The Joseph Kavanagh Company begins another year with the original Joe’s great great grand nephews and niece running the place now. The Shop has been located at the busy corner of Pratt and Central for nearly eighty years. Much of the talk of Baltimore is the new baseball stadium being built downtown. Enthusiasm has been building. I feel it. Suddenly fans face the reality of it. Old Memorial Stadium will close at the end of next season and a fancy retro ballpark will be the new home of the Baltimore Orioles. It feels strange but exciting. Over the holiday I spoke to my Dad and both of us wondered if the Shop might get some work from the new stadium. The first job of the year is finished, picked up and billed, six stainless steel flat bars rolled for the Warren-Ehret Company.
An order for seventeen 2 1/2” pipes for Codd Fabricators is completed. Their truck makes the short drive from Aliceanna to Central and the pieces are out the door. We have a one week backlog and are steadily receiving orders so it’s a good start to the year. On the books, we have some angle flanges to make, several rail jobs and some aluminum angles for a commercial sign for Belsinger Sign Works.
The San Francisco Forty-Niners crush the Denver Broncos 55-10 to win the Super Bowl. It’s as lopsided as it sounds with the winners scoring two touchdowns in each quarter. I’m not watching, but jamming in the garage at LaSalle with the rest of Lethal Injection. Chris, Ray, Tim and I are still having a lot of fun playing and we are getting better, but it’s often two steps forward/one step back. Still, we feel more comfortable playing as one and we have a few songs we can perform.
My brother Jack and his wife Nancy welcome Patrick Henry Kavanagh to the family early on this Monday. Mom and the new baby are doing well and my brother is as happy as he can be. He now has two sons just like his father, grandfather and great-grandfather. Patrick is named after one of America’s founders and by chance his great-great-great grandfather.
Jack is in the office today and talking about his new son, Patrick. It makes me smile to see him so happy. If there ever was someone who was born to be a Dad, it would be him. Not to mention, he learned from the best. In the Shop, several big structural angles are rolled for Codd Fabricators and Jack interrupts his gushing about his boy to anneal some brass tubes for Lenderking Metal Products.
Major League Baseball owners lock out the players and put a hold on Spring Training until a new Collective Bargaining Agreement is reached. Ann, Jack and I talk about it in the office. I can’t believe they are going to hold up this season over money. It seems silly to me and I hope they can swallow some pride on both sides and come to an agreement. We have caught up a little on the work but remain steady enough for the winter.
Two channels are rolled for Ackerman and Baynes Fabricators, a repeat of a job from last month. A smaller channel is curved into a ring for McShane Bell Foundry. The channel ring is the circle where the bell hangs and swings. A group of flat bars for Price Brothers is finished also.
A large order of copper pipes bent in the Pines is billed to Gischel Machine today and the crew also are working on a set of flat bars to re-roll for Price Brothers and two for Warren-Ehret. Work wise, we’ve seen much worse winters.
Today the R-6-S is put to the test as we roll a big 3” X 1/1/4” Steel flat bar into a small ring for Codd Fab. We know the machine can handle it. This is a repeat of a job from January but it is enough strain for the 6 to squeak and squawk a bit. The bar looks good. A very true even curve and nice and flat. I have my guitar in the office with me today as I am driving over to my sister Nancy’s house for dinner and I will give some short guitar lessons. Now I have a second niece who is interested in playing. Nancy’s second daughter Katie has joined Maura in learning the instrument. I don’t go every week now. I’m often too tired from work or racing to practice but I go over at least once a month. I love teaching them both even the basics. If Maura always was the rock n roll type from when she was small, Katie was always a rebel. I like that in a person.
Two new orders for Anchor Fence are finished. These are rolled channels with two bends for tops of gates and rails. Usually we bend pipe for Anchor but we are getting more of these channel tops and we’ve learned how to get the s-shape needed. We are also working on some structural tubes for Codd Fab. They were filled with rosin and are being rolled today. After melting out tomorrow, they will be ready.
A new four year deal is reached between baseball owners and players and the season is on. Spring Training is almost completely canceled by the lockout and the season will be extended by three days to allow a complete 162 game schedule to be played.
A rush pipe order is banged out for Gischel Machine and when their truck gets here, they bring in two more orders, one for rolled flat bars and one for rolled pipes. In addition to these Gischel jobs, we have our usual assortment of railings, flanges, some stainless steel flat bars for Bengies Welding and a set of angles for Warren-Ehret.
