A new year begins for the Joseph Kavanagh Company in what will be one of the coldest winters on record for Baltimore and the Eastern United States. Frigid temperatures, snow and a great deal of ice are to come in the next two months. My brother Jack, sister Ann, myself and our crew will be challenged to work through it. The Shop has some work to begin 1994 including eight 4” Sq. Steel Tubes for Whiting-Turner, several beams for Seaford Steel and jobs for Turnbull Enterprises and Thrifty Iron Works.
The Shop’s start is not particularly good but with the cold temperatures up and down the Eastern Seaboard, it has affected outside work and shipping. This in turn affects our volume of work. We bend some small tubes for Readybuilt and send out some Vanstone flanges to Seagrams. These are hold overs from the coppersmith days. We don’t manufacture them anymore but there are a few of these flanges in stock and we will sell them as needed until the last is gone.
A large ice storm hits the Baltimore area as hours of freezing rain cover several inches of snow. Travel in and out of the City is complicated and slow. We make it into the Shop after a slippery drive. We chop our way into the building and the workers set about rolling jobs for Acme Iron, Antenna Research, COVCO and Comeq. The pieces for Comeq are samples for a potential customer of theirs.
The Dallas Cowboys beat the Buffalo Bills 30-13 to win their second straight Super Bowl. It’s the fourth straight Super Bowl loss for Buffalo. I am not watching but jamming with Lethal Injection and the game is of little interest to me.
The cold winter continues with another mix of precipitation covering the region, most of it sleet this time and traffic again is an issue. Trucks are slow on deliveries and the every day loading and unloading is more of a chore. Orders for Anchor Fence, Codd and a few others are handled as best we can. A copper heater is made for Johns Hopkins Hospital which means some torch work but it doesn’t bring much warmth against the frigid temperatures.
Lethal Injection spends a Sunday jamming and practicing. We play bits of the Wall and some of our originals. We have a fair catalog of songs to choose from and we are in an undecided mode as to what comes next for the band. This affects our choices of what to play and we seem to invariably radiate back to a few of our standards. After practice, I take Kim to the movies and dinner. Kim and I are dating pretty regularly and seeing each other a few times a week. She’s very special and I begin to feel we are more than a couple. We are connected and she is quickly central to my life.
We are staggering through the winter. We spend two or three days very slow then receive a glut of work to knock out. This week we have some stainless steel channels for Hoppmann Corporation and flat bars for L & S Welding and Seaford Steel to curve. Some pipes are bent in the Pines Bender for Whiting Metals while a heat exchanger is made for the Housing Authority.
Winter is nearly officially over and I look forward to Spring. Usually the warm weather brings work and that is the hope. We complete several orders for G-S Company and some large structural pieces are rolled in the R-6-S for B & B Welding. We also ship some parts to a customer in Wisconsin. We rarely send anything that far away but on occasion, some oddball item comes from a great distance to Central Avenue and we are happy to have it.
As expected the arrival of Spring has upped our level of jobs. Today some tubes for Ken-Lee Precision and Toper Manufacturing are attended to while flat bars for R & R Fabricators, some pipe rails for Miscellaneous Metals and a set of heavy flat bars for Anderson Contracting are all rolled and finished. We have some galvanized pipes to bend for E. A. Kaestner on Route 40 tomorrow, not an overwhelming uptick but a move in the right direction work wise.
A breezy and warm day on Central Avenue is spent finishing some pipes for Mike Cooney at RMC Welding, bending some tubes for Turnbull and Vickers. The Vickers pieces are thin walled and definitely a challenge. The bending is easy but getting them to bend without wrinkles is the tough part. We also have some big tubes to roll for Baltimore Steel Erectors and an angle ring for DOVCO. The work has come back after the frigid winter but not quite at the pace I anticipated. We’re busy but a longer backlog would be better and more reassuring.
It’s Opening Day for baseball in Baltimore as the Orioles welcome the Kansas City Royals. I watch the first inning from the Shop’s upstairs office, then the workers and Ann, Jack and I head to our cars to drive home. I flip on the radio and follow as I drive. I pull in front of my home at Charlesmont Road and rush into the house flipping on the TV. I plop onto the couch and am immediately in the middle of the game. I have always been a faithful Birds’ fan and this is always a big day in Baltimore no matter the fortunes of the team, but things are getting more exciting in this City. Cal Ripken Jr. is getting closer and closer to a once unfathomable record of consecutive games played. Lou Gehrig’s 2130 game streak is only a season and a half away. It could happen. A record I considered preposterous to consider passing may indeed be broken. To play in over 2000 games seems ludicrous. It’s not something you set out to do. You do it after a lot of hard work and just plain showing up to work every day. It’s rather like having a business last over one hundred years. It takes consistency and drive and most of all hard work and commitment. The Birds win this one and though the broader world of baseball and the City are focused on Cal and the Streak, as it’s called now, I am hoping for a successful season and a return to the playoffs for my home town team.
