1932 The Great Depression and Half-Pies

January 4

The Shop has two kettles to make for an ice cream company and nothing else to start the year. Joe and James discuss the business. Joe tells James that they will have to put up more cash to keep the doors open. James tells his brother he cannot put up any more dollars. Joe will come up with the money himself rather than permanently closing.

January 17

On a cold Sunday, the Kavanagh’s have a ham dinner at Thirty-third Street. Joe and Johanna host their boys and their families, oldest son Leo, his wife Maymie and their children Leo Jr. and Mary, and younger son Eddie, his wife Anna and their sons Ed Jr. and Jack. After a comforting dinner, they hold a meeting about the Shop. Joe, Leo and Eddie retire to the parlor while their wives begin cleaning up after dinner and tending to the children. Joe pours them each a glass from his dwindling stash of Mount Vernon Rye. He has broken into his last case, given to him nearly twenty years ago. The men sip their whiskey and talk about work a little but mostly they wait. After several minutes, Johanna leaves her daughter-in-laws to the household chores and joins her husband and sons, toting a platter of apple pie and tea. Once everyone has a piece of pie and a cup of tea, Joe begins telling them the Shop will need an influx of cash. There’s no chance that the business will survive without payroll, not just for themselves, but also for Funke and Stromm, the two talented workers Joe doesn’t want to lose. He glances at Johanna, then looks to Eddie.

“We’re going to need your Radio Repair money to help us keep going, Eddie.” Says Joe. “Leo and I will come up with a list of people who might be interested. I bet we can find more customers for the whiskey and that other stuff you sell.” (Joe doesn’t understand why anyone would buy the bathtub gin.)

“I can handle more customers and deliveries. It seems to be working out pretty well. I just won’t be able to spend much time at the Shop if we find more buyers.”

“I have a feeling we won’t need you much. I think things will get worse before they get better in this country. We have to do what’s necessary to keep the Shop going and for all of us to survive. I can help you with buying corn and barley. I can find the best deal on ingredients. I’m sure of that.” Replies Joe.

Leo chimes in, “I can get my part-time job at the auto shop back. That will help me with money so I won’t need my normal salary, but I will need something, and I’ll get you a list of friends who will be buyers. I know some folks that will be interested for sure.”

“What about your brother James” Johanna asks her husband.

“James says he can’t help with cash anymore but he expects to be paid.” responds Joe. “I’m not going to talk to him about what Eddie is doing but I’m sure he knows something’s going on. He doesn’t need to know, but he is my partner and my brother. He’ll have to get something out of this even if it’s less than he wants.”

His wife nods as she sips her tea and then asks Eddie, “You’re being careful? None of this is worth doing if you get yourself into trouble.”

“I’m very careful. I don’t think Annie even knows what I’m doing and I want to keep it that way. The only ones who know are my customers and the people in this room.” Eddie answers his mother.

A small smile crosses Johanna’s lips as Joe pipes in, “We should figure on splitting the money in half. I’ll use half to make cash loans to the Shop to make payroll. You keep your half for you, and hold some aside because if things keep getting worse, that could be a fallback for all of us.”

“Will you and Mother be okay?” asks Leo, his brother Eddie nodding to show he shares his concern.

“We will,” says Johanna before Joe can speak. “We’ve been through tough times before and we’ll get through this too. I’ve been selling some half-pies in the neighborhood and I’ll continue to do that. We’ll stretch our money and all of us will be okay.” she assures them.

Eddie takes a forkful of apple pie and says, “Keep making them like this Mother and we won’t even need whiskey sales.” He smiles at Johanna as they all chuckle softly. Soon, Maymie and Anna and the children join them in the parlor. Joe plays some piano and sings for them all, his youngest grandson Jack sitting next to him on the piano bench, paying close attention to Joe’s playing.

Mount Vernon Rye Bottle. 1914.

February 12

There is no work at the Shop. Eddie has added more names to his book of customers. He keeps a journal of his “Radio Repairs” customers, addresses and notes. Joe and Leo have brought in some more interested parties. Today Eddie visits a speakeasy for a much larger delivery than he typically makes, a case of whiskey and a case of gin. Eddie is finding more and more customers every week as friends tell friends. Baltimore still loves having a drink now and then and Eddie is benefiting from it. He makes runs around the City daily. He still prefers his motorcycle and briefcase, but when necessary he’ll drive the car. At home, he and Anna are worried for their son Jack who has the mumps and is very sick. Although the boy recovers, his parents are saddened when the doctors tell them Jack will never be able to father children. They know that doctors aren’t always right and they pray for their son, still grateful that he has recovered. Those doctors would turn out to be very wrong because Jack will father nine children.

The Shop’s ledger entry for week of February 13, 1932. No work. No hours.

April 24

The Kavanaghs’s hold another Sunday dinner meeting to discuss the progress on the “Radio Repairs.” Eddie lets his parents and brother know that sales are going well, and he continues to get many calls, but could use Joe’s help with supplies. Joe suggests he order the supplies from now on, the corn, rye barley and empty bottles which will be stored at Joe and Johanna’s house on Thirty-third Street. Eddie will pick them up as necessary. The cash is starting to roll in and bolster the Shop; Joe will continue to make cash loans to the Shop to cover payroll. Joe tracks all these loans in the Shop’s ledger, referencing Eddie’s journal with small cryptic notes. They’ll save what they can against any emergency that might come along. After their discussion, Joe sits at the piano with young Jack next to him showing him some chords and melodies. At seven years of age, Jack has taken a strong liking to the piano; Eddie and Anna have decided to pay for piano lessons for him. Next week lessons begin at twenty-five cents a pop at St. Elizabeth’s School where Eddie’s boys attend. Joe is very pleased to hear it and loves the thought of his grandson carrying on the tradition of music that is very much at the core of the Kavanagh family.

May 13

Joe opens the Shop on Central Avenue to pay everyone. His brother, sons and the rest of the crew stop in for their money. After they leave, Joe stands for a few moments on the corner and thinks about what they’re doing. As always, the family is doing what they have to do. He trusts his son to be careful and keep producing good liquor. This seems to be working until the real work comes back, whenever that may be. Joe returns home and tinkers on the piano while his wife is bustling about the house. Johanna is spending a busy day baking pies and the occasional cake if a neighbor has a special request or is throwing a party. She begins baking in the early morning and sells a few half-pies just about every day. Neighbors come to the back door of the house and she tells them what she has. More often than not a sale is made and Jo puts this money in her own safe place. She uses it for household expenses, her baking ingredients, and special treats or gifts for the grandchildren. Joe does his best to stay out of her way, sitting at the piano smoking his pipe.