The Baltimore Orioles opened up on the road this year but are welcomed home on this Thursday. The fans are amped after last year’s surprising second place finish along with all the hype of the new ballpark. The Birds beat the Tigers 4-2 today but this year will not be a repeat of last. The team’s play is fair at best through out the year and they will not be returning to the playoffs at season’s end.
A steady rain seems appropriate on a dreary busy Wednesday. The middle of the week with two more days to go adds to the somber mood brought on by the weather. It’s a day when the circle of coffee drinking workers is particularly quiet during their breaks and the hours drip by like the rain. A fountain sprayer tube ring is rolled while a set of pipes is bent in the old Pines Bender for Whiting Metals.
The Washington Capitals beat the New York Rangers 2-1 in overtime and for the first time in their history, they are advancing to the Eastern Conference Finals to face the Boston Bruins. The Caps dispatched the New Jersey Devils in the first round then took care of the Rangers. Jack is so excited. His team is one series away from the Stanley Cup Finals.
I receive a call from Ferdie at Eastern Ornamental Iron. He has a rail job for us to roll for him. I tell him the sooner he gets it here, the sooner we can get it for him. We have a nice bit of work in the Shop, between one and two weeks of backlog and that’s close to perfect. Torches are blazing as a 6” X 4” tube is melted out. The torches are used to gradually melt the rosin in the tube which was there to protect it from collapsing. Melting tubes out is always hot but it’s the final step in a long process so there is solace in that. The piece is for American Iron Works, one of the Shop’s customers from the DC area.
It seems as if every step for the Capitals will be taken slowly. They are swept by the Bruins and are out of the playoffs again. It’s disappointing but as Jack is quick to point out, they made if farther than they ever have before. Jack is even more confident that this team will soon reach its goal and win a championship.
A chilly Monday morning turns sunny as the Kavanagh’s and crew make a channel ring for a bell for McShane and curve some irregular aluminum extrusions for Belsinger Sign. The shapes are asymmetrical so an unusual set up is required but our variety of rollers makes it doable. After several samples and using different tools, the job is finished.
We receive a larger order for rolled channels from Anchor Fence. Thirty-two of the channels we’ve been developing with an offset curve for the tops of gates. The more of these we can get, the more likely we can find a way of doing a production run. Thirty-two is a nice jump from four or eight. Also, a few more of Belsinger’s extrusions are rolled in the R-3-S.
A 5” pipe elbow is delivered today to Price Brothers and a repeat order for COVCO is picked up. We do these pipes for COVCO a few times a year. We bend, trim and thread the pipes. We generally stay away from threading but for a regular customer, we make an exception.
It’s my 25th birthday and I’m playing in the garage with my fellow Lethal Injection members. The band is thinking of having a party or cook out along with a concert in Tim’s backyard. We could set it up for the Fall and our family and friends could see us play. It would be good practice for the future as well. I have a busy week ahead of me at the Shop. We’re finishing a big order for Codd Fabricators of 7” flat bars rolled, 120 of them. Also Anchor Fence is sending in a custom version of the channel tops we’ve been making. These are different from the standard forms but I want to keep the customer happy so we’ll figure it out.
The band has made our decision and we will pick a day in October for our party. This puts pressure on us to have a set list and be prepared. We’ve developed a list of covers we do in a range of quality but we’ll firm them all up for the show. The Shop has been busy and me with it. Today fifteen 90 degree pipe elbows are made for Anchor Fence.
The crew draw the short straw today because we have five stainless steel tubes to fill, roll and sandblast for Bengies Welding. It’s a tough job in June. There’s a lot of torch work and the sandblasting requires isolation at the end of the alley with your face and hands well covered. The sand gets everywhere and it can not be rushed no mater how much you try.
I’m driving past Northern Parkway on my way home. I had dinner at Nancy’s and played some guitar with her daughters. They both are learning and can play a bit. I have a lot of fun but I’m tired. It’s been a long week and I’m going over tomorrow’s schedule in my head. We have a set of copper heater tubes to bend for Stambaugh and a few small angles for Lenderking. I’m looking forward to a week’s vacation next month. It will be more time to play and practice with the band but some time for sleep too.
