It is the start of a new year at the Joseph Kavanagh Company and a big change for me personally. I am buying a house on Charlesmont Road in Dundalk from my sister Jackie and her husband, Richard. Everything is agreed upon and we are settling at the end of next month. The Shop starts the year with a few things on the books including angles for Anderson Industrial Contracting, Ackerman and Baynes and Miscellaneous Metals. Today a 5” steel pipe we rolled for Potomac Iron is picked up and they drop off a large order of 3” angles to add to our schedule. There are enough pieces in the Potomac job to run two machines if necessary. This is a nice spot of work to start things off for us.
The Shop is open on a Saturday in January and that’s unusual. We are surprisingly busy enough to put in four hours on the weekend. We bend some aluminum pipes with 4- 90 degree bends for Turnbull Enterprises to make into squares and a few more angles for Miscellaneous Metals and the Warren-Ehret Company. Before we head home, we start on a nice order of channels from Anchor Fence. These channels are bent it two places to make an offset and are used for the tops of railings.
It is Super Bowl Sunday and the Washington Redskins beat the Buffalo Bills 37-24 to win the NFL Championship. I am not watching but in the garage at LaSalle Avenue practicing with Tim and Ray. We learned a lot after our first year as a trio and we continue to progress as a band.
January finishes as strong as it started and this week we’ve rolled another 5” pipe for Potomac Iron along with three small orders for J. C. Pardo, a set of angles for Codd Fabricators and we have a coil for Whiting Metals yet to do. A busy January is a good sign for the year.
It’s a cold Monday at the corner of Central and Pratt. We have several jobs for Anchor Fence and Miscellaneous Metals. The Miscellaneous jobs are a wide range of items but all for one project. The Shop also has its usual variety of small orders from Warren-Ehret, Thrifty Iron Works and a few of our other regular customers.
As fast as the work can pile up, the phones can also go quiet. We’ve worked our way out of some big orders but we still have a few small jobs. The big ones are nice bills but these little one keep us going. Today we complete jobs for Industrial Fab., Kelco, Anchor Fence, Ackerman and Baynes and two more for Miscellaneous who have been sending work in steady since the start of the year.
I have settled on the house and it is all mine. Next weekend after Jackie, Richard and their daughter Lisa have left, I am moving into the place. I can’t wait, and my friends will help. It’s a rowhome but behind it is Bear Creek. There is an alley and some parking but then the water. At high tide, it’s a great view but at low tide you can see the tires. I look forward to having more space and no longer being a renter. At the Shop, several orders for Ackerman and Baynes, a single pipe for Anchor and a few 3” angles for Codd Fabricators are rolled and hauled away today.
I move to 7859 Charlesmont Road on this Saturday. It’s a breezy clear day and a small cavalcade of cars follows me with all my possessions. Tim, Ray and my brother-in-law Handy help drive stuff from Bayonne to the new house. After unloading and spreading the boxes into specific rooms, I am officially home. A few minutes later, Harry Bosse, Jackie’s brother-in-law, pays us a visit and meets Lethal Injection bringing pizza and beer. He is a very popular guy due to the provisions and we soon become good friends.
My first couple of weeks at the new house have been fun. I began putting things away including turning one bedroom into a guitar room, but I soon abandon any more organization. Boxes become the norm and I don’t have any problem with that. I don’t get many visitors, though on the weekends, Ray and Tim sometimes come over after practice for a few beers. At the Shop, the crew are working on some bronze flat bars for Lenderking and a pipe job for Turnbull. We get these pipes for Turnbull several times a year. They are 1 1/2” Pipes which are coiled to a circle then trim cut. We make them in aluminum, steel and stainless steel depending on what Turnbull needs. Next up will be a ring for a bell from McShane Bell Foundry, a set of small aluminum angles for Turnbull and another set of forty channel top rails for Anchor Fence.
A steady rain falls and I join the crew for their two o’clock break. All of us sit quietly and stare out at the rain and the traffic on Central Avenue. So far, this year’s work has been up and down but never outright slow. Excitement is reaching a feverish pitch in the City as the baseball season nears. The new modern/retro Oriole Park at Camden Yards will open next month and tickets are tough to get. Jack has been able to buy three to the third game of the season but opening day or night tickets are long gone. Orioles’ fans are anxious to see the place and start another baseball season, but even non-fans wait patiently to see how this new stadium will look. My men rise from their chairs and head back to work waking me from my thoughts. I hand off a job card for Codd to Rob Mulllins and one for Industrial Fabricators to Jerry Purnell.