June 19

Joe reads the Sunday paper and finds a story about Jack Hart. There’s a report that Jack has been spotted in Montana. According to the paper, the Sheriff of Missoula, Montana has requested a description of Jack Hart before they will confirm or comment. The story recounts the whole sordid Jack Hart affair from 1922 on, before stating that, after receiving Hart’s description, the Montana authorities denied any knowledge of his presence in their state. Joe keeps wondering when will this Jack Hart thing come to an end. He sighs and calls his brother and sons to inform them of the article. They all read it and feel the same as Joe. It seems like Jack can not stay out of the news even when no one is sure where he is.

June 30

Maryland Governor Albert Ritchie loses his final bid to be the Democratic Candidate for the Presidency. Ritchie had campaigned for the nomination in 1928 as well. Franklin Delano Roosevelt, New York’s governor, secures the nomination in Chicago after four ballots. Roosevelt leads after each vote but falls short of the required number in the first three rounds. House Speaker John Garner is a distant third in a crowded field and he endorses Roosevelt to deliver the necessary votes. Garner joins Roosevelt’s ticket as his Vice-Presidential Candidate. Ritchie appears in all four rounds of balloting. Humorist Will Rogers appears in one. The Kavanagh’s supported Ritchie’s slim chance but were satisfied with the choice of Roosevelt. The Depression makes it easy for them to not support the incumbent Herbert Hoover.

July 5

Eddie takes his sons to their first ballgame, an exhibition game between the New York Yankees and the International League Orioles at Oriole Park. The boys as well as Eddie are very excited to see the hometown hero and superstar Babe Ruth in person. Ruth is a mammoth figure in baseball at this time, the superstar of superstars, especially in Baltimore where he was born. Eddie and his sons have a great day as the Orioles win easily 9-2. Eddie buys a large bag of peanuts and a large cola for them to share as they take in their first game of baseball, their first time hearing the crack of the bat and the roar of the crowd. Buzz Arlett and Heinie Sands each knock one out for the home town Orioles. Ruth doesn’t homer but settles for a double and a walk. The Kavanagh’s are not at all disappointed; the home team won and they saw Babe Ruth.

July 22

On this Friday, Joe is preparing to leave the Shop after paying everyone when two men in suits appear at the door. Joe greets them and they inform him that they are from the Federal Bureau of Investigation, special agents Frank O’Neil and Dick Rosengarten. Joe is taken aback but motions them into his office. They tell Joe with Jack Hart still on the loose the case is in their hands now. They’ve been trying to speak to the Kavanagh’s for several weeks but the Shop is always closed. The Police told them to come by on a Friday because that’s the only day the place was always open. Joe is still shocked at their presence in his office but responds quickly that the Shop is struggling these day like every other business. Agent O’Neil continues that they are tracking and investigating Jack Hart. They ask Joe about Hart and he gives them the same story he has told the police for years. The Kavanagh’s knew Jack Hart as James Connelly. He was married to Joe’s niece and god-daughter Kitty. They didn’t know him well and they want nothing to do with him. The agents seem to believe Joe about Jack Hart but they think since Kitty is dead, Joe might be someone who could tell them more about him. Specifically, they want to know if Jack Hart has any family or contacts in the Northwest. Joe says he has no idea and tells the agents he saw the report that Hart might be in Montana. Special Agent O’Neil is quick to say they can not discuss any details but Hart is a wanted man. He is considered a fugitive in all 48 states and they will find and catch him. Joe wishes them luck but re-iterates that he has no contact with Jack nor does he expect to hear from him. Now that Kitty is dead, Joe thinks Hart has no reason to return to Baltimore and doesn’t have a clue whether or not Hart knows anyone in Montana or any other state. The agents politely thank him for his cooperation and leave the Central Avenue building, informing Joe they might return. Joe nods and forces a smile telling them the best day to come by is on a Friday. Joe breathes a sigh of relief and sits at his desk a moment before locking the front door and heading home for the day. Joe can not believe this is still happening and tells his brother and sons so when he calls them all to tell them of the agents’ visit.

August 15

Johanna has her grandsons over for the day. As she bakes in the kitchen, they enjoy some peach pie. She begins slicing two pies into halves and the younger boy looks at her curiously.

Jack asks his grandmother, “Why don’t you sell a whole pie to people? If they like your pie, they’ll eat a whole one.

“Well Jack, if you want someone to buy your pie every day, never sell them a whole one.” Johanna answers, her eyes smiling at the young boy.

“That’s pretty smart, Grandmom. I didn’t think of that.” Jack says through a mouthful of pie. Johanna grins and returns to mixing and measuring her ingredients. Jack watches her, slightly fascinated, as she seems to do three or four things at once with great ease. The boys finish their pie and head outside with gloves in hand to play a little ball.

Johanna Long Kavanagh. 1930s.

September 14

Eddie has ten deliveries of whiskey and gin to make, mostly in East Baltimore today. Eddie zips through the streets on his motorcycle, briefcase full of booze strapped to the back. Friends and friends of friends call every day now and especially on Fridays when most people have received their wages. His wife fields many of these calls and passes along the customers’ needs. Eddie suspects Annie (as he always called his wife) does, in fact, know he is selling alcohol and not fixing radios. She’s a smart woman and he is doubting his ruse lately. Eddie has deliveries every day including Sundays and distills every night. He does spend a lot of time next door, and again, Annie seems okay with it. He has shown John Kellner how to work the still properly but doesn’t trust him to run batches of whiskey very often. Eddie is so confident in his abilities and his product that he prefers to do it himself.

October 2

The New York Yankees sweep the Chicago Cubs in the World Series. This was the tenth and last World Series for Eddie’s favorite player, Babe Ruth. He hits two home runs in the series both in game three including his famous “called shot.” Pictures show Ruth making a gesture toward right field before blasting an estimated 500 foot homer. The story spreads quickly that he had “called” or predicted the home run and it was reported as such in the newspapers. Ruth concurred when asked if he had motioned that he would hit one out, being always aware of the value of his image and how to work the press. The story grows into baseball legend but the truth of it is up for debate. Eddie assures his son Jack that “calling his shot” was exactly the sort of the thing the great Babe Ruth would do. Jack is a rabid Ruth fan now just like his father. The Babe hits .341 for the season and belts 41 home runs, another good year for the now veteran star.