The Birds are stuck in fourth place and can’t seem to make it to a .500 record. Fortunately, my fandom has diminished and I am far more interested in music these days. Tim, Ray, our friend Dave Muelberger and I attend David Bowie’s Sound and Vision tour at Merriweather Post Pavilion. The show is incredible and Bowie’s band is amazing. After the concert, we head to the bar Max’s on Broadway. Tim works the door there and the prior evening Adrian Belew, who is playing guitar on Bowie’s tour, showed up. We decide to hang in Max’s with the hope of meeting Belew. He wanders in and says hi to the owner and the bartender. We saw him play at Max’s before and I caught a drumstick he threw into the crowd. Adrian Belew is a guitarist but plays drums and other instruments as well. We approach him and he’s a gracious welcoming fellow. We have a beer with him and talk music. He’s very friendly and when I tell him he is the reason I bought a guitar synthesizer, he smiles then grabs a red marker from the bar and promptly signs my Adrian Belew tour shirt. Belew is one of my guitar heroes and now I have had the good fortune to meet both he and Robert Fripp, the two-headed guitar monster that was in King Crimson in the early 80s.
A humid day on Central Avenue can get unbearable fast and so it is today. The men work through it and with the added incentive of vacation looming, the jobs are cranked out. Five big bars are rolled the hardway for Ackerman and Baynes along with three sets of pipe rings and a fancy brass railing.
The week of vacation is here and there is much rejoicing. The crew and the Kavanagh’s mark this week on the calendar every year and look forward to it. A full week without work is a great thing particularly if you work at Pratt and Central and it’s August. I spend the week relaxing, sleeping and practicing with the band. We have picked October 14th for our concert for friends and family in Tim’s backyard. We’ll feed them and hopefully entertain them. We start making plans immediately and Tim’s parents, Barry and Madge, are happy to host.
We are playing catch up at 201 S. Central Avenue and paying the price for taking a week off. The place is full of steel and aluminum and that is a nice welcome back. Some angles are picked up by Ackerman and Baynes who are easily one of our most reliable regular customers. If Codd is number one, Ackerman is close behind.
A set of zee bars are rolled today for Belsinger Sign Works. We’ve only tried zees twice before, once with success and once without. The problem is keeping all the legs straight. An angle roller is made to support two legs but with some use of spacers, some adjustments and some trial and error, the pieces look good. I have a stack of job cards on my desk for tomorrow including a set of small angle rings for the Warren-Ehret Company.
The strong summer continues with its usual assortment of railings, flanges and lintels augmented with nearly five hundred 1” Square steel tubes to bend for Anchor Fence. It’s the sort of job where a mechanic develops the job then passes it on to one of the helpers who has some experience on the machine, enough to be safe anyway. It serves two purposes. It makes the job cheaper and it gives the worker another level of experience. This is right up my brother’s alley and he finds a way to factor in the springback and stretch out on the tubes and quickly has it ready for one of the crew to crank them out.
Codd Fabricators sends in some angles for a job for the new ballpark. These will be used as concrete forms for the seating bowl. I had quoted Pete Kolb on three hundred or so 5” angles. He needed a working number as an estimate. I was shocked we received it and very excited. A job for the Birds, my father won’t believe it. I decide to call my Dad during lunch to tell him.
“Hey Dad!” I greet him after his usual truncated “Hel-lo.”
He replies. “How you doing Joe?” I can picture him in my mind’s eye. He knows I’m calling from the Shop and probably assumes I have a question or a problem. He is and will always be my go to expert in metal bending when I have an issue.
“I got some news. We got a nice job from Codd for the new stadium, the new ballpark for the Birds.” I can’t get the words out fast enough.
He answers quickly. “No kidding? That’s great.” Dad pauses then adds, “What kind of price did you give them?”
I’m not surprised at his query. I smile as I know it’s a Shop thing. It’s instinct at this point for him even though he’s retired. “About $ 32.00 each.”
“Hmm. That sounds like a good price, Joe. How many is it gonna be? Three hundred you say?” My smile broadens because I know he knows this is enough to make money on the job.
“The total will be over three hundred. We got fifty-four in today. Pete said they will keep sending then in for the next few months but we’re getting a big batch in October. Two hundred and sixty-three.” I lean back in my chair sipping some water.
“TWO-HUNDRED AND SIXTY-THREE? Holy Moley! Where you gonna put them all?” I can feel the surprise and excitement in his voice. I know that feeling.
I place my water on my desk and glance over at Ann who’s listening. I’m sure she knows he’s excited to hear this news. “That’s twenty-two tons, Dad but we’ll stack them in the back. We cleared a space past the R-6-S to pile the finished pieces. It will be fine.”