It’s a Saturday afternoon and I am at Krueger Avenue practicing with the Lethal Boys. We don’t play much as we are talking about Kurt Cobain who took his own life the day before. Cobain and the band Nirvana helped usher in a new sound to rock and roll. The grunge era would not have taken off and spread as it did without this band. His death is shocking and difficult to understand. It’s indicative of how you really never know what someone is going through. I saw it when our friend John Muldowney did the same thing last year. We all have our challenges and we all struggle to grasp and understand each other’s.
The Shop remains steady and though we could use more work, I’ll take it over the slow winter we had. Today some structural tubes are rolled for Wilton Corporation and Ryerson. The breezy spring day is heated up as the crew has some annealing to do. Aluminum angles for Acme iron and aluminum square tubes for Belfort Instruments both require some torch work. The Belfort job is a recurring set of tubes bent in the Pines bender for some meteorological balloons. We’ve done this job for a few years and it’s a tricky one with a very close tolerance.
Kim calls me on a Saturday morning. She rents a room from a friend and her apartment was burglarized and a few things stolen. She’s upset as she should be and more angry than anything else. I drive over and try to help or at least be there for her. Her parents are none too happy either. Kim’s a tough strong girl and as I watch her deal with the police and console her parents’ concerns, I come to a decision. When we have a few minutes alone, I suggest she move in with me. I feel it might be safer for her but more to the point. I suddenly know it’s the right time. Her parents are a bit skeptical but they accept it and she moves in the next day.
The news is full of word that former President Nixon has died and this quickly becomes the topic of discussion at the Shop. His legacy and the infamous ending of his term is rehashed as Ann, Jack and I have lunch. The boys in the Shop are talking about it too. We have a few pickups scheduled today for Thrifty Iron, Belfort, Erection Masters and Yoder Steel. They come in one right after another. Trucks can be a pain but it’s part of the job.A set of angle rings is rolled for Enviro Industries, a new customer but this is primarily what we call a truck day at the Joseph Kavanagh Company.
It’s a fine day for the Kavanagh’s as last night the Washington Capitals beat the Pittsburgh Penguins eliminating them from the Stanley Cup playoffs in the first round. The Caps won four of six games and anytime our team beats our arch-rivals, it’s a good thing. Jack, Ann and I discuss the series as we get through the day at the Shop. It’s been a good week with jobs being cranked out. Several pipe orders are completed for Miscellaneous Metals along with ten large structural tubes. We also finish jobs for the George Eckart Company, A.K. Robins and a heat exchanger for the Housing Authority is picked up and billed today. A very satisfying day on several fronts for us.
An emergency rush job for Codd Fabricators is rolled today. They deliver four 3” heavy wall steel pipes first thing in the morning and they are picked up before 2 p.m. Codd is our oldest customer and one of our best so they always get preferential treatment. We rolled some rectangular tubes for them a few days ago and it seems they have something for us to work on nearly every week. Our spirits are a little low as two days ago, the Caps were bumped from the playoffs. The New York Rangers beat the Caps after our thrilling defeat of the Penguins. That’s sports for you and especially how it goes for our Capitals. We have another heat exchanger to bend and assemble coming up. This one is for the Naval Academy. In addition, a couple more orders are finished for Miscellaneous Metals who are also one of our most reliable customers.