November 8

Democrat Franklin Delano Roosevelt is elected the thirty-second President of the United States, defeating incumbent Republican Herbert Hoover. The Kavanagh’s vote for Roosevelt. The Depression has crushed them and they are obliged to vote against Hoover. The family are all registered Democrats now, something that has changed from a generation ago.

November 19

Joe and Jo visit their daughter Anna, Sister Mary Agnes, at the Visitation Convent on Roland Avenue. She speaks of her studies in her goal to become a teacher. She is learning much and doing well. She loves the Visitation and is very pleased she answered the calling. Her parents are happy as well. It has taken some time but they are more comfortable with her vocation and the cloistered life she lives. Joe and Johanna tell her about her brothers and their families. She’s particularly delighted to hear that Eddie’s son Jack is learning the piano.

December 23

The Christmas Party is held at Central Avenue appropriately enough on a Friday, the one day they were regularly open. The Kavanagh’s are there with their employees and their families and just a few friends. They celebrate the Yule together with food, drink and song as they always do. They’re making it work through Eddie’s bootlegging and working together as a family. Johanna sells her half-pies and Leo has returned to auto work to help with money. A year has passed with nearly no jobs and no hours worked, but the business still exists even if they aren’t open many days. The Depression is deep, many are destitute, and bread lines are long. The list of unemployed is frightening, but the Kavanagh’s go on. The men have jobs and still have their houses thanks to the illegal whiskey and gin. They’ve made it through another year and are doing far better than most folks in these tough times. They do as they have done so many times before. They hope for a better year.



Herbert Hoover finishes his term as the President. Hattie Wyatt Caraway becomes the first female Senator in the nation representing Arkansas. The Olympics are held in Lake Placid, New York in the winter and Los Angeles, California in the summer. The first gas tax is enacted. Buck Rogers in the 25th Century premiers on radio. Radio City Music Hall opens in New York City. Johnny Cash, Elizabeth Taylor, Sylvia Plath, Ethel Ennis and Little Richard are born.

There are 48 states in the Union.

Eddie Kavanagh. Circa 1920s.

To read past years, click on the Table of Contents link below.

Table of Contents

1931 Radio Repairs

January 6

The year starts with the Shop losing a longtime employee who is family. James Woods Jr. re-locates to Southern MD. His wife’s family has a farm there and they need a laborer. Although James Woods has worked at the Shop for nearly 20 years, his wife wants to move closer to her family. The Kavanagh’s are sorry to see him go but know that it’s one less person to pay. Right now, that may be a good thing. Because of the cold and lack of work, Joe and James Kavanagh have decided they may not be able to open five days a week. There are some confectionery kettles to make to start the year but there’s no backlog. They can’t predict what work there will be more than a week or two in advance. The crew is down to Joe’s sons Leo and Eddie, James’ son Guy and veteran employees Funke and Strumm. Money is tight as the men have nearly run through any cash reserves the Shop had. Joe and James discuss the fact that at some point they may have to cover the payroll from their personal savings. Joe volunteers to cover any payroll shortages first but his brother may have to chip in as well.

January 10

Eddie Kavanagh uses his Saturdays to attend to the “Radio Repairs” he is doing on Lakewood Avenue. “Radio Repairs” is the ruse or dodge Eddie uses to cover making illegal rye whiskey and gin. He began last year as the Depression hit the Shop hard, but is unable to make any alcohol at his home because his wife Anna is a prohibitionist. Eddie has made a deal with his next door neighbor John Kellner, and has built and installed a small 20 gallon still in the Kellner’s basement at 436 N. Lakewood Avenue. Eddie runs passes of whiskey and also mixes a concoction of alcohol and flavors into gin. John Kellner helps here and there but Eddie knows more about it. John has just provided a place to distill and gets a few dollars but mostly is paid in free whiskey. Eddie tells his wife that his radio tubes and parts are kept at the Kellner’s to keep them out of the hands of their sons. He has begun selling some whiskey and gin to friends and acquaintances, doing it all under the guise of “Radio Repairs” so no one was the wiser.

January 17

The Coppersmiths Local#80 Saturday night meeting: the rank and file are getting desperate. There is no work and more men are losing jobs every week, adding to the competition for any coppersmith jobs available. Their prospects are getting bleaker. Eddie has no answers for his union brothers. He worries for them just as he worries for the Shop, which has no work at all at the moment. Joe and James have decided to remain closed next week. Joe will call the Kavanaghs and workers if he finds anything for them to do. He makes calls to customers from his home, but barring a change of events, the building at Pratt and Central will be empty until Friday. On Friday, everyone will visit to pick up their reduced pay. They’ve all taken a cut but are happy to receive something for no hours worked. For his part, Eddie is very thankful he’s able to make some additional cash with his own version of bootlegging. His father has begun spreading the word to his friends and contacts with the Shop about what Eddie is doing. He goes over the procedure with them, to use the code word of “Radio Repairs.” Joe gets about one third of Eddie’s profits paid to him. He is Eddie’s father and his son wants to help. More to the point, this cash will aid Joe in making payroll during difficult weeks.

January 30

The Shop has been closed for its second week in a row and the time has come where the company can not make payroll. Joe covers this week’s salaries from his personal savings. He’ll do this for a few weeks in the hopes that some work will make its way into the Shop. Joe speaks to his wife Johanna about the company’s struggles and his having to front this money and Johanna supports his decision because she knows that their future depends on the Shop, not just theirs but both her sons’ and their families. She tells him to keep faith and they’ll be fine. Johanna questions whether they should proceed with a move they’ve been planning. Joe assures her that they have the money for that and will recoup the cost when they sell the home on Collington Avenue. They have savings of their own and will be okay. Times are tough but Joe is more worried about the future. What if it gets worse?

The Shop’s job and payroll ledger. January 30, 1931.