The phone is quiet for a moment. “Pretty good, Joe. Sounds like a helluva job to me.” He chuckles softly to himself. “Twenty-two tons and its for the Birds’ new stadium. That’s great. My grandfather Joe would love it. He loved baseball and the old Orioles. You know.”
“I do.” I recall the many stories about Crazy Joe and how he loved the game. “It’s going to be closer to thirty tons by the time we’re all finished. We’ll make a few bucks on this one too, Dad.”
“He’d love that too. Believe me Joe. The only things he loved more than baseball were music and the Shop making money.” My father often spoke to me of his grandfather and told me how much I reminded him of Crazy Joe. The shared name and love of music is connection enough but apparently, our personalities are similar.
I take a quick breath. “Yeah, I sort of know what that’s like.”
My father laughs. “I guess you do. I guess you do.”
“I gotta get back to work, Dad. I just wanted to tell you about this one. I knew you’d want to know.” I begin gathering some job cards to take out to the Shop.
“Yeah, get back to work but I’m glad you called. Working for the Orioles’ new ballpark? I love it, kid. Talk to you soon.” The phone clicks and I place the receiver down. I sit and enjoy the moment briefly, then get up and head out the office door to distribute a couple of cards.
The Shop is busy and about to get much busier. We have fifty pieces of big angle to roll for what will be called Oriole Park and quite a few other smaller orders including two bent brass rods for Lenderking, three channels for McShane Bell and a set of aluminum tee bars for Codd. The tees are unrelated to Oriole Park but for the same customer.
I’m on the phone throughout the day with customers, as summer seems to have not ended. We’ve completed another order for the stadium along with a regular order from EDCO of rods and pipes. A delivery is made to Price Brothers and a set of tubes for a condenser is completed for Warren-Ehret. The R-6-S has been busy every day working on more angles for the seating bowl of the new stadium. We received the two hundred and sixty-three lengths from Codd. That’s a total weight of over forty five thousand pounds. That’s a lot of handling and careful unloading to get the material off the truck but it’s well worth it. The same care will be taken in stacking and storing the angles for pick up. The order will be finished in a couple of days but they are piling up now. Tomorrow we start on two 5” X 1” Brass flat bars rolled to a small diameter of 34”. These will be tough but I know the boys can handle it. The question is to anneal or not to anneal. I know it’s naval brass and fairly soft so I decide to roll them hard. They do roll fine with no damage. The Shop is hitting on all cylinders now.
The Washington Capitals start their 17th season tonight hosting the Pittsburgh Penguins. The Penguins win 7-4 but the fans have high expectations for this season. Jack included. The team went farther in the playoff than ever before last season and we are hopeful this is a sign of things to come.
Lethal Injection welcomes their family and friends to a musical show in the Heaps’ backyard at 1100 Kreuger Avenue. There is plenty of food, drink, the musical stylings of Lethal Injection and even a cake. The cake with a hypodermic needle seemed to give the baker pause but he made it none the less. We are nervous but once we start, I love it. I’ve enjoyed playing at Dave’s a few times over the last year but this is a little different. These are not really your rock and roll crowd but our curious families. They have been wondering what we’ve been doing with our lives and they get a taste of it today. We all bemoan the sound, the mix and some of our performance but still, I’m pleased and it was fun. The set list includes RUSH, Pink Floyd and U2 covers along with Psycho Killer and the very popular Preamble to the Constitution from the School House Rock TV Series.
I sit at my desk with some mixed feelings about the show this weekend. It was fun and people seemed to enjoy it though some clearly were not into our music. Not everybody is a rocker. I pull myself from my daze and answer the phone. Bud from Gischel Machine is calling to check on some copper pipes we are bending. We did several hundred a month ago and they needed two hundred more. It’s a great job for us, a production order and it’s ready. He sends his truck right over.
The Cincinnati Reds sweep the heavily-favored Oakland Athletics to win the World Series. The success of last year’s Orioles’ “Why Not?” year did not continue. The Birds languished along all year below .500 and finished in 5th of seven teams in the A.L. East. The only positive thing about it is the Yankees finished in last. That made everything more palatable but mostly I am more involved with the band and the Shop to be as active of a fan as I was. I don’t see any of the four games in the World Series as most nights I am practicing or hanging out with the guys in the garage. We enjoyed our backyard show overall and look forward to another birthday party for Dave at the Belevedere next week.
