another addition to this clan. I tell the boys in the crew about the baby as well and they are thrilled for Mom and Dad. Workwise, a large heat exchanger for Housing Authority with over fifty tubes is finished, picked up and billed.
I pull into the parking pad in front of Kensington Parkway. I spent the evening jamming at Macon Street with the boys. Ray and Chris have rented a house together and the basement is our new band space and hopefully a more permanent one. It’s late but Dad is up and game seven of the World Series is on. It was a rough year for the Birds who finished in last place but it’s baseball and these things happen. I sit and drink a beer with Dad and we see the Red Sox score two runs in the 8th inning to draw within one run. This could be a close finish but the Mets answer with two of their own and Boston goes quietly in the final frame losing 8-5. I had missed game 6 with the infamous Buckner miscue which led to a Mets win and extended the series. I was practicing with the guys but Dad watched, He caught me up on it and I missed not seeing it with him. I’m more focused on music than baseball these days and I know Dad understands. He’s happy that I am involved in music and in a band. As the pianist he is, he completely understands.
A large job from Stan Edmister is being worked on today and has been for a week. Stan sent these in from his company, Playcatering. Playcatering handles all of Stan’s playground work. He makes sculptural playgrounds for City schools and quite often like this one, they are fairly large bits of work for the Shop.
The year is winding down and the work has slowed some but the crew are still busy. Today they are spread over five or six small orders including a fountain sprayer tube, two brass railings, a stiffener for a boiler and a small order from Metro Builders. This time of year, the workers’ minds begin to wander as they should to the holidays, time with family and just as important time off.
With plans moving forward for my father to retire, at Ann’s encouragement the Shop institutes its first pension plan for all employees. Ann has that strong business background and mind and she takes the lead on most of the business and financial moves going forward. Mom and Dad are proud of her and happy to defer to her on these issues as are Jack and I. The business side of the Shop will be modernized step by step.
Christmas is at 6 Kensington Parkway this year and it feels strange and new yet familiar. My sisters and their families and the rest of us gather with my parents and share another holiday. The old house at the corner of Lakewood and Jefferson was a special place with many special holidays. It was part of a true neighborhood. If the crowd got loud or it was a fair weather Christmas and I chose to step out onto the corner, I’d see someone. Even on Christmas if it was more than a moment, another neighbor would be seen or someone rushing to a holiday party or perhaps something going on across the street at Coby’s, the corner store which seemed to never close. No matter the day or time of year, when you stepped out onto that corner and looked east, west, north or south, you would see someone maybe in more than one direction. Kensington is one of three houses on the block and it’s beautiful but it’s not quite the same but we are here. The Kavanagh’s are together and so it is home. Gifts are opened as grandkids scamper around. Baby Sarah is passed around and held while everyone catches up with each other. Finally, my father leads us in song from his piano bench and the sound of carols fill the room then the old standards are played over and over, “King of the Road” and “Sentimental Journey.” It’s Christmas with the Kavanagh’s.
The week between Christmas and New Year’s is a strange and slow-paced one for most people. Some take the whole week off but those who don’t, do take it a little easier even at work. Ann, Jack and I are having lunch after I drove to Haussner’s and got us turkey clubs and some sugar cookies. We talk of the future and make plans for it. For the first time, talk of a new building comes up. It’s not something we can do anytime soon but Central Avenue is almost eighty years old. The roof leaks, the walls are old and crumbling while the wiring system is archaic. My brother, sister and I dream a bit of a newer bigger facility all on one floor with electrical overhead cranes not the old chain and crank ones. It seems fanciful but a realistic goal some day. When lunch is done, Jack gets back to work on some aluminum tubes upstairs, Ann finishes some payroll and I head out to check on the crew. Tomorrow is New Year’s Eve and we’ll close at two today to give everyone an early start on the holiday. This has been a year of change. My father’s time is ending and the “Third Family’s” time is starting. My college career is over and I do not regret it yet as much as I will in years to come. We have moved from Lakewood Avenue after years of making our home in that neighborhood. There were two corners for the Kavanagh’s, Pratt and Central and Lakewood and Jefferson. We lose one of our corners and are speaking of leaving another. We lost one of our own too. Michael’s death is a blow to us and the suddenness of it stings to the core. He was the first of us kids to pass and it’s a sad harbinger of what is destined to come. We are all adults now and the next generation is the grandkids. We’re all young but time marches on and there’s no stopping it. Our family has seen three generations come and go and my parents and their peers are in the winters of their lives while we live in the spring and summer of ours not really knowing when our falls or winters might begin.
Ronald Reagan is the President of the United States. The Statue of Liberty celebrates its 100th Anniversary. The Oprah Winfrey Show premiers. The last episode of “Search for Tomorrow” airs. The films “Pretty in Pink,” “Stand by Me” and “Top Gun” are released. Roger Clemens strikes out twenty batters in a nine inning game setting a new MLB record. Millions of people take part in “Hands Across America” but it is briefly interrupted when members of Lethal Injection cut through the line and break the chain in downtown Baltimore. The first group of artist are inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Halley’s Comet appears for the last time in the 20th Century. Shia LaBeouf, Lady Gaga and Michael Oher are born. Cary Grant, Georgia O’Keefe, Scatman Crothers, Len Bias and Benny Goodman die.
There are 50 states in the Union.
To read earlier years, click on the Table of Contents link below;