February 7

The phone rings at 434 N. Lakewood and Anna answers. Mr. T. J. Burns is on the line asking if Eddie can come by and fix his radio. Mr. Burns is having a party this weekend and the radio is giving him trouble. He lives on McElderry Street, just five minutes away. Anna informs him that Eddie is working next door but when he comes home for lunch, she’ll give him the message. He thanks her and tells her he needs three of the dark radio tubes. At noon, Eddie returns from the Kellner’s and Anna passes along the message. Eddie eats a quick ham sandwich and returns to his neighbor’s, packs his briefcase with three bottles of rye and drives up the alley toward Jefferson Street. It’s a chilly winter day but Eddie prefers driving his motorcycle on these deliveries instead of the family car. He loves this old Indian and it reminds him of his youth. A few short turns and he’s on McElderry Street, shaking T. J. Burns’ hand after handing over the three bottles. They chat for a moment before Eddie returns home to run another batch of whiskey.

March 4

A short work week begins on Wednesday with Joe reading a story in the newspaper that the Star Spangled Banner has been chosen as the National Anthem. It’s a rousing tune penned in Baltimore by Francis Scott Key during the War of 1812. Joe likes that Baltimore connection and along with most Americans, he likes the choice. Putting down the late edition, he steps outside into the sunshine, walks to the corner and lights his pipe. He gives some thought to a move he and his wife, Johanna are making, moving from a home of over 20 years. He’s sure it’s a good idea, and puffing on his pipe, looks through the open garage door on Central Avenue into his empty Shop. They have two kettles to make this week. The rest of their time will be spent making more stock fittings and valves for the future. Joe is happy they’re open and have some small amount of work. The Shop is “cash poor” still and payroll is a problem. Joe has covered payroll from his own personal account four of the last six weeks and this week it’s his brother’s turn. James will put up the cash for the next two weeks’ salaries. They’re hoping by then to have brought in enough money so at the very least, Joe and James don’t need to dig into their savings. Joe glances up and down Central Avenue mostly out of habit, then heads inside.

March 21

Joe and Johanna move from their home at 2 N. Collington Avenue to 1629 Thirty-third Street. The move was a quick decision for the Kavanaghs. Joe was in favor when he realized they could get by with a smaller home. Their boys have moved out and are married; daughter Anna, Sister Mary Agnes lives at the Visitation Convent. Johanna was less enthused about the move but was convinced when they found the house on Thirty-third Street. Their sons help them with the move using the Shop’s Mack AB truck, the most use the truck has gotten in months. The Shop does have a few jobs and this week was able to make the company’s payroll without Joe’s or James’ help.

March 29

On Easter Sunday, Joe and Johanna visit their daughter Anna. They spend the afternoon with her having tea after Mass. She tells her parents that she’s working toward becoming a teacher. She loves children and the thought of working with them as part of her vocation is exciting. Her parents give an update on the rest of the family. Joe doesn’t go into details of how the Shop is struggling but lets his daughter know that, along with the rest of the country, they’re not very busy. They have a pleasant Easter with Anna and as they depart she sends her love and says she will remember them all in her prayers.

April 11

Eddie is home this Friday because he has several orders of whiskey and gin to deliver for the weekend. The Shop is open but not busy; Joe tells him to stay home and take care of his “Radio Repairs” as they need the cash. Eddie spends the day distilling some rye and then mixing some of the bath tub gin. He has a few regular customers now, including a couple of local speakeasies, one of which needs a shipment today. The speakeasies are the only buyers of his gin. He can’t blame people as the taste leaves a lot to be desired. Still, a bartender can mix juice and other things into the gin to make it more drinkable. Eddie fills his briefcase with four bottle of gin, straps it to his bike and heads down the alley to Orleans Street. He makes the quick right turn and drives toward downtown to make his delivery. He notes how little traffic there is moving about him. What should be a bustling busy center of the city is fairly quiet today: a sign of the times and the economy.

May 7

Joe has found some work from a couple of local steamships needing some ballast chambers to replace. It has kept their crew of five busy this week and will do so next week as well. Joe and James are getting more worried. The two brothers have little to do but sit impatiently in their office, Joe waiting for the phone to ring and James waiting for a drawing to make or a kettle to design. The younger Kavanaghs and the two coppersmiths who are not family work hard but can pace themselves. Having to save work or stretch it out is an uncomfortable feeling for both boss and employee.

May 24

Joe opens his Sunday newspaper and spots a story about the Maryland Penitentiary. Frank Allers, one of Jack Hart’s crew has been stabbed. Joe’s eyes narrow and he quickly reads through the column. Allers was stabbed in one of the showers by an unknown prisoner. Frank Allers was taken by surprise, stabbed twice, and his condition is critical. Allers was the “Squealer.” He confessed and implicated Hart and three others in the robbery and murder of William Norris in 1922. He was given immunity but arrested immediately after the Norris trial for a liquor robbery in Cockeysville, the victim one Thomas Hopper. Allers has served nearly all of a ten year sentence. Joe picks up the telephone and calls his brother, then his sons to ask if they have seen the story. All have read it and are shocked at another unexpected turn in the Hart saga.

May 26

Frank Allers has died from his wounds in the Maryland Penitentiary. Another inmate, Edward West, has been charged with the murder. West wasn’t involved with the Hart gang, nor with the Norris murder, but according to the paper, he may have had associations with John “Wiggles” Smith and Walter “Noisy” Sokorow, the two remaining members of the gang in the Pen. Frank Allers was two days shy of being released, having made parole after serving the bulk of his sentence. He was by all reports a model prisoner. While incarcerated, he and another inmate, Raymond Scott, designed a new hydraulic device for generating power. In fact, they received a patent for it and Allers’ plan upon his release was to take a trip to Europe and try to sell his device there. Joe stands in the doorway of the Shop as a steady rain pelts the street. He watches cars moving up and down Pratt and Central and thinks about Frank Allers, the driver of the getaway car and the second member of the gang to die. Charles “Country” Carey was hung for murdering a guard during an attempted escape several years ago. Both had been at the Shop, coming along with Jack Hart to pick up their rye.

Joe’s son Eddie joins him to look out at the rainy day.

“It’s a shame about Frank Allers.”

“Yes, it is. It’s another crazy thing.” Joe answers him, keeping his eyes focused on the passing vehicles and the rain.

Eddie leans against the door jam. “Of course, he didn’t make many friends and I’m sure he wasn’t popular at the Pen.”

“After he fingered them all in the murder? No, he didn’t have many friends.” Joe shakes his head slowly. “To most in prison, he was a rat.”