On this Saturday, I have an old C-Band satellite dish installed at my house. It previously belonged to my brother Jack but he can no longer use it due to Community Association rules so he gave it to me. Now I can watch many baseball games, hockey games and other sporting events. I can peak in on camera feeds which are left live for news shows and such. It takes some time to adjust to the variety of channels but I enjoy it. I pay for a few channels but most are free. Sports becomes my dominant viewing choice and watching Cub games from Wrigley Field after I get home from work becomes the norm.
We close the Shop a few minutes early to give everyone a chance to get home because it is Opening Day. With much pomp and circumstance, Oriole Park at Camden Yards is opened and the Birds welcome the Cleveland Indians. Many former Orioles greats are there and the place is packed. In fact, all of downtown is full of fans who couldn’t get tickets and they watch from bars and restaurants. I watch from Charlesmont Road and cheer as Rick Sutcliffe is masterful as he throws a shut out and the Orioles take this one 2-0.
I’m at Oriole Park with Jack and Paul for my first game at the new stadium. It’s a beautiful park and we have mezzanine seats with an amazing view. My first thoughts as I walk out into the seating bowl is it’s absolutely beautiful. I almost feel as if this is the first baseball game I have ever seen when, in fact, I’ve been to hundreds. Oriole Park has one foot in the future with many modern amenities and another in the past with the exposed brick and the park built to include the old Camden Warehouse. It’s Ebbets Field and Forbes Field but it’s also made with amazing sight lines and modern video and scoreboards. You can enjoy a hot dog and a beer or a crab cake with a glass of Chardonnay. I think of how we did some of this work. Most of it you can’t see. The angles we rolled were used as molds or forms for the steps and concourses throughout the park. I feel some pride most definitely and then I sit and enjoy the game. It’s time to make some memories here, Birds. I feel a little bad for Jack who spends an inordinate amount of time taking his boy to the bathroom but we have a good time together. Here we are two brothers at another Birds game and my brother’s son is with us. We also win this game 2-0 just as we did the opener. Jack and I discuss the Shop a bit, going over the work we have and what’s coming in so far. There’s a mix of small jobs for Ackerman and Baynes, Miscellaneous, Turnbull and a few of our other regulars, but we could use a big order. The Shop works best when we have a mix of one or two large and several dozen small jobs. That generates a backlog and keeps the money flowing into the place.
As was needed, we receive two good-sized orders at the Shop. Miscellaneous Metals and Potomac Iron bring in the weight and we knock it out as quick as we can. When we can focus on one or two jobs for a couple days, the small ones pile up and the schedule fills up.
The Washington Capitals are eliminated from the Stanley Cup playoffs again, this time by the Pittsburgh Penguins in seven games. It’s a tough series and this ouster by the Penguins only increases the bitter rivalry between the clubs. This is definitely true for my brother Jack who admits that this loss stings a little more. We stay busy at the corner of Pratt and Central with one 2” angle for Warren-Ehret and one 6” angle for Miscellaneous Metals rolled today.
Lethal Injection decides to cover the entire Pink Floyd the Wall Album. Ray, Tim and I are big Floyd fans and this album is a remarkable piece of work. We begin working on it immediately. Ray is making plans to move from his sister Theresa’s house on LaSalle so the band relocates its practice space to Tim’s basement at 1100 Krueger Avenue. We go song by song divying up the parts as best we can. At work, our regulars such as Kelco, Pardo and Ackerman and Baynes keep the boys busy and we do an oddball job for Miscellaneous Metals. Some half round rods are rolled. They require grooved rollers which we have, but also a flat roller in front. These are rare and a little unpredictable but they work out fine.
It’s Hump Day at 201 S. Central Avenue and both Kavanagh’s and crew are dragging a little. It happens in the middle of the week. Ann, Jack and I go over the schedule for the next week. When busy, we try to adhere to a rigid order of jobs. We want them done in the same order they come into the building when at all possible. A mixed bag of small jobs for Chesapeake Machine, Novatec, Warren-Ehret and Whiting Metals are sent out today with a bigger order from Whiting on the horizon. I receive a call from Miscellaneous Metals as well, promising more work coming up.