On this Saturday, I take a long expected trip with Kim and my brother Jack and his family. We are going to visit Yankee Stadium. The Birds are playing the New York Yankees in the Bronx today and we have long wanted to drive up and see a game. This is finally our opportunity to visit “enemy territory.” The ride is a long one using the Jersey Turnpike but I am fortunate, Jack drives. I offer to split the ride with him but Jack wants to do it himself. Nancy, Kim, Paul, Patrick and I chat and take in the long ride. When we get there, it’s quite the site, this venerable old park where so many baseball greats have played. I am somewhat awestruck knowing that even my father’s childhood hero and Baltimore’s own Babe Ruth played here. We don’t know what to expect from the fans but are pleasantly surprised. Those around us are very welcoming. Impressed that we drove all the way up for a game, the fans are gracious and happy to talk with us. Two fellows even buy me a beer as we talk Babe Ruth, our two teams and share our hopes that either team can best the two time defending World Series Champion Toronto Blue Jays. The Yanks win the game but I really enjoyed the day. We take the long road home and everyone is rather exhausted when we get back to Baltimore. It’s a trip and a game I won’t ever forget and I can’t wait to tell my Dad all about it. As we pull in front of my house, my thoughts go to the Shop. I run through the schedule in my head knowing we have small flat bars for Pardo, a set of heater tubes for Stambaugh and orders for A.K. Robins and Turnbull to deal with next week.
The Kavanagh’s gather at my brother’s house on Kensington Parkway to celebrate my father’s 70th birthday. I bring a guest, Kim. It’s her first opportunity to meet my entire family and she handles it well. The Kavanagh’s can be an overwhelming group especially at the first meeting. It’s great to see my parents and I am very excited for them to meet my girl. The sisters are equally anxious to get to know her and it’s a great party. Dad sits at the keyboard at Jack’s house and we gather around. For a couple hours, it feels like Lakewood Avenue. Music, good food and family is the focus of the party as my father would want it. He’s enjoying his retirement but wants to hear all about what’s going on at the Shop as well as our trip to Yankee Stadium. He smiles as Jack and I tell him about it, interjecting questions as we go along. Talking baseball with my Dad transports me back to my youth and all those many days spent at 33rd Street watching our Birds play.
With the arrival of the summer heat, the volume of work finally jumps appreciably. We avoid working Saturdays to keep the backlog solid but the Shop is definitely busy. Today we complete orders for two of our regular fabrication customers, J.C. Pardo and Bengies Welding and a sign job for Belsinger Sign Works. They send material in a few times a year and we roll parts they assemble into signs for local commercial and government agencies.
The month is ending and June has been a good one. The Shop on Central Avenue has seen a fair few jobs come in and out. Our regulars have helped to bolster our year as they often do. Work for Miscellaneous Metals, Pardo, Anchor Fence and Codd are completed in addition to some structural tubes for the Wilton Corporation and a set of bent pipes for Belfort Instruments..
I celebrate Independence Day with Kim and her family on Woodall Street. I enjoy having a Monday off and Linda and Anthony throw a good party. There’s always plenty of food and fun. Neighbors and several of Kim’s cousins stop by in the evening as their backyard gives a great view of the fireworks at the Inner Harbor.
I’m back on Central Avenue after the holiday and we have a reroll job for DOVCO. Occasionally, we have to fix pieces that have been radiused improperly. Sometimes it’s our fault and sometimes the customer erred in their drawings or the dimensions have changed once the parts are in the field. In this case, it’s the latter but we still treat these jobs as a rush. No doubt, the customer’s schedule is compromised by a mistake no matter who made it and it’s best to get these dealt with quickly. We have a slate of orders to crank out this week including channels and flat bars for Miscellaneous Metals, bent bars for Turnbull, bent tubes for DCA FOOD Industries, angles for Codd, and one pipe for Superior Iron Works.
We are down to two weeks before our annual summer vacation and our schedule has tightened. A wide range of items must be finished before we can enjoy our time off. Pipes for ABC Welding, Fabricating & Welding, B & B Welding and Atlantic Welders are grouped together. This saves on some setup time. We have a rush fancy brass molded cap for Hercules Iron and a few stainless steel pieces for Sackett as well as a heat exchanger for B.G & E. It’s like this every year and we’ve grown accustomed to working harder and faster at the end of July and the very beginning of August to be able to take a week off.
My vacation is here. This week the final jobs are picked up. Thrifty Iron, Oceaneering Technologies, Codd and the Naval Academy all have their trucks in the Shop to get those last items. Ann, Jack and I are happy for the break as are our crew. Jack and I swing the large green metal doors closed and padlock them. I’ll stop by one day next week to get the mail but otherwise, I do my best to put thoughts of work out of my mind. I look forward to some rest and some extra time with Kim.
It’s the end of my vacation week and the unthinkable happens. Major League Baseball Players go on strike and the season is halted. I can’t believe it. There have been threats of a work stoppage all season but I felt sure they would finally come to an agreement. Owners want a salary cap to gain some control of spiraling payroll and balance the competitiveness between big and small market teams. The players do not want a cap as they think much of the leagues financial issues are self-inflicted by the owners and more to the point, most teams are making profits. I call my father tonight and he is dumbfounded by it as am I. For hardcore baseball lovers like us, it stings. I make the assumption that this stoppage will be short-lived and he agrees. We are certain players will be back on the field quickly.
As usual, we are busy after our vacation. We always have to pay the price for taking that week. Two orders for Pardo including a large set of bent 1” Pipes are completed. We have an order from Yankee Engineering for some rolled angles & beams. Coming up as we finish August, there are tubes for DCA Food Industries to be bent in the Pines Bender and tubes for New England Tool & Die which will be filled with rosin before rolling. That turns up the heat in the old building. We also have a job for Center Stage coming up. It’s only a couple rolled square aluminum tubes but I love stuff for theaters just as much as I love our movie and TV work. Those are the cool things that make my job a little more interesting.
There is no joy in Mudville nor on Central Avenue as today the baseball season is canceled. I can not believe the strike has gone on this long and ending the season is unimaginable to me. I love baseball as my father and his father and his father did. It’s not just a family tradition. It’s really that I truly love the game. Since I was a boy, few things compare to the crack of the bat, the green of the field and the smell of a leather glove. For myself and other Orioles’ fans, we wonder what will happen to Cal’s Streak? Will baseball resume next season? This year teaches all fans a lesson. It’s a business. I talk to my brother and sister about it over lunch and they feel the same as I do. It’s hard to wrap my head around it and after eating we get back to work. The crew finishes some work for the G-S Company and quite a bit for R & R Fabricators. Multiple orders have flown in from this company and they are moving up onto that list of my favorites. We have a backlog of jobs on the docket including orders for Anchor Fence, McShane, Belfort Instruments and DCA Food Industries.
As we get farther into the Fall, the work has slowed but not inordinately. Today we ship some bent pipes to Whiting Metals, roll channels for L & S Welding, one flat bar for Stambaugh and four small angle for Sackett. These one piece and small jobs are not as profitable as the big orders but they keep us busy and keep the money coming in. For us, a mix of small and big jobs is always ideal.
It’s odd to be in October and not thinking of the World Series. It’s still so strange for there to be no baseball and no championship this year. Generally, the series would be the center of talk at the Shop but not this year. The crew are working on a standard ring order for Turnbull Enterprises, some ornamental brass flat bars for Criss Brothers and a few copper heater tubes for Codd Fab.
Lethal Injection visits Studio 14 where our friends Dave Muelberger and Chris Voxakis rent practice space. Dave and Chris are a two man band called Co-Intelpro. Dave is throwing his usual Halloween/ Birthday party there next week. We don’t bring our gear but come to check out the place and plan in an effort to head off any power or space issues. The room is big and the power is more than sufficient so things should be fine.
At the corner of Pratt and Central, the crew work on our usual mix of pipe bending and metal rolling. I am distracted with thoughts of our show this weekend and thoughts of Kim. I know she’s the girl for me and I think it’s time to make it permanent. I am certain of it in fact. Some stainless steel angle for Sackett and a recurring aluminum angle order for Antenna Research are processed today.
Lethal Injection joins Co-Intelpro for a party at Studio 14. Kim is there and she sits with Chris’ girlfriend and the party is packed and loud. I can’t deny it’s a cool feeling to have my girl watch us rock and roll. We play our usual set of originals, some of the Wall and assorted other RUSH, Who and other bands’ covers. We finish up joined by Dave and Chris for a rocking version of “Strawman” by Lou Reed. Unbeknownst to us, that is the last song and this is the last public performance for Lethal Injection.
I have my first real experience of Halloween on Charlesmont Road. I have always ignored the holiday and usually am not home but Kim loves Halloween and we decorate and hand out candy to a crowd of children. It turns out this neighborhood is a haven for trick or treaters. It’s fun but definitely different for me but Kim is completely in her element with all the kids.
Back at the Shop, I tell Ann and Jack all about the busy Halloween at my house last night. The volume of work is back up again as we crank out some angles for Lenderking, two sets of rolled and bent stainless steel pipes for Whiting Metals, and orders for Codd and L & S Welding.
We are heading toward my favorite holiday, Thanksgiving. I am a big turkey fan you might say. The Shop’s crew completes a set of tubes for R & R and we ship some stainless steel channels for Hoppmann Corporation. Shipping items by common carrier adds a step to a job. A common carrier is usually a closed in truck and that requires the items be stacked and secured to a pallet. It is much simpler to chain bundles together and place them on the customer’s truck but we do whatever it takes to get the jobs out of the door.
Kim and I drive to her parents on Woodall Street for Thanksgiving. This year there are parsnips as Kim’s imom, Linda, makes a point of getting them for me. I feel part of the family now. Between Kim and her Mom they sort out how to cook them & they are quite good. Besides parsnips, there are all the other basics of the holiday, turkey, potatoes, stuffing, gravy and such. The DalFonzo’s always lay out quite the spread. This day assures me I have made the right decision. I’ve decided to propose to Kim and decide to go ring shopping next week.
After work as Kim sits down and is playing with Lilly Belle, a sweet puppy I got her for her birthday this year, I get down on bended knee and look up at her.
“Are you ready to remember this day for the rest of your life?” Her eyes widen as I pull a ring box from my pocket. She says yes and I hold my girl close as we smile and cry for we are getting married. Afterward, calls are made to both our parents and the word spreads quickly. There will be a wedding next year.
The end of 1994 is in sight and Kavanagh’s and crew can not wait. We finish a nice order of fifty bent pipes for Richard Kudlich at Food Instruments. These are parts for a candy-making machine and the company is located on the Eastern Shore. Also jobs for Anchor Fence, Fabritek, Miscellaneous Metals and Greencastle Metals are picked up from Central Avenue as the race to Christmas is on.
My family throws a Christmas/Engagement Party at the Old Philadelphia Inn. This is a simpler way for all of us to celebrate together than Mom and Dad driving up on Christmas Day. Kim’s parents are there and they meet my parents and the rest of the family for the first time. I run down the list of those in the room, introducing them all as Linda and Anthony’s heads are spinning. I do it quickly, barely taking a breath and I feel this is a great test. If Kim and I are still engaged after this bizarre introduction, we will probably be good. Added to the festivities is Kim telling my brother-in-law Handy how much she likes a flag hanging from the wall with a snowman on it. Ever the trickster, Handy climbs up on a chair and cuts the flag down with his trusty pen knife and gifts it to Kim. OPI doesn’t seem to notice that we leave with one of their decorations but no doubt there is some relief when my large and loud family are gone.
The final work week of the year is the peak of the usual rush to get jobs out and picked up. We always must remember. It’s not just about finishing the job but giving the customer time to send a truck and get it out of here. Woe be the customer who is given a day or more and doesn’t pick up. It’s the yearly stress of working at the Joseph Kavanagh Company. We take the week between Christmas and New Year’s off but still want our customers to get what they need. We have some angles for Codd Fab. to finish and they are five minutes away so that’s not a problem. Also, an angle we finished for L & S Welding is picked up. In fact, in a rush I write up a delivery ticket for them after Jack has done the same. Again, it’s that anxiousness about getting everything finished and to the customer that brings an urgency to us. The final job finished is a set of flat bars or flights as they are called for J. C. Pardo. They are used in large food processing machines. At long last, we are done and the crew heads home followed by the Kavanagh’s. Christmas will soon be here.
I celebrate Christmas at Casa DalFonzo on Woodall Street. It’s a mix of gifts, good food and a lot of making wedding lists on yellow pads. Apparently, the yellow pads are a big part of planning a wedding. It’s been an interesting year personally and the Shop’s year was okay. Our billing and the volume of work were both down but that happens. We had been on a pretty good run since we took over from my father. I’m confident it’s only a blip in the road and we’ll bounce back strong next year. For me, I’m happy and in love. Finding Kim has changed my life and next year we shall embark on the grand adventure of marriage. I can’t wait but at this point I have no idea the level of planning and preparing that is needed. I’ll learn fast and trust it will all work out. No matter how it shakes out, I’ll be with Kim from now on and that’s more than good enough for me. I have finally found love at long last. Real love. True love. I must be an adult now because I’m getting married. To paraphrase my father speaking of my mother, Kim’s my girl and I want everybody to know it.
Bill Clinton is the President of the United States. The National Archives at College Park opens. The nation watches on live television as NFL great O.J. Simpson is pursued on the LA Expressway and then charged with the murder of his wife. The films “The Lion King,” “Forrest Gump” and “Pulp Fiction” are released. Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, Henry Mancini, Burt Lancaster, Dinah Shore and Cab Calloway die.
There are 50 states in the Union.
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