“To some outside of prison too,” Eddie adds. His father glances at him, looking away from the traffic.

Eddie asks him pointedly, “Do you think Jack had anything to do with it?”

Joe rocks on his heels for a moment then answers, “Yes.” He then turns and marches into the office without another word.

Frank Allers. Getaway car driver and the “Squealer” of Jack Hart’s gang. Baltimore Sun 1931.

June 16

Leo Kavanagh takes a job at an auto repair shop. The Joseph Kavanagh Company has hit another lull in work. Everyone is making less money and Leo is offered a short-term job by a friend. The plan is for Leo to work for him through the summer. This will help ease the financial crunch on the Kavanagh’s. Joe still continues to dig for work wherever he can find it and Eddie’s “Radio Repairs” are helping, as well.

July 13

Eddie parks his Indian in a small yard on Chester Street, the home of Thomas Cunningham, who works at the Continental Can Company. Eddie knows him through the Shop. Thomas is at the back door and greets Eddie, motioning him into the house.

Eddie opens his briefcase and sets four bottles of rye on the table. “Here you go, Thomas. My wife said you wanted four. Correct?”

“Yes, I do need four. Two for me and a bottle each for a couple of friends.” Thomas hands Eddie several dollars for the liquor.

“Thank you,” says Eddie, pocketing the cash,” How are things at Continental Can?”

Slow.” replies Thomas, “I’m just glad we’re open. Would you care for a taste, Eddie?” He opens a bottle. “It’s after noon and I mean just a sip.”

“Sure,” Eddie smiles, sitting across from Thomas at the table.

“Your wife seemed very nice on the phone,” Cunningham pours two small shots of rye. “My wife is named Anna too.” He hands Eddie a glass.

“Really? We have a lot in common. Is she home?” Eddie holds the small glass in his hand, warming it.

“She’s at her mother’s. We do have a lot in common. My wife thinks you’re fixing my radio too.” He grins and both chuckle before taking the quick draught of whiskey. They speak for a few minutes before Eddie leaves. He drives east through the City, pulls into the backyard and arrives home. He calls his boys out of the house and spends part of the afternoon playing catch with his sons.

August 29

Another week passes with a few jobs but very little money again. Joe pays everyone’s salary this week from his own cash. They continue to worry, but there is little or nothing they can do about it. The Kavanagh’s keep working and hoping for a turnaround.

October 10

The World Series is a rematch of last year’s championship. This time the St. Louis Cardinals best the Philadelphia Athletics in seven games. Veteran spit-baller Burleigh Grimes wins two games. The spit ball is illegal now but those who threw it before are allowed to continue. The rule is grandfathered in and Grimes has his spitter dancing all around the plate in the series. It will be the last World Series appearance for Connie Mack’s team. The Kavanagh’s are disappointed for the Athletics, but have much bigger concerns than baseball this year. Eddie’s favorite player, Babe Ruth has a good year, batting a robust .373 with 46 homers. Throughout the season, Eddie often tells his sons tales of Ruth and baseball in general. He goes over the rules, the teams and many details about the game.

November 21

The Shop remains very slow and they only open for a few hours for three days this week. There are very few calls and even less jobs. This week neither Joe nor James draws a salary. They have done this several times through the year because it is another way to make payroll. Joe is worried and tells his wife so at dinner. He’s concerned that they may not be able to keep the Shop going. He confides that all of his lifetime of work could be for nothing. Jo comforts him and says they’ll find a way to get by and skimp a bit. She will begin selling some of her baked goods in the neighborhood. She knows people love her pies and she could do that to help with their expenses. She assures Joe that the Shop will bounce back. The country can’t go on like this forever. Something will have to be done. Joe nods and agrees that they will ride this out just like they’ve done in the past, but he can’t shake his fears.

December 12

Eddie is busy bottling some booze for delivery. Even in a Depression, the holidays are a time that people want to celebrate and he’ll be busy for the rest of the month. It’s a good thing too as the Shop is empty of work. They open for a few hours several days a week but have nothing to do. The demand for holiday cheer boosts Eddie’s bootlegging sales and that certainly helps the Kavanagh’s to finish the year with a good Christmas. He keeps at his “Radio Repairs” all month, only making a few appearances at the Shop.

December 24

The Christmas Eve party is held on a Thursday and it’s a quiet affair. The family celebrates, but these are tough times, not just for the Kavanagh’s but for everyone. They sing carols, eat and drink Christmas treats but it isn’t the same as in past years. On the ride home as their sons chatter to each other in the back of the car, Eddie and Anna speak. He tells her that he worries for the Shop and is happy they have another source of money. He knows that they’ll be fine and are much better off than so many others. Anna smiles and says she’s happy too that he has found a side job. She is proud of him for working so hard for them but she hopes he’s being careful. He looks at her curiously and says that he is, of course. Eddie parks their car in front of 434 N. Lakewood and the family climbs the marble steps and bustles into their home, the two boys bouncing with excitement for the holiday. The Kavanagh’s and the Shop have made it through 1931, another hard year for the business and the family. The Jack Hart story seems never ending with Hart still on the loose. Frank Allers’ death brought the whole affair back into the news again but the Shop was not bothered or searched. A strange twist to the story is that the authorities were never able to locate Robert Scott, the man who along with Allers designed the hydraulic power device. He was released before Frank Allers’ death and his whereabouts are unknown. The Great Depression has pushed the country to the limit. People are struggling and hope is hard to find. This family feels the same fear and frustration very keenly but they rally together and work as hard as they can. They will find a way to keep going and find that hope for better times, a better year.

The Shop’s job and payroll ledger. December 24, 1931.



Herbert Hoover is the President of the United States. The cyclotron is invented by Ernest Lawrence. Gambling is legalized in Nevada. In New York City, the Empire State Building is finished. The Iron Lung is invented by John Emerson. Al Capone is sentenced to 11 years in prison for tax evasion. Robert Duvall, Anne Bancroft, Mickey Mantle, Sam Cooke and Willy Mays are born. Knute Rockne and Thomas Edison die.

There are 48 states in the Union.

Johanna Long Kavanagh with one of her grandchildren(undetermined). Late 1920s.