I sit at my desk reading the Baltimore Sun when the phone rings and it’s Joe Kelly from Kelco. He’s checking on an order for some 5” pipes. I tell him to come on down as we just took the last one out of the machine. When I hang up, I call Richard Baynes at Ackerman and Baynes to arrange pick up of some beams. Ann hands me several faxes, one from Chesapeake Machine for aluminum pipes to be bent, and another set of forty channel rail tops for Anchor Fence are coming in. Those channel rail tops are becoming a pretty regular thing for us and I love those kind of jobs. Recurring jobs are things you can count on and we need all of those we can get.
I turn 27 very quietly. I jam with Tim and Ray at Krueger Avenue for a couple of hours then head home to Charlesmont. I have a couple beers while watching the Birds take on the Indians in Cleveland. We out hit them thirteen to five but lose the game 3-2. It’s a puzzler but that’s baseball. As I prepare for bed, my thoughts are on the Shop. We have maintained a good backlog since mid-March. I go through the schedule in my head. We have some angles for our best customer, Codd Fabricators, some big structural channels for Miscellaneous Metals and angle rings for Lenderking.
Jack and my father pick me up from my home and we are heading to the Orioles game. Bob Yingling, our sales rep for C-S Metals and a long-time friend, has some tickets from C-S and he’s treating us. Dad and Mom drove up today and will spend the weekend in Baltimore. This is Dad’s first game at the new ballpark and he’s very excited, as is Bob. Bob thinks the world of my Dad and it’s a thrill for him to be there for Dad’s first Oriole Park experience. We meet Bob at the Camden Club which is a swanky restaurant in the Warehouse adjacent to the field. Dad is impressed when he walks in and we’re all glad we dressed up a bit. Bob shows us around as best he can then we take a table and place our order. Dad heads off to the men’s room while Bob, Jack and I talk about the Birds. When my father returns, Bob ducks away to make a phone call and Dad leans forward to speak to Jack and me.
“Hey boys. You gotta go to the bathroom and take a look.” Jack and I exchange bewildered glances. “I’m serious. You gotta go and look out the window in there. You can see batting practice and the field.”
Jack and I chuckle a little. “From the bathroom? Are you serious?” I ask grinning at my father.
“Yes, I mean it. It’s a great view. I mean I don’t know why they put it in the men’s room but it’s a great view of the field. Maybe they expect the lines to be long.” He shrugs then sits back in his seat.
Jack turns to face him. “Is there some reason you waited for Bob to leave the table before telling us this?”
Dad slyly grins at Jack then me. “Well, I didn’t want him to think we were weird or something.”
“He knows us, Dad.” I return the grin.
“It’s too late.” Jack adds and the three of us break into laughter. Fortunately, we recover before Bob returns. After our meal of crab cakes, we take our seats and my father is silent as he takes it all in. He looks out toward left field then slowly moves his view to the right as if memorizing the place. It truly is a beautiful place to see a game. He then begins telling Bob how we did so much work for the ballpark, the seating bowl in particular and how our angles were used as concrete forms for the place we are standing. The Shop had rolled these concrete form angles for theaters and smaller places in my father’s time but nothing like this. Dad becomes a bit animated as he regales Bob on the job and my eyes meet Jack’s. Dad is by no means taking credit as he gives us and Ann our due, deferring to us both once or twice for details. We can tell he’s proud of us so we listen and smile. Jack and I are in silent agreement. Dad can tell it better than we can anyway. For a few minutes, I feel like he’s back in that small office talking Shop again. We see a great game with the Orioles beating the Royals 6-5. We’re on the road before the ninth inning as these games run late for my father but by the time he and Jack are dropping me off, the game is done and we won.
A very busy and hot Thursday is spent on some tubes and channels for Kelco and a small set of angles for Lenderking. We are closed tomorrow with Independence Day being on a Saturday so there is extra motivation to get these finished before the long weekend.
As we approach our annual summer vacation next month, more work for Miscellaneous Metals is attended to in the R-3-S. These are flat bars rolled into U’s for ladder hoops. The ladder hoops are placed on fire escapes and ladders as a protective band to help keep the climber safe as they go from spoke to spoke. The bands are placed behind the climber to keep them from falling.
The last Friday before our vacation is here and everyone breathes a sigh of relief. The last rush of work is picked up and trucked away from the corner of Pratt and Central. The last bit are some more big channels for Miscellaneous. They have been a very surprising boost to our year and I make note of it in my head as I drive off for a week’s respite.
After a week of vacation and practice, we premier the Wall at a party at the Belvedere and our friend Dave Muelberger loves it, joining in on guitar where he can. It’s a party but a tame affair compared to Dave’s birthday parties around Halloween. He promises us this year’s party will be particularly big as the 31st falls on a Saturday.