My brother Jack jumps right into a job for Whiting Metals today. We have a little trouble getting the radius they need and Jack is quick to take the thing over. He is a natural in the Shop and working with metals. He has a lot of experience in pipe and tube bending and a knack for solving these kinds of problems. The rest of the boys are split between jobs for McShane Bell, Durrett Sheppard and a small order for the G-S Company.
We are at the Belevedere and it’s loud and moderately insane. A mob of people have shown up this year and everyone seems to be more in the holiday spirit. A lot of folks are in costume including my sister Ann and her friend Mary Sterling who attend out of curiosity I suspect. We rock through a lot of improvised tunes, along with some covers, our usual mix of progressive rock and the odd blues number. Dave seems to have developed a reputation for his parties as the crowd has gotten much bigger. It’s a great night and we load our vehicles up with gear and head home about 1 am.
November is upon the Shop and we still have plenty of work. Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday and every year after Halloween, I begin to think of a turkey dinner with all the trimmings especially parsnips. It’s the Kavanagh in me. November is usually good weather for work in a place like the Shop. It’s chilly but not so cold that a little work doesn’t warm you up. The very cold and the very hot are challenging. Somewhere in the middle is ideal. The crew labor away on some more window lintels, sixteen bar rings for Bengies Welding and two angle rings for Warren-Ehret are rolled in the R-5-S.
With the approaching holidays the end of the year is coming too and we’ve been fortunate. While a recession has hit much of the country, we have had plenty of work most of the year. The stadium project has helped the Shop stay particularly busy for the last two months. We’ve rolled another order for the new ballpark, two 4” pipes for Codd that were not baseball related and a railing for G-S. We are nearly finished some flat bars for Price Brothers and a load of stainless steel angles and tubes comes in from Warren-Ehret, a good sized coil job for them with a lot of bending for us. There’s no doubt in my mind, the year will end strong.
The year is nearly finished and the work has not slowed. We continue to receive more work for the new ballpark with add-ons and last minute changes. The standard COVCO order of galvanized pipes is shipped out today and an order of rolled bars for Price Brothers is begun.
Christmas is held again at Birch Drive, my sister Nancy’s home. The Kavanagh’s gather to celebrate another holiday and another year. We have a new baby in the family and he receives much due attention. This year not all of us can make it and those who can do not stay all day. Those who are married or have younger kids must spend part of the day with the other side of the family understandably and JoAnn is in Florida and unable to come up due to work. With even a few absentees, the Kavanagh’s are a crowd. JoAnn is called on the phone so we can all wish her a “Merry Christmas.” The food is perfect, there is drink and song as well. Dad leads us from the piano and we sing along as we did during the Lakewood Avenue days. I enjoy the day and seeing my sisters and their families. I’m always happy to spend some time with my parents too and when they get ready to leave, I do the same. I drive back across the beltway exiting onto Belair Road. I park and head up to my apartment looking forward to a few days off and some time with the band. Things will be different for Lethal Injection moving forward. Before the holidays, Chris informed the rest of us he would be leaving the band. He wants to pursue his own music, his own songs and is moving on. I’m surprised but not overly so when I think about it. We are primarily a cover band that is trying to develop our own music and our own sound whereas Chris is ready to do his own thing. I’m sure he wearied of the covers and we have yet to have any true paying gigs. Our backyard show and Dave’s parties hardly count and won’t fill up our resume. We wish Chris good luck and decide to adjust as we can. The format and approach of the band changes with vocals, bass and keyboard parts divvied up in new ways. Each of us will take on some new responsibilities and we’re confident we’ll find a balance. We will all try to sing more but I become the de facto lead vocalist and it’s a challenge but the narcissist in me is up for it. After all, it is the 90s.
George H.W. Bush is the President of the United States. The Americans with Disabilities Act is passed and signed by President Bush. Time Warner is formed from Time Incorporated and Warner Communications. Douglas Wilder of Virginia becomes the first elected African-American Governor. Smoking is banned on all domestic air flights of less than six hours. The Hubble Space Telescope is launched. A Chemical Weapons accord is reached between the US and the Soviet Union to ban such weapons. Nolan Ryan pitches his sixth no-hitter. The films “Home Alone,” “The Hunt for Red October” and “The Godfather 3” are released. Jim Henson, Sammy Davis Jr., Stevie Ray Vaughan, Sarah Vaughan and Pearl Bailey die.
There are 50 states in the Union.
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