To view earlier years, click the Table of Contents link below:

Table of Contents

1930 Kitty Dies

January 3

Since the Stock Market Crash, the Shop’s work has been in steady decline. They are not alone as business throughout the country slows to a near stop. More workers lose jobs so less people have money to spend and less things are purchased. It is a repeating cycle and the Shop feels the impact. Their usual beginning-of-the-year confectionery kettles are slow to arrive. There are some repairs but little else. The Brothers Joe and James Kavanagh are very worried.

February 3

The telephone isn’t ringing and customers aren’t calling. Joe and James have a meeting about cutting down the crew. Things are getting bad pretty quickly. The brothers meet with Joe’s sons, Leo and Eddie and James’ son, Guy to say they must cut three coppersmiths and three helpers. Eddie, the General Secretary of the Coppersmiths local, doesn’t argue. He sees the work isn’t there and he knows they must do this. They make the cuts.

March 5

In San Francisco, a man name James Bryson steals a car and is arrested for grand theft and vagrancy. He pays $ 250.00 bail and is released. On the next day when he doesn’t attend the trial, the authorities check his fingerprints and discover he is a wanted man, James Connelly AKA Jack Hart, the same Jack who broke out of the Maryland Penitentiary last year. They confirm it is him but too late. The Pacific Coast Police begin a large search of the West coast to try to find Jack. In Baltimore, Kitty Kavanagh Connelly, Jack’s wife, continues to grow sicker at the Volunteers of America Hospital. The Kavanagh’s fear that she won’t last much longer. Each time Joe visits her, she seems weaker and weaker.

March 30

Kitty Kavanagh dies. She passes away while clutching a locket with her husband’s picture and while calling his name. Throughout the day in a semi-conscious state she continually calls out for “Jimmy.” She dies due to a spinal ailment or infection. The family was expecting her to go at any time. The doctors had made it clear that there was nothing more they could do. The Kavanagh’s, especially her godfather, Joe, mourn for her. She was Joe’s god-daughter and over the years they often played piano and sang together. He was close to her, though the last few years she became more and more devoted to her husband. She wouldn’t listen to reason when it came to Jack Hart. She loved him and at the end of her life there was nothing else of importance to her.

April 3

Kitty’s funeral is held this Thursday. Johanna drives to the Shop and picks up her husband. Joe will take an hour or so away from work to attend. When they arrive at the William Cook Funeral home, both are surprised to see a small crowd of folks outside. They walk in and speak to Regina, Kitty’s sister, and she informs them that the press are here, and have already spoken to both Regina and her mother. There are also plain clothes police officers waiting for Jack if he should make an appearance or send some type of message. Joe wasn’t expecting this and the crowd makes sense now. They are spectators, hoping to see the notorious Jack Hart. Joe and Jo pay their respects and then mix into the crowd of “mourners” outside the funeral parlor. The funeral procession begins and the crowd joins in with it. They march from St. Paul and Preston Streets to New Cathedral Cemetery. Joe and Jo slowly drop back into the crowd as they walk. By the time they reach the cemetery, the procession has swelled to 100 people. They march to the grave site and there are another 200 people gathered around waiting. Joe doesn’t know who’s who, but mixed in this crowd are indeed police officers and newspapermen. The majority are gawkers to see if Jack Hart shows up. Jack doesn’t make an appearance. Joe and Jo decide not to stay for the burial, but return to their car and Jo drives them back to the Shop. Joe is angry and shocked as is his wife. Joe calls the whole thing disrespectful and a fiasco. His wife agrees that the funeral turned into a spectacle. Joe fumes until he returns to work. His wife drops him off and returns to their home on Collington Avenue. Joe calls the Kavanagh’s into the office and explains to them what happened. A lot of head-shaking goes on as Joe relates the size of the crowd and the presence of police and reporters. The Jack Hart events have all played out in the public eye through the newspapers. They probably should have expected it, but still Joe is angry about the whole thing. At least now Kitty’s suffering is over and she is at peace. The Kavanagh’s hope that this will finally distance them from the entire Jack Hart affair.

April 18

The Kavanagh’s have another meeting at the Shop. The work is still not coming in and the cuts weren’t enough. They must reduce their crew even more. Joe will dig for work but every customer they have is slow. All of them are going through the same thing. There is very little work and very little money to be made. The Shop will cut two coppersmiths and three helpers. They’re not sure they can keep even this reduced crew busy, but they will try.

June 6

The Shop has almost no work and very little scheduled for the month. They need to find some jobs. Eddie has an idea. After work hours today, he tells his father and uncle that they need to consider returning to bootlegging. James is 100% against it. The police searches and the backlash from the Jack Hart involvement hardly makes the money they made worth it to him. Joe is quick to agree that they can not get back into the illegal whiskey trade, but is equally clear in saying they would be closed and out of jobs without the prior bootlegging. Joe is still concerned that the police could show up at any time, looking for Jack again. All reports have him on the West coast but they can’t take the chance of a raid or a police search. The men were lucky to get through those years undetected. Joe won’t take that chance again, and says they may have to cut the crew down to the five people in this room at some point, meaning himself, his sons Leo and Eddie, his brother James and James’ son Guy. If they can’t find work, everyone else will have to go and Joe doesn’t know what happens after that. The meeting ends with no solution or action planned. The Shop has some savings, mostly generated by their bootlegging profits, but they are burning through that money now. Something will have to give at some point. The men head to their homes on a very hot Friday evening. Eddie cruises along Pratt Street until he reaches Patterson Park, turns his motorcycle left and drives along the park. He goes over the situation in his mind. He needs to make some more money and there must be some way to do it with whiskey again. Eddie turns the old Indian right and follows the North side of the park to Lakewood Avenue, turning left at St. Elizabeth’s of Hungary Church. Eddie glances at his parish church as he gets closer to home. He drives the four blocks to 434 N. Lakewood. He passes his home and circles around heading up the alley to park in his backyard. An idea strikes him as he pulls in the back. He could do the bootlegging from his house; the Shop wouldn’t have to be involved at all. He could build a small still in the basement and he could sell whiskey. Eddie’s wife Anna is a prohibitionist though and would never allow it. She accepted it in the past, but after the Hart debacle she would be even more opposed. Eddie parks his bike and walks in his house waving hello to his neighbor John Kellner.

June 13

The Kavanagh’s meet again because they must cut more jobs. None of them resist or argue either way. They have no work in the Shop at all. They cut the last of their helpers and two of their veteran smiths. This leaves them with the Kavanaghs’s (Joe, James, Leo, Eddie and Guy) and their cousin James Woods, as well as their two most senior non-Kavanagh coppersmiths.

June 17

The crew work on two kettle jobs they have in the Shop. It is three days work even with the small crew but they take their time and fill the week with it. In the spare hours, they make their fittings and couplings from brass and copper. Joe hopes that when the work picks up they’ll be able to sell some of this stock of parts quickly and they’ll be prepared for any brewery repairs that are needed. The brewery customers are really struggling. If people don’t have jobs and don’t have money for food, only the truly desperate have money for beer. especially “Near Beer.” Throughout the day Joe sits in the corner office smoking his pipe and the phone remains silent.

June 29

A summer Sunday dinner at Joe and Johanna’s house is a regular occurrence. Their oldest son Leo and his family, wife Maymie, son Leo Jr. and daughter Mary are there and their second son Eddie and his family, wife Anna, sons Ed Jr. and Jack. Johanna roasts chicken and the conversation is about the family doings and the oppressive heat that has hit Baltimore and the East coast. It has been stifling this summer. The sons ask their parents about their sister, Anna, now Sister Mary Agnes, Visitation Nun. Because she is cloistered, her parents only see her a few times a year. She is adjusting well to the order and sends her love to her brothers and all the family. Johanna misses her daughter very much. As a devout Catholic, she supports Anna in her vocation, but it is tough for Jo to give up her little girl and any thoughts of that girl’s children. She’s proud but sad at the same time. After dinner, the men retire to the parlor leaving their wives to clean up. Joe sits in his most comfortable chair and lights his pipe. Leo reclines on a small couch while watching Leo Jr. rough housing with Ed Jr. Eddie sits on the piano bench smoking a cigarette, tossing a wound fabric ball to the younger children, Leo’s girl Mary and Eddie’s boy Jack. He brings up the subject of making some rye whiskey to his father and brother again. Joe reiterates that there will be no whiskey making at the Shop. That’s not happening. Eddie holds up his hand and lets his father know that he is aware of his feelings on this. Eddie isn’t talking about distilling at the Shop. He will make a small 20 gallon still and do it somewhere else.

“I can’t do it at home. There is no chance Anna will go for that,” he says as he throws the small ball gently to his son.

“No, she won’t.” says Joe pipe in hand, “and I’m still not convinced it’s a good idea. With Jack Hart still on the loose, you never know when or where the police might show up looking for him.”

Eddie tosses the ball to his niece Mary, smiling, and replies,”They haven’t searched us since last year and they have never been to my house, which I’m not going to use anyway. I don’t have a place yet, Joe, but I wanted you two to know what I was doing. Leo, can you make some drawings for a 20 gallon still?” Eddie asks now, looking to his brother.

“Of course,” Leo answers, “But I don’t want to get too involved. Give me some rye when you make it and I’m happy to make some sketches.”

Eddie thanks him as his father chimes in further, “Are you sure it’s safe yet? Jack is still roaming around. Even on the west coast he’s making the news. I still worry about it.”

“Kitty’s dead, Joe. The connection to us is getting further and further away. Besides, they had Jack in custody. They had him in San Francisco and he still got away. You think they’re going to get that close to him again? I don’t think so. No, Jack Hart is gone.” His eyes lock on his father’s. “There is no Jack, ” pausing then, he gently pats his little son on the head, “except for my Jack.”

Joe’s mouth slowly slides into a smile and he says, “Fine, Eddie. If you’re sure, I trust you will be as careful as you can. Stay out of trouble.”

“Of course,” Eddie puts out his cigarette and fishes in his pocket for a stick of gum.

“And when you do whatever you are going to do, remember your father. We’re struggling through these times too,” Joe says as six year old Jack begins tapping the piano keys.

Eddie plays a few notes for his young son as he nods to his father. He well understands the assumption that he will pass along some small percentage of whatever he makes to his father.

July 12

A loud and boisterous Coppersmiths Union meeting is held this Saturday night, a roomful of disgruntled and frightened coppersmiths who are only hearing what they already know. Jobs and work are scarce as the economy and the country itself seems to have come to a standstill. Eddie is frustrated, upset and worried. He has no answers for his union brothers but must focus on what he will do for his family and the Shop. The meeting ends and the members head their separate ways. Eddie has thought of a place for his still. His neighbor might go for it. Eddie is friendly with him and they’ve shared a glass of rye before. Later that night standing in their back yards, Eddie asks John Kellner about using his house for distilling. He explains the plan briefly and why he can’t make the whiskey in his own home. John Kellner knows Anna as well and he is fine about the still, even excited. John Kellner is the youngest of three sons and lives alone with his mother. He is sure they can use his basement to make the rye and his mother will go along with it. He agrees and is willing to be paid in whiskey which works just fine with Eddie. Kellner will also make sure that his mother doesn’t say anything about it to Anna. They shake hands and Eddie heads inside, mopping his brow with a handkerchief. It is still insufferably hot as this long drought continues.

September 17

Eddie begins building his still at the Shop. He designs it himself after conferring with his brother, Leo who makes some drawings for him. The rest of the crew are making more stock fittings and sundry in the hope that some day soon, they will have buyers. The Shop has always kept a large stock of parts, valves and assorted apparatus that works with their kettles and vats. This has always been a strength of theirs in quickly being able to service their customers. Now they have boxes and boxes of them.

September 21

Two of Jack Hart’s former associates are in the newspaper, John “Wiggles” Smith who assisted in the Norris robbery/murder and George Bailey who aided Jack in his escape in 1929. Smith, Bailey and seven others attempt a bold escape at the Maryland Penitentiary. They charge a wall with a rope, overcoming a guard, Arthur Owen, and stealing his gun. They shoot him and attempt to scale the wall. Other guards soon swarm them and all nine are captured and returned to their cells. Prison guard Owen survives and his testimony leads to another conviction against these men and time is added to all of their sentences. Joe is reading the newspaper at home and tosses it down as he thinks, when will all this craziness end. He taps his pipe out in the ashtray, sits down at the piano and begins playing. Music at times can wipe away what is in his mind. He just focuses on the notes.

September 27

Eddie’s still is finished and he transports it to the Kellner’s house at 436 N. Lakewood. He installs it in their basement and immediately begins experimenting, making some rye. He uses the corn and rye barley mash that his father recommends. Eddie tries several passes to duplicate the rye they made for Hart. That was a pretty good smooth rye. They didn’t have any time to age it and neither will Eddie. He will have to bottle it from the still as is. He does all he can to get a smooth rich flavor and soon he has something he likes, a good strong palatable whiskey.

October 8

The Philadelphia Athletics defeat the St. Louis Cardinals in the World Series winning four out of six games. Mr. Mack’s A’s repeat as champions. Philadelphia’s two aces, Lefty Grove and George Earnshaw each win two games as this series is a battle of pitching with the teams combining for only 33 runs in the six games. The Kavanagh’s, as always, pull for Connie Mack’s team and happily discuss each game. Baseball serves as a distraction, a much needed one this year, as things keep getting worse for the Shop. Babe Ruth’s New York Yankees finish a distant third, 16 games behind the A’s. Ruth has another solid year batting .359 with 49 home runs, but it’s not enough for the Yanks. Eddie has always been such a big fan of the local boy, Ruth. In the evenings, he regales his sons on the amazing baseball feats of the Babe. Young Jack, in particular, is very interested and hangs on every word of his father’s. Jack will become every bit the fan that Eddie is of George Herman “Babe” Ruth.

October 14

Eddie speaks to some of his friends about the rye he is making and gives them a taste. They seem to like it and are definitely interested. Some ask him about gin. Gin is particularly popular in the speakeasies. Eddie will give that some thought. If others can make it, he is certain he can. He visits the library and consults with some others who were formerly in the alcohol trade.

November 8

Eddie Kavanagh spends this Saturday trying to make gin in a tub in the Kellner’s basement. Bathtub gin is somewhat the rage these days. Eddie experiments with adding different flavors and chemicals to pure alcohol. He finds a mix that he thinks he can sell. For himself, he would never drink this stuff. It has a kick, yes but the taste is not at all to his liking. That being said, Eddie was a rye whiskey man all of his life just as his father is. Eddie now has two options for potential alcohol customers. The rye which he himself drinks and the gin which he will sell but never drink. He will get back in touch with any friends or associates who are interested. He will have to be careful to choose any customers carefully. He knows he has to be smart about this.

November 29

On the Saturday after Thanksgiving, Joe and Johanna Kavanagh visit their daughter, Anna(Sr. Mary Agnes) at the Visitation convent. They spend several hours talking over tea. They catch her up on her brothers and their families. They speak about Kitty’s passing and also the problems the Shop is having. She listens and assures her parents that the family is in her prayers and thoughts always.

December 7

After Church on this Sunday, Eddie finalizes his plans for selling some rye and gin. The rye is good and the gin is passable. He has a good system for making both in the Kellner’s basement away from any prying eyes, including his wife’s. He just needs a “code word” to keep the production and sales quiet. After dinner, he smokes and listens to the radio. The transmission is momentarily interrupted then returns. He adjusts the dials to get rid of the static. He is struck with an idea. A dodge for lack of a better term similar to what Joe used ten years ago. Joe told everyone he was selling hardware to justify making money when the Shop was slow. To cover his bootlegging profits. Eddie’s idea grows and a small smile covers his face. He will tell his friends and associates who are looking for liquor to call him. They should call Eddie at his home and tell him or his wife that there is something wrong with the caller’s radio. Eddie will tell Anna that he is going to try his hand at fixing radios to make some extra money. When the caller is asked what’s wrong with the radio, they are to answer it has a bad tube or two or more. They will then request a clear tube which would equal a bottle of gin or a dark tube which will signify a bottle of rye. Eddie likes this idea the more he thinks about it. He will send word to his friends and pass along this code word or dodge. This will work and Anna should be none the wiser. When they retire for the evening, Eddie mentions to his wife that he is thinking of fixing radios as a side job. She is curious if he knows enough about it. He tells her he knows how to replace the tubes and that’s the biggest part of it. He kisses her good night and says that doing “Radio Repairs” may just make them a nice little bit of money.

December 24

Today is the Christmas Party at the Shop. It’s been a very tough year. The work is going away and the country is in a deep Depression. They celebrate as best they can. This year they also lost Kitty but the Jack Hart story goes on as he is still missing. The party is a small affair this year with just the immediate Kavanagh family, a few customers and their two remaining non-family employees. There is food, drink and song but less of all three this year. They do hope for a better year in January. They can’t imagine it could be much worse. Eddie puts his trust in his new “Radio Repairs” to make some money and help see them through.



Herbert Hoover is the President of the United States. Pluto is discovered at the edge of the solar system. Clarence Birdseye sells his first frozen foods. A.A. Milne becomes the first author to sell the merchandising rights to his character, Winnie-the-Pooh. The Mickey Mouse comic strip is first published. Scotch tape and Twinkies are invented. The Chrysler Building is finished and becomes the world’s first structure over 1000 feet tall. The Radio show “The Shadow” premiers. Comic character Betty Boop first appears in “Dizzy Dishes”. Clint Eastwood, Neil Armstrong, Ray Charles, Sandra Day O’Connor and Don Shula are born.

There are still 48 states in the Union.

Kitty Kav Hart
Kitty Kavanagh Connelly. AKA Mrs. Jack Hart. Baltimore Sun 1930.

To read past years, click the “Table of Contents” link below.

Table of Contents

1929 The Crash and the Escape

January 2

A snowy start to the year finds the Shop very active working on jacket kettles and the assorted cooking apparatus that goes with them. The annual parade of confectionery work along with some boiler work has Pratt and Central very busy. Joe sits in the small office with his brother James and nephew Guy scheduling jobs and preparing quotations. His mind is also on his daughter Anna. She is due to take her final vows as a Visitation nun next month and he and his wife have mixed feelings. They are resigned to her joining the convent permanently but torn by the separation of the cloistered life. He knows his daughter wants the life of service and he will support her. Joe empties his pipe into the ashtray then returns to his notes.

January 13

On a Saturday afternoon, Joe’s niece, Kitty Connelly, visits Joe and Johanna on Collington Avenue. Joe was surprised to receive a call from her this week informing him that she was moving back to Baltimore. Kitty told her uncle she was not well and couldn’t work anymore. She has moved in with her sister Regina for the time being. Johanna makes them all a cup of tea. Kitty is very upset with the Maryland Penitentiary. They have locked her husband, Jack Hart, in solitary. He had