The Shop starts another year at 201 S. Central Avenue. My sister, brother and I have a crew of six men. A far cry from the thirty employed here in the 1910’s but a long way from where Old Uncle Joe started with just himself and a book keeper partner in 1866. We are the great-grandchildren of his nephew Joseph A. Kavanagh. Work and family are intertwined in this place and it’s always been that way. To begin this winter, we have another angle to roll for Codd Fab. We’ve been rolling angles for the seating bowl of the new ballpark for them and this is for the same project but a structural lintel. The stadium is moving along and now is the time for finishing sections and final steel elements. Also a big tube job for Miscellaneous Metals that hung over from last year is picked up. Every member of the crew has time loading the truck. There’s no way to bundle these so they are humped onto the truck by hand but it gets done. When I’m not working, I’m in the garage at LaSalle with the rest of my band Lethal Injection. We are a trio now and we are excited for the challenge. I begin to use the Moog Bass Pedals and we purchase a set of Midi pedals which Tim uses. Simpler bass parts are picked up with the pedals and the more complex are split between Tim and I or dropped. Ray plays some more melodic parts on the electronic part of his kit. Everyone is miked so all can sing and it seems more than workable.
A sunny comfortable 50 degree January day is enjoyed in Baltimore and the crew open the doors up to feel the warmth of the sun. Usually, this old building is an icebox in the winter and we keep doors and windows closed to keep what heat we have in the place. The boys are spread over a handful of jobs. A set of small flat bar rings is finished in the R-3-S for Stromberg Sheet Metal then a 1” Pipe is coiled for Turnbull in the same machine. The R-5-S is equally busy with 2- 4” Aluminum channels for Chesapeake Machine and one 2” Pipe for Whiting Metals being curved.
Operation Desert Storm begins when the US and allies attack Iraq in response to its invasion of Kuwait. I find out while hanging in Tim’s basement, talking to Ray, Tim and his Dad. The US led coalition starts with air attacks and in three weeks, a ground invasion will begin.
The New York Giants defeat the Buffalo Bills 20-19 to win the Super Bowl. It is a rare close one but I ignore the game completely as I am practicing with the band. My Mom and Dad have taken a winter’s vacation to Florida to visit my sister JoAnn and do some fishing. They find they love Florida and think of spending some time away from the cold of Maryland winters each year.
Several 1” OD Aluminum tubes are rolled then trimmed for C. R. Daniels. We did fifteen in January and now 20 more. We have four different versions of this item we do for CR and we keep the fixtures for trimming on hand. Two 7” Beams are rolled into 5 ft. 6” diameter half-circles for Chesapeake Machine and forty-two 3” Square tube 180 deg bends are finished for Miscellaneous Metals. We lost out on this job big time. It’s the holding tangents/straights on each end. It slows the job up and makes matching each piece tricky. We have stayed steady if not busy so far this winter. Next up, we have thirty-six lengths of pipe to roll for Bengies Welding to eight different radii. Jerry Purnell starts the job then passes it off to one of the younger mechanics.
Another group of fourteen angles for concrete forms for the new ballpark are picked up by Codd Fabricators. This job made last year successful for us and it’s helping us this year. The overall work is down a bit but that’s bound to happen after an unusually up year. I still get a thrill to think these pieces will be used in the new ballpark. I look forward to going there. The renderings of the park look beautiful and bit by bit, it’s beginning to look like those pictures.
The Gulf War ends after Iraq agrees to withdraw from Kuwait. By early March, American troops will begin leaving the Persian Gulf. At the Shop, Three hundred 1” stainless steel pipes are bent for Turnbull Enterprises. These pipes are used for the bases for chairs in Navy helicopters and we’ve received this order several times in the last couple of years. It looks to be a recurring thing with some luck. The pieces need two bends on a tight radius. We build a special die for the job. Using an existing bending die we add on some bars to simply things. The first bend is easy but the second, not so much. The bend is in the vertical plane compared to the first bend and being square and straight is critical. The extra bars allow us to check the piece for straightness before bending the pipe. There are left and rights of these so half of the pipes are bent with the first bend pointing down and half with it pointing up. Again, the attachments to the die, make things smoother and quicker.
A big order of rolled 3” pipes, eighty-three 20 foot lengths, is picked up today and it’s a good bill to send out. It’s a big load and Jack and I both help to get them on the truck. When I get back to my desk, I write up two job cards, one for flat bars for Bengies Welding and another order of angles for the stadium for Codd. It’s just a small set of eight as the forms, steps and concourses are being made and the ballpark is getting closer to being a reality.
A nice order of stainless steel flat bars is picked up by Warren-Ehret while another group of larger stainless bars for Chesapeake Machine is rolled in the old R-5. Meanwhile, our most experienced mechanic, Jerry Purnell, sets up the R-2 for some short 1” Square aluminum tubes for Belsinger Sign Works.
The Baltimore Orioles open up at home on this Monday and it’s a regrettable start. The Birds are beaten 9-1 by the Chicago White Sox who combined Jack MacDowell’s complete game start with two home runs by Sammy Sosa to put this game away early. It’s still a good day in Baltimore as any opening day is. In spring, hope is eternal but those hopes will disappear quickly for the Orioles and their fans. This will be a tough year on the field and an emotional one in the stands. This is the final year for venerable old Memorial Stadium and the Birds will relocate downtown to the new Oriole Park at Camden Yards next season.
The Washington Capitals lose in the second round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs to the Pittsburgh Penguins. The Caps had beaten the New York Rangers in round one but fall to a team that is becoming a bitter rival to Washington hockey fans. Jack is disappointed but not overly so. He’s an optimist and decides to root as hard as he can for the Penguins to not win the Cup. Sadly, he’ll be disappointed again as the Penguins will take the NHL Championship this year.
It’s Tax Day in America and that’s no holiday so we are laboring at the corner of Pratt and Central. Two jobs for Warren-Ehret are picked up. We also finished another couple of angles for the stadium for Codd several days ago and the steel phase of the stadium construction is down to some small details.
A cool spring day is spent curving some Anchor Fence channels. We get these pretty regularly, and a set of stainless steel angles are completed for Kelco. Ann, Jack and I have decided to do some renovating in the building. Specifically, we are going to add a new office. We will build a small second story in a section of the front of the Shop. We’ll lay a platform out and build on it. The Kavanagh’s and crew will handle all of it and the old office will become a break room for the workers. Air conditioning in the summer and heat in the winter, the men will not know what to do. Jack quickly begins making plans and sketches of this build. This type of thing is right up Jack’s alley and he’s excited to start.
Oriole Legend Frank Robinson is fired and Johnny Oates is hired as manager. The team is off to an atrocious 13-24 start. It will be a nostalgic farewell of a summer on 33rd Street but not a successful one on the field. At Pratt and Central, some bent pipes are picked up by Bengies Welding and two angles by the Fingles Company. Jack has two of the crew with him and work is moving forward on the upstairs office. The platform is placed and next we will lay a wood floor and frame the room out. I am on the phone most of the day in the “old” office. I get orders from A. J. Sackett, D-S Pipe and Kelco. All will be sending material in tomorrow. No big jobs but the bread and butter of what we do. Two or three pieces is our standard size order. The big ones are great but many little ones keep this place rolling.
A large order of twenty-six 4” angles is finished in the R-6-S and I call Joe Lewis from Industrial Fabricators to tell him. Joe is one of the elder statesman of the industry and he is often rather chatty too. I don’t mind. The man is a fount of information and knowledge about the metals game. I do enjoy doing work for this company because I am either dealing with Joe or his right-hand man, Frank Schmidt. I have known Frank since I first came to work twelve years ago. He’s a good guy, easygoing and also very smart about the metal fabrication industry.
A standard order of bent, threaded and trimmed galvanized pipes for COVCO and a repeat job of 6” steel channels for Kelco Company are cranked out today. We rolled two channels for Kelco thee weeks ago and two more today. The new office is nearly complete. Jack has worked hard on this thing and got it built quick. There are a few little final touches then next week, we will move in officially.
Monday starts a new week albeit a short holiday one and I find myself in our new office. It’s much bigger. There is some space between Ann, Jack and I and the crew have their own break room now. It’s a win win and the place looks great. It feels modern which is odd for this place. Our workers came in Saturday for a half-day in exchange for the Shop being closed on Friday. It will be a four day Independence Day weekend but a busy three days to get there. Several jobs must be completed by Wednesday and picked up. Two different railing jobs, six channels for Anchor Fence and twenty-two small aluminum rods for Belsinger Sign. Belsinger’s pieces are small, short and light. A serious gravy job we would call it and I am sure we’ll get everything finished but it will be down to the wire on Wednesday.
It’s hot on Central Avenue as we anneal and bend some aluminum pipe 90 degree elbows for Belfort Instruments. Aluminum annealing is hot and grueling in the summer but what’s worse is we are annealing and bending some copper as well. Two 1 1/4” O.D. copper heat exchangers for the Housing Authority are bent and assembled. We get less and less of these as the units are being replaced with modern PVC. It’s a sign of the times and nothing to be done about it but be glad some heaters are sill in the old style. Besides Belfort’s tubes and the heaters, a couple small steel tubes are rolled for Kelco.
Lethal Injection holds its second Friends and Family Concert at Krueger Avenue. The Heaps host and love a party. No big “Lethal Injection” cake this time but a few different desserts to follow the standard burger and hot dog Baltimore cookout. This is our first performance as a trio and I’m particularly nervous because I am singing more. Tim borrows some tents from the Baltimore Cemetery so we are not standing in the sun. We play RUSH and Pink Floyd tunes as we usually do along with a few other covers such as “In Dreams” by Roy Orbison. We include several originals, an improvisational spoken word version of “The Beat” and finish with a tip of the cap to the film “Dr. Strangelove” by playing “We’ll Meet Again.” The show goes well and most of my nerves go away after a few minutes. My parents are there and this is their first time seeing me play with the band. It’s not really their kind of music but they have fun. They do know “We’ll Meet Again” and other than telling me to “pep it up” a bit, Dad says he enjoyed that one. My father is the consummate swing fan so he wants everything pepped up.
Some channel rail tops are rolled for Anchor Fence and another small angle order for the stadium is begun for Codd Fab. We receive two orders for heat exchangers for the Housing Authority. Though the number of heaters we do has dropped, the summer is often when they are fixed. Heat is not needed so maintenance units can be taken out of service and the repairs completed with no inconvenience.
We are getting closer to our week’s vacation and everyone is anxious. The crew work hard in the heat to get as much done each day. Today, a dozen more big angles are rolled for Codd Fabricators in the R-6-S and some small parts for Belsinger Sign Works are rolled in the R-2. The angles are more finishing parts for the new ballpark and Belsinger makes commercial signs all over the Maryland area.
Two custom channel bends for Anchor Fence are curved to match a template and another 1 1/4” O.D. copper heat exchanger is in the works for the City. Both must be completed and in the customers’ hands by tomorrow then it will be vacation time.
The Joseph Kavanagh Company enjoys a week of rest and quiet. The Shop is closed though I will stop in one day to pick up the mail and check for answering machine messages. I do this each year mostly because I live the closest being still in Baltimore City on Bayonne Avenue. I look forward to getting to the garage earlier each day and playing as much as we can. After our show last month, we are feeling very upbeat about our little trio. I felt things went well and we are getting better as a group and finally able to stretch out with songs both originals and covers.
We are back to work and busy with the usual variety of railings, angle flanges and lintels, pipe rings and a set of aluminum parts for C. R. Daniels. Vacation was fun. I played and I got some rest but as always, it wasn’t long enough. Everyone is dragging a little on this first day back but I can’t blame them. Time off from work is good but it can spoil you too.
It’s been a very hot end to August at the corner of Pratt and Central. Several days of torch work have come along with orders from Bengies and Belfort Instruments. One of Belfort’s jobs consists of bent aluminum square tubes. These are bent in the Pines Bender and a square mandrel needs to be made for it. The pieces are tricky with two-bends and a tight tolerance. There is a lot of sizing at the end with this one. The boys are glad to see all this aluminum leave the building and hope for some cool steel for the rest of the summer.
The work has stayed steady and the last few days have been angle focused with orders for Codd and Ackerman and Baynes being passed through the Six while we bang out a few channel tops for Anchor Fence. We have some more angles for the stadium for Codd and they will be the last of the ballpark work. Another big set of decorative aluminum angles for Ackerman and Baynes has been dropped off to roll next week.
The Washington Capitals begin their season tonight against the Philadelphia Flyers and win 5-2. Jack is there and I’m at my own sporting event. I attend the Orioles and Tigers game at Memorial Stadium. This is the last weekend of the season and the last chance to see the old ballpark. A rookie starter who was called up late in the season, Mike Mussina gets the nod. I watch the game but mostly my thoughts are on past games. MANY past games that my family and I were at since I was a small boy. I went to my first World Series game here when I was one. I saw so many games and great players over those years. It all comes back to me. I even wander around in the back of the stadium to take it all in once more. It’s a nostalgic night and a bittersweet one. Glenn Davis hits the last Oriole home run I ever saw at Memorial Stadium. The Birds will lose in 14 innings but I am long gone by then. Friday was a work day and the reminiscing tires me out.
The Baltimore Orioles lose 7-1 to the Detroit Tigers but most of Baltimore doesn’t care about the outcome. The Birds are at the bottom of the standings and this game is more about memories of the past and a new hope for the future. Many old Orioles attend including my hero, Brooks Robinson. When the last out is recorded, that’s that. The thirty-seven years at Memorial Stadium are done and my Birds will fly to a new nest next year, a fancy retro-ballpark that the Joseph Kavanagh Company played a part in making. I played a part in making.
The focus of the Shop today is 160 bent tubes for a coil for Kelco. They are a pain because though a 180 degree bend would do, the design of the boiler requires a small “kick” of about 1-2 degrees as a second bend. Joe Kelly of Kelco and I share a laugh at the ridiculous tolerance called out on the drawing. I note it as a reminder but we make it work. Another order for C. R. Daniels is also finished.
It’s the weekend before Halloween and that means time for a big party at the Belvedere. My friend Dave Muelberger’s parties are becoming legendary and Lethal Injection or the Lethal Boys as he calls us are the house band. Dave throws a party at least one Saturday a month but his birthday is Halloween and THOSE parties are epic. Tim, Ray and I kid Dave a lot about the irony of his birth on Halloween. The show goes well with a big crowd again. A lot of the Archbishop Curley crew are there including our friends John Muldowney and Frank Czawlytko. Dave is in his full glory as he welcomes his guests and introduces the band. We blast into the Who’s “Substitute” on Dave’s cue. Our friend Dave’s style of play is very improvisational but he meshes well with our approach and sound. We roll through a mix of Bowie, Lou Reed, RUSH and Pink Floyd covers along with throbbing drone-like rock jams that may or may not have had Dave shouting random things into the microphone. I do bring a birthday smile to Dave’s face when we play “In Dreams,” the Roy Orbison tune used in the movie “Blue Velvet.” It’s one of Dave’s favorites and he mutters a shocked “a candy colored clown” as I strum the first chord. This was a great party and I felt we played well. It was a loud, late and long event and I find myself back on Bayonne Avenue just after 2 a.m. with my ears still ringing.
The Minnesota Twins led by Kirby Puckett and pitcher Jack Morris beat the Atlanta Braves to win the World Series in seven games. I see very little of this World Series but for highlights on ESPN. We had the party last night, the practicing for it and today’s rehash of the whole evening. One highlight of the baseball season is Orioles’ shortstop Cal Ripken Jr. He batted .323 with 34 homers and won the MVP award. Cal’s a local boy and easily the Birds’ best player.
Two orders of bent square tubes for Belfort are finished. We are getting better at these but it still requires a careful set up and many adjustments of the tubes after bending. A good fixture is furnished with the tubes by Belfort but it’s aluminum. Aluminum varies a lot piece to piece. Stretch out and spring factors are tough to predict with the stuff. My father calls during lunch to let Ann, Jack and I know they are planning another trip to Florida in January. I mention to him I went to the last weekend at Memorial Stadium.
“I guess I wish I could have gone, J-Joe. We’re just happy here in Ocean City. I love it here but that was some old park.” I hear his hearty chuckle. “We played some good games. GOOD teams.”
“We did. So many games. It’s gonna be weird to see the Birds somewhere else.” I reply as I toss my balled up sandwich wrapper at the can, trashball style, missing brilliantly as Jack points and laughs at me.
My father’s voice breaks my amused glare at my brother. “Oh yeah, so so many. A lot of nights out there and some good baseball, kid. Real good baseball.” He pauses and my eyes move from Jack directly to the receiver. “All things change, Joe. No stopping it. This will probably be good for the club. You’ll see. Memorial was great but it was old. This is brand new but looks like an old style. I like what I’ve seen.”
Jack gives me a quick wave as he heads out to the Shop to get back to work. “Me too. It looks beautiful. I would love to go to the first game but I know that’s gonna be a tough ticket, Dad.”
“Oh I’m sure it will be. That’s going to sell out fast. You’ll have a devil of a time getting a ticket.” He clears his throat and continues. “Still, it looks like a great spot to watch a ballgame, Joe.”
“It sure does, Dad. I hope we see some good games there. You’ll have to come up for a game if I can pry you away from OC.” Ann begins waving at me that she needs to speak to him. “I gotta get going Dad and Ann needs to talk to you. You take it easy.”
“You too. I’ll get up for a game. We’ll figure it out.” I transfer his call to Ann’s phone then I return to a stack of quotes I need to tackle.
The workers are rolling some steel tubes for a museum display for Design and Production. The Shop gets a few jobs a year that has some small part in a museum. It isn’t a lot of work but I’ve noticed it increasing in the last three years. A few pipes for D-S Pipe and Supply are rolled and more of the channels for Anchor Fence as well.
The work has slowed a little as the cold weather arrives and everyone’s thoughts are on the holidays. Thoughts of turkey are on my mind and a Thanksgiving feast. For now, a dozen pipes for Anchor Fence are rolled in the R-5. These are another standard item for us often used as guards on bridges to keep people from climbing to the edge.
A resurgence of work has us rushing about to finish up before Christmas. We decide to close for the full week between the 25th and New Year’s. Christmas Eve, Day and Day after are days we like to be closed and they all appear during the week this year so closing the other two days is logical. It will take quite a bit of work to complete what needs to be done but Ann, Jack and I are organized. A fountain sprayer tube is rolled for Fountain Craft today and a small bar for Warren-Ehret. The week is complicated when the Housing Authority sends in a rush heat exchanger repair job but Jack in his style jumped right on it and got it done.
This last day of work of 1991 comes early this year. Our sales were down from 1990 but all the OPACY work made last year particularly good. There is no Christmas party as there was in years long past but it’s a different time and everyone involved is happy to have a head start on the holiday. The extra time off is welcomed but we will all be prepared to hit it hard on January 2nd. I will swing by once during the week off to get the mail and check on things. The last pickups of the year are for Whiting Metals and Industrial Fabricators.
Christmas is at Birch Drive and once again not all can attend. As people and generations grow and get older, life is complicated. The Kavanagh’s know complicated as they managed to fit nine kids and two parents in a rowhouse in Highlandtown but we don’t live on Lakewood Avenue anymore. The party is still festive and fun. There are the usual holiday favorites and a bevy of desserts on hand. My siblings and I see each other less and less but for Ann and Jack and me. We catch up as we can and jokes are cracked and laughs shared. The low rumble of the party shushes as Dad sits and plays. Conversations are slightly muted and slowly but surely a semi-circle of family and friends gathers around. Voices are joined and we celebrate as we have always done. We’re a crowd but I don’t think any of us would have it any other way. I take the chilly drive home to Bayonne with thoughts of the New Year in mind. My sister Jackie, her husband Richard and their daughter Lisa are moving and they are putting their house in Dundalk on the market. Ann put the thought in my head to consider buying it. The house is in a nice neighborhood and not too far from work. Rent money is really tossed away whereas a house is an investment. I pull up at the old apartment house where I have lived for four years. The place has seen better days. There’s no doubt about that, and flashbacks of no hot water or no water at all pass before my eyes. I lock the door behind me and plop into a chair placing my bags of goodies down. I rarely leave a family event without food of some sort but the haul this year is particularly good. I open the large tin of chocolate chip cookies I receive every year from Mary and take out a handful. The Orioles are moving from the ballpark of my youth, the center of my youth. It’s sunk in completely now and I am looking forward to the new park oddly enough. If it’s good enough for the Birds, then I can make the move, be a grown up and buy a home. As I have a beer, I think of the party. Seeing my sisters and their families and Jack, Nancy and their boys gives me pause. I’d like to think some day I’ll find a girl. So far, it hasn’t worked out. I found a few but none who were looking for me. Perhaps, some day I’ll have two sons like my father, grandfather, great-grandfather and brother. Maybe they will work with Jack’s two sons. That would be something. It would be a very Kavanagh way to do things. It definitely sounds like the Shop to me.
George H.W. Bush is the President of the United States. Queen Elizabeth II becomes the first British monarch to address the US Congress. The United States and the Soviet Union agree to the START treaty which limits strategic nuclear weapons. The USSR is dissolved by the end of the year which ends the Cold War. Sharon Pratt Kelly becomes the first African-American woman mayor of a major US city, Washington D.C. The Galileo becomes the first spacecraft to get close in proximity to an asteroid. “Magic” Johnson of the LA Lakers announces he has the AIDS virus and retires from basketball. Gene Roddenberry, Dr. Seuss, Miles Davis, Martha Graham and Redd Foxx die.
There are 50 states in the Union.
To read prior posts, click on the Table of Contents link below: