The Joseph Kavanagh Company begins yet another year at the corner of Pratt and Central. We moved here in 1911 and so far it has worked out pretty well. It’s 1999 now and I recall Kubrick’s film. A few years ago, 1999 seemed so far in the future but here we are. The Kavanagh’s and their crew return from our holiday vacation to a few jobs on the books including some work for Anchor Fence and Codd Fabricators. They are two of our most reliable customers and the boys get to it while I start taking calls and the year starts in earnest.
The first week after the holidays always seems to drag but now it’s our 2nd Monday of the year and things are more or less back to normal. It’s cold and there is work to be done regardless of the temperature. We’re not particularly busy but that’s normal for January. The workers finish a couple items today including a job for Custom Metals which is part of a USPS vestibule. I don’t often know where the finished product goes so any time I am informed or see it on a drawing, I take note.
The Denver Broncos beat the Atlanta Falcons 34 – 19 in the Super Bowl. I watch the game while playing with my boy. Joe is still not walking or talking. He babbles a bit but Kim and I are unconcerned. Babies are all different and we’ve been told, it’s not so unusual for a first child to learn to walk and talk at a slower rate. Plus, he’s just a few months past one year old. I’m also thinking about the Shop. Another big order for Playworld Systems was picked up Friday. I have a good feeling about them; their work certainly helped last year and I hope it keeps up.
It’s unseasonably warm at the Shop on this Tuesday. February is usually Baltimore’s coldest month but so far the highs have been in the upper 40 degrees. As someone who hates the cold, I’ll take it. We’ve been steady if not busy to start the year and I’ll take that too. A few jobs are completed today and I fill out delivery tickets for R and R Fabricators, Dundalk Ornamental Iron Works and John Gutierrez Studios.
Another week starts on the corner of Central and Pratt with the usual assortment of rolling and bending and one holdover of ours from the distilling days. For almost 100 years, the Joseph Kavanagh Company’s main focus was the whiskey and beer industries. This ended years ago but occasionally, we get calls for some old parts such as Vanstone flanges. These are flanges for distilling systems and we made many of them in the past. My father always told me to never throw those away and sure enough, every few years we get a call for them from Seagrams. One day we shall run out but for now, they are pulled from a shelf in the upstairs machine shop and shipped out. We charge a flat rate for them and we’ll sell them as long as we’ve got them.
I sit at my desk as the afternoon slowly marches on. It’s Friday and I’m looking forward to a weekend with Kim and my Joe. The weeks seem to pass slower the older I get and Friday is often a celebrated day. I make a few calls to arrange pickups next week including one for Equipment Development Corporation or EDCO. Their order is a recurring job consisting of small steel rings from solid rods and pipes. It’s a good job for us as we’ve done this one dozens of times.
Today is St. Patrick’s Day and the warm weather continues. The temperature reaches 73 degrees today and winter is still not officially over. It sure feels over and with spring this close, my thoughts are on baseball and the Orioles. Last year was a struggle with inconsistency for the Birds and I’m hoping for a better season. At the Shop, we finish some more playground parts for Playworld Systems and orders for Codd Fabricators and Anchor Fence.
It’s Opening Day in Baltimore and the Orioles welcome the Tampa Bay Devil Rays to town. This is always an exciting day in the City and certainly at the Shop. Dreams and predictions for the year are made by both Kavanagh’s and crew. The work is still steady with orders for Baltimore Steel Erectors and Anchor Fence being started today. We’re not swamped by any means so we knock off a little early and I race home to watch the game with my boy. The Birds win 10-7. That’s an excellent start to the season.
The week begins on Central Avenue with much discussion of our sports teams. Yesterday the Washington Capitals lost 3-0 to the Buffalo Sabres to finish the season and miss the playoffs. The Caps lost the final six games to end the campaign. It stings to miss the playoffs after making it all the way to the Stanley Cup Finals last year and to add insult to injury, the Orioles are off to a rough start. After winning the opener, the Birds have lost 8 of 10. It’s early but in any sport, you don’t want to fall too far back in the standings. Besides talking sports, we are working on some orders for our local fabrication customers and another set of tubes for Playworld Systems.
Today is Saturday and it has become my favorite day of the week. It’s the one day when Kim sleeps in and I get up with Little Joe in the morning. I get him changed and fix something to eat, then we watch cartoons and play. In fact, I found some great old cartoons to watch. TV Land has begun airing something called Super Retrovision Saturdaze. All morning they broadcast old cartoons and live action kids shows from my youth. I get to share Sigmund the Sea Monster and both the Planet of the Apes and the Star Trek cartoons with my boy. Joe seems to enjoy it as much as I do. We sit on the floor and play with cars and blocks while keeping an eye on the television. Joe still prefers I stack the blocks and move the cars. He does a little of that but mostly he watches me then he sometimes will knock the blocks over. He immediately looks at me as if to say, build it back up. I do just that and pile them up again as he watches. It’s okay. He’s still only a year and a half old. He’ll get more involved soon enough, I am sure.
It’s a rainy Tuesday at the Shop but a busy one. The volume of work has shot up and we have a good bit on the books. One job today for G-S Company will end up in the Smyrna Prison in Delaware. We don’t always know the end user but this one is interesting. We did heat exchangers and a few things for Baltimore City Jail in years past but never for an out-of-state prison. I often say this about my job, it’s always something different from one to the next.
I’m putting Joe to bed on a Friday night. The Orioles beat the Texas Rangers 3-2 with catcher Charles Johnson driving in all 3 runs with a homer and a double. It was a surprisingly quick game at 2 hours and 17 minutes so my baby boy was able to stay up until the end. Once he’s asleep, I think of my day at the Shop. We finished work for Metropolitan Steel and some Red Brass and Stainless Steel Pipes for Hess Industries. The pipes are for a sculpture and they turned out pretty good. Brass can be unforgiving when you roll it. Scratches and digs are bad things to deal with but these had none. Kim and I chat before bed and I joke about what I’d be doing on a Friday before I met her. I would have been practicing with my band. Tim, Ray and I practiced nearly every day back then and any party gigs were on Saturdays. I don’t miss the craziness of those days but I do miss playing with my friends. We still get together occasionally and I tell myself one day, we’ll get back to playing. Probably when Joe is older or sometime down the road. I practice a little guitar but time to play at the house is minimal. Joe has my attention, as he should and I am happy with that.
We finish a very hot week at the Joseph Kavanagh Company. The heat of summer makes working at Central Avenue tougher but it’s not often an issue in June. The dog days of July and August came early with temperatures near 100 this week. The crew load a couple trucks in the afternoon then mercifully we all head home. I look forward to another of my Super Retrovision Saturdaze with my boy.
Business has picked up as it does in the summer and we find ourselves with a nice two week backlog of work. This is ideal for us. We feel most comfortable with that kind of cushion in our schedule. The crew work on a pipe order for L.J. Brossoit and Sons, a heat exchanger for Egan Boiler and a few other jobs. The topic of discussion is the year 1999. Both Kavanagh’s and workers have begun reading and hearing about concerns over the year turning from 1999 to 2000. People are speculating about chaos caused by computers which can’t digitally change to the new millennium. It sounds like nonsense but people are already concerned. It’s all over the media. I hear or see something on the news about it every day.
This Independence Day is a Sunday and we spend it on Woodall Street with my in-laws, Anthony and Linda. My father-in-law cooks on the grill and we have burgers, hot dogs and the assorted salads to go with it all. Joe loves spending time with his grandparents and the feeling is mutual. He scoots around in his walker through the house. We’re still working on getting him to walk and talk. Some of Kim’s cousins stop by in the evening as the backyard on Woodall Street offers a great view of the downtown fireworks. It’s a fun day and the Shop is closed tomorrow so I look forward to the extra day off.
I return to work along with my brother and sister and our workers. First thing in the morning, we swap stories about our holiday. Of course, my tale is mostly about Joe but I’m still a fairly new Dad. Joe is always my star. This is the time of year we prepare for our week of vacation in August. The month of July is often hectic in order for us to get our break next month. Today we send out two small orders for C.R. Daniels and complete several other jobs for Amereihn Company and Anderson Industrial Contracting.
We are almost halfway to our vacation and we’re doing well but still have work to do. Today a large order for Playworld Systems is picked up. This one takes some time to load the truck. The truck had some straight material on it already and that complicates things. We have to move their straight pieces and make room on the bed for our curves. It all adds up to more time but eventually, they are gone and on the road.
It’s a rainy Friday and we are grateful for it. It’s been a sweltering month so anything that cools things down even a little is appreciated. We have one more week to go until we get some time off. This week I was able to scratch a lot of jobs off the list so we know we’ll make it.
It’s hump day and everyone is in a fine mood. Two more days until we can forget about this place for a week. This goes for the crew but not so much the Kavanagh’s. Nonetheless, we look forward to it. We finish another order for Playworld Systems and a few others including a job for Alliance Steel which is for an Evangelical Church. Churches or houses of worship of any kind get a discount. Honestly, you never know so why not hedge my bets.
My vacation begins with a Saturday spent with my boy. We watch those old kids’ shows I watched when I was a kid. We play while we watch. Of course, I do more piling up of blocks than he does. He’s much more interested in them falling down. He knocks some down himself but mostly now, he wants me to keep placing one on top of the other until they fall. He seems very interested in this development. Either way, he has fun and so do I. The rest of the week is spent with Kim and Joe. A little work around the house is done but mostly, I try to relax before I have to get back to the Shop.
After an enjoyable week at home, I return with everyone else to the corner of Pratt and Central. Grudgingly, we get back to work. Taking this week off is a nice tradition. It started in the 30s when my grandfather, Eddie took his family to Ocean City for the first time. His father was rather dubious of this idea but when Eddie took charge of the Shop, it became a regular thing for the family and our crew. Eddie was always a strong union man and despite a prickly nature he did care a great deal about his workers and laborers in general. He was one of the founders of the Coppersmith Union in Baltimore. When Eddie retired, my father kept this August week vacation going and so have Ann, Jack and I. From a pragmatic standpoint, it’s often one of the hottest weeks of the year so we get to miss that. Anyway, we get back to it and start off with jobs for Warren-Ehret and Structural Steel.
It’s a hot and sticky Friday at the Shop. I’m writing up some job cards first thing in the morning and talking to Ann and Jack. We’re talking about the Orioles. We lost last night to the Kansas City Royals and the Birds are 57- 70. The Birds are in fourth place and more than 10 games behind the Blue Jays for 3rd place in the AL East. It looks like it would take a minor miracle to turn this season around. After hashing and rehashing the team, I hand out a few cards for Metropolitan Steel, Turnbull Enterprises and Kelco to the boys.
September brings slightly cooler temperatures and less humidity to Baltimore and we appreciate it at the Shop. Today is a Friday and I’m looking forward to the weekend. I’m sure everyone else feels the same but for me, it’s time with my boy. I can’t get enough of that. We finish a job for DOVCO and one for C & S Ornamental Iron then we each head home.
The Baltimore Ravens open their fourth season in St. Louis against the Rams. Baltimore has really taken to the Ravens. No NFL for over a decade must have made people hungry for football because the purple and black has caught on fast. The team gets thumped pretty bad. They lose 27-10 but the enthusiasm for the Ravens is only getting stronger. Meanwhile, the Orioles have won six in a row and I’m trying to stay hopeful but we are running out of season.
The Birds have stretched their winning streak to thirteen and maybe a miracle is in order. I’m at my desk talking about the team when I get a phone call from a student at Maryland Institute College for the Arts, Johnpaul Flick. He’s finishing his studies and his final project is a sculpture of a shopping cart. He told me. “I wanted to be three again” so he designed a large size shopping cart for an adult to ride in. This is definitely something different and there are some bends which need to be made so he came to the right people. I give him a price and he’s all for it. He’ll be sending material our way. I’ll add it to our backlog and schedule when the material arrives. It’s a busy day on Central Avenue as we complete a fair few orders for our usual customers and a heat exchanger for St. Agnes Hospital.
The Orioles have managed to get hot and brought themselves within one game of .500 but that’s not enough. They have been eliminated from playoff contention and in a few days, will finish the season 78-84. It’s been a tough run all season so I’m not surprised but there is always next year. I’m confident the Birds will step it up. We’re too busy to worry much about it. The changing of the seasons has brought some more work in for us. We’re busy in the summer but some outside work is held until the weather cools then it shows up at my door.
Today is my Joe’s second birthday and a Saturday so we celebrate at Woodall Street with my in-laws. Joe loves the presents and in particular, tearing wrapping paper. He is the center of attention all day and rightly so. I can’t believe how the time seems to fly by. It seems like yesterday we were bringing him home from the hospital and now he’s scooting around in his walker and chattering and laughing a lot. He is a fun little guy and he keeps us on our toes but I’ve learned, that’s a very big part of being a parent.
We’re busy in the Shop and today an order for Shakespeare Theater is completed. We are rolling steel bars to match some templates they brought us. The bars will be used to build a bed as part of the set. I don’t know what the play is and usually don’t, but we do set work for several theaters in the Baltimore area. It’s not a lot of work but a few times a year. These are the jobs which make my job a little more interesting when they come along.
It’s a rainy Saturday evening but I don’t mind. I’m home watching the Washington Capitals open the season against the Los Angeles Kings at home. It’s a close game and ends in a 2-2 tie. Last year the Caps missed the playoffs and I’m definitely hoping for a return this year. I’m sure my brother feels the same way. He’s still the ultimate Caps fan and has been since the day the team formed.
The New York Yankees sweep the Atlanta Braves to win their 25th World Series Championship. I am not particularly happy about it. I hate to see the Yanks win again but it happens. They are a storied franchise for a reason. It’s hot for October in the Shop because of some torch work. We are melting out some filled tubes for Design and Production and also annealing some aluminum angles for Antenna Research. It could be worse. We could have these jobs in July when it’s 100 degrees.
It’s a cold and windy day in Baltimore. I speak to Gary Stambaugh and he informs me that Eddy’s Welding and his company have merged to form Eddy and Stambaugh. We’ve been doing work for Stambaugh for decades. It’s usually sets of copper u bends for heat exchangers but occasionally some rolling of steel. I congratulate Gary and let him know we have a set of tubes ready for him today.
Today is Wednesday and the day before Thanksgiving. With thoughts of turkey, stuffing, cranberries and, of course, parsnips in our heads, we finish several jobs and spend the rest of the day loading trucks and waiting for more trucks. The day drags but we manage to sneak out of there a little early in advance of everyone’s feast tomorrow.
It’s Thanksgiving and Kim, Joe and I spend it with her parents and her grandmother. It’s my favorite holiday mostly because of my love of turkey. My mother-in-law makes a great turkey and her gravy is something special. There is plenty of food including parsnips for me and it’s a fun family feast. I enjoy watching football with my father-in-law as Joe keeps everyone entertained sliding around in his walker. He’s a very happy boy who is usually smiling and laughing. Linda, Anthony and Dorothy (Kim’s grandmother) love every second around him and he feels the same way.
The hectic craziness that is December is upon us at the Joseph Kavanagh Company. It’s always a bit wild to try to finish all we need to do before the end of the year. It’s worse because we always take the week between Christmas and New Year’s off. I’ve grown very accustomed to it as has the crew. Today we send out another order of playground parts for Playworld Systems and Johnpaul Flick picks up the shopping cart parts. We also bend some pipes for helicopter seats for Turnbull in the Pines Bender. This job is one we do several times a year or more. Everyone in the office and the Shop is quite busy. It is the last month of the year and living up to every bit of that so far.