Our second week back to work and we are swamped. Yesterday two orders for Gischel were completed, a flat bar was rolled and tack welded and a pipe curved into a ring. Today we finish a heat exchanger for the Housing Authority and begin a couple jobs for Miscellaneous Metals and a big bent bar order for Turnbull. The family receives some exciting news when my sister JoAnn in Florida lets everyone know she is pregnant. JoAnn and husband Carl Panetti will welcome a baby in January.
Miscellaneous Metals needs some more 2” angles rolled and to save time they have us furnish the material. We keep a few in stock and I make a mental note to call Seaboard Steel tomorrow and order some replacements. I’ll talk to Linda Dalfonzo who is my sales rep. She’s very nice and down-to-earth on the phone. Linda is one of the least “salesy” salespersons I’ve known and I like that about her. In addition, we have a Housing Authority heater to retube tomorrow.
It’s mid September and the Orioles aren’t out of it yet. The Toronto Blue Jays and the Birds have battled most of the season for first but my Orioles are running out of time. I fold the newspaper up at my desk then head out to the Shop. We have three sets of angle rings for Lenderking Metal Products to finish by noon and another order for Miscellaneous Metals. Their work seems to have no end in sight. This one is for bars rolled into tight half-circles. When we are done with those, we have four pipes for Warren-Ehret to curve.
It’s the Washington Capitals home opener and my brother is there. He is ready to start the next campaign, always positive that this will be a good one. Unfortunately, the Caps lose to the New York Rangers 4-2.
The Shop rolls on with several small orders for Anchor Fence and two large orders of stainless pipes for Whiting Metals. These must be filled and rolled so a lot of torch work is required. It’s a smokey hot few days but a good invoice to send out when completed.
Lethal Injection holds another Friends and Family Concert and this time we have some other bands on the bill. Our former lead singer Chris Voxakis has teamed with our buddy Dave to form CoIntel Pro and they play a set along with Tim’s cousin’s band, Suite 16. It’s a festival show and thankfully the weather is sunny and cool. For our bit, we play a few more originals then before and a longer chunk of the The Wall. Madge and Barry Heaps throw a good party and there is plenty to eat, drink and lots of music to hear.
For the first time in World Series history a team from outside the US wins when the Toronto Blue Jays defeat the Atlanta Braves in six games. My Orioles settled for third place with 89 wins. I watch the end of this game in Tim’s basement after a Saturday of practice. We are prepping for a very big party at the Belvedere next week.
Halloween and Dave’s Birthday are today and the Lethal Boys, as Dave calls us, are the house band at the Belvedere. We start off by playing our three man plus Dave version of the Wall. When we cover the Wall, it’s a very tight set. Our timing has to be very close. When we finish, the pressure is off and we can jam it out as we see fit. I do my best snake guitar impression on a hyped up version of Brian Eno’s “Baby’s on Fire” then we dedicate another of Eno’s songs “Blank Frank” to friend Frank Czawlytko. The room is a mass of people bobbing, dancing and more often staggering about us. Finally, we finish with the classic “Sweet Jane” with Dave singing lead vocals. One of Dave’s roommates is named Gabe and he and Dave are not getting along. Dave assumes he may be planning on running out on the rent. I am always the troublemaker and on the first pass of the chorus, I substitute Gabe for Jane during my backing vocals. Dave loves it and screams a cackle of laughter and the song now becomes “Sweet Gabe.” Tempers flair and Dave and Gabe are now arguing as Tim, Ray and I are packing up our equipment. Gabe breaks Dave’s pinball machine and Dave hurls Gabe’s coffee table through the front bay window onto the lawn. Glass flies everywhere and neighbors and party goers appear from every corner. Dave and Gabe don’t come to blows but are in a very loud shouting match now. Lethal Injection kicks its exit into high gear and we hasten out the door with the last of our gear as the first police arrive. The officer approaches me as we slide amps into Tim’s car. I tell him we don’t live here. We are just a band playing a party and our set was over when the glass broke. Chaos spreads around us as folks quickly volunteer to tell the officer what happened. Next thing I know, he’s having his partner back up his patrol car so we can pull away and drive off. I glance into the rear view mirror to see Dave calmly explaining to the officer what happened as Gabe speaks to another cop and a growing mob gathers around them. I hear Ray’s soft voice in the back seat as we pull away, “Now, THAT was a party.”
I vote in Dundalk for the first time and again I write myself in for President. I found little appeal in either candidate. I have strong doubts about the practicality of the two party system and I can never be blamed for voting for a bad president unless I win. Democrat Bill Clinton takes the Presidency of the United States over incumbent Republican George H.W. Bush, Independent Candidate Ross Perot and myself. Meanwhile at the Shop, an angle order for Codd is finished on Monday and another will be rolled tomorrow.
At work today, we get some sad news. My Uncle Ed’s wife, Lillian has died. Ed retired from the Shop about four years ago and he stops in occasionally to see us. Aunt Lillian passed suddenly and the family gathers in love and support. My parents drive up from Ocean City. Ed and his daughter Patsy are shocked but handle it well and the rest of the Kavanagh’s do their best to be there for them.
In addition to a nice load of work, the Shop suddenly has a huge heat exchanger to replace for the Housing Authority. This unit has over three hundred tubes to bend in it and the assembly will be a tough process as well. Each tube must be carefully placed into holes in a tube sheet or header and accuracy matters. The holes won’t be perfect so some will slip in and some will need to be lightly tapped in. If it’s for Big Mike at the Housing Authority, it’s a rush so we need to get this finished as fast as possible. Jack and I jump on this job ourselves to start it off. I anneal and he bends until we get the first few sets ready than I pass off the torch to one of the crew. For Jack and me, it’s like old times.
It’s a cold chilly day but the boys work through it bending some boiler parts, a steel pipe railing and thirty-one pipes for Anchor Fence. We’ve done a lot of the channel work for them this year but these pipes for bridges are one of our staples. Bridges have a barrier between the edge and pedestrians or drivers. It’s usually barbed wire stretched from a few bent pipes such as these. Anchor and Miscellaneous have really made the difference in our success this year.
Another big project in Frederick has brought us another very large order from Miscellaneous Metals who are becoming one of my favorite customers. They pick up over 100 rolled 5” angles and I hope things keep rolling for them.
December arrives and we have a heater for the Housing Authority, angles for Ackerman and Baynes and Potomac Iron and small channels for G-S to finish. We are also beginning work on some aluminum pipes for Turnbull and an order of galvanized pipes for COVCO.
The mad scramble at the end of the year finishes with orders for Miscellaneous, Kelco, Thrifty Iron and Gischel Machine. I make a few calls to customers and vendors including Seaboard Steel. I need a price but I also want to wish Linda a Merry Christmas. The receptionist who answers the phone is really sweet and it turns out she is Linda’s daughter Kim. For some reason, there’s something about Kim’s voice that sticks in my head. Finally, it’s four o’clock and the year which started great, then got a little erratic, has ended well and we are ready for some time away from this place.
Christmas Day is spent on Birch Drive at my sister Nancy’s house. My parents drive up for a couple days then they will spend some time in Florida next month waiting for the new baby. Much of the talk is about the new one on the way and this excitement is doubled when Jackie and her husband Richard announce they are expecting too. So grandchild number 10 will arrive in January and number 11 in July. This raises the level of excitement. A long distance call is made to JoAnn and the phone is passed around as we all congratulate her and Jackie as well. It’s the usual Kavanagh holiday with turkey and all the trimmings including parsnips as well as roasted beef and an endless array of sweets, cookies and desserts. When my father sits at the piano, the music begins. Some remain in their seats and chat quietly while others gather around my father and join their voices with his. That’s how it is for the Kavanagh’s at Christmas. When the party starts breaking down, I bid my farewells and drive across the beltway to Dundalk. I settle onto the couch with a beer. The house seems very large and empty after the holiday party. It’s quiet but for my movements. I pick up my guitar just as much to end the silence as to play. It’s been a strange year. I work a lot and I play a lot with my buddies in the band. There are a lot of parties and a great deal of fun but I’m also growing up more. I’m a homeowner now. I moved to fancier new digs like my Orioles did. I guess change is good or usually it is. I hope our new homes bode well for myself and the Birds. Things are going well but I feel certain my life is missing something.
George H.W. Bush finishes his term as President of the United States but loses re-election to Bill Clinton. President Bush signs the North American Free Trade Agreement. Mafia Boss John Gotti is sentenced to life in prison. The largest mall in America is built in Minnesota. Nicotine Patches are invented. The Cartoon Network premiers. The films “Bram Stoker’s Dracula,” “Glengary Glenn Ross,” and “A League of Their Own” are released. Marlene Dietrich, Alex Haley, Isaac Asimov, Sam Kinison, and Cleavon Little die.
There are 50 states in the Union.
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