We have made it to the end at the Shop. The last work day of the year is here. We finish a couple of things but mostly we load trucks, ship out pieces and even return a template to Design and Production before we are able to leave. Employees and owners climb in their cars and happily say, “See you next year” then drive off in search of the Yule.
It’s a White Christmas. Yesterday we had some light snow in the evening and it looks very festive. Fortunately, it’s not enough to cause any driving issues and after a brief time opening gifts under our tree, we head to Woodall Street. It feels very much like Christmas as we pull out front of Casa Dalfonzo and the sidewalks have a light dusting of the white stuff. Kim’s parents, her grandmother and her brother Paul are there. It’s a wonderful day of family and fun. Joe is in heaven with so many presents and so much wrapping paper to tear off and throw around. I join in on this too as I ball up the paper and toss it around. The food is good and the company better. Linda and Anthony know how to throw a party. We listen to Christmas music and watch Christmas movies like most families. It’s a wonderful holiday. We stay the night after a very festive day.
We wake up at my in-laws and spend the day with them. My father-in-law and I watch the Ravens win their final home game of the year 22-0 over the Cincinnati Bengals. Baltimore has won four in a row and is assured of its first non-losing season. They are 8-7 with one game to go on January 2nd in New England. This is all assuming the world doesn’t come to an end and they do actually play the game. The “Y2K” panic has reached a fever pitch. Most folks aren’t too worried about it but some seem quite certain that some catastrophic event will occur when the world rings in the New Year. We discuss it with my in-laws over a day-after-Christmas lunch and they agree this thing is blown way out of proportion and nothing will happen. Later in the afternoon, Kim, Joe and I head home and I am very much looking forward to this week of vacation.
It’s New Year’s Eve and Kim and I are staying up to watch the ball drop and bring in the New Year properly. Joe is snoozing in his room quietly as we sit on the couch in front of the television. Some cheese, crackers and dip are on the coffee table to munch on as we watch. Those are mostly for me. Some snacks and beer are my standard holiday fare.
“I guess in a few minutes, we’ll find out if the world is coming to an end.” I smile at Kim from one side of the couch to the other.
She rolls her eyes. “People are just crazy. It’s just another year and it’s not going to be a big deal. I don’t know how people can believe this stuff”
“Firstly, it’s not just another year, it’s another decade and another millennium. That last one doesn’t happen very often.” I reply grinning.
Kim rolls her eyes at me. “Yes, that too but it’s not going to cause the world to stop.” She flips the television channel to Dick Clark’s New Year’s show as we get down to the last minute or so. “Tomorrow will be January 1st just like it always is.”
I sit back on the couch and watch the crowd at Times Square as the seconds tick away. I shrug and say “Some people seem to think computers won’t know how to get to 2000 once we’re out of the 1900’s. I’m pretty sure this isn’t as complicated for computers as people think.”
“I know. I said it before people are crazy. It doesn’t make any sense and it’s just something else people want to get upset and weird about.” She answers, shaking her head. It’s nearly midnight and the mob of humanity screams along counting down.
As the crowd reaches five, I say. “I guess we’re gonna find out.”
I slide across the couch and put my arm around her and we listen, “3, 2, 1, Happ-”
Bill Clinton is the President of the United States. The president is acquitted after an impeachment trial due to a tryst with intern Monica Lewinsky. Twelve students and one teacher are murdered at a high school in the Columbine massacre. Hurricane Floyd hits the East Coast and causes eight-five deaths and over six billion dollars in damage. Family Guy and Sponge Bob premier on television. The online file sharing service Napster is launched. The films “The Matrix,” “The Green Mile” and “Elmo in Grouchland” are released. Wilt Chamberlain, Madeline Kahn, Stanley Kubrick, Joe DiMaggio and Curtis Mayfield die.
There are 50 states in the Union.
To read earlier years, click on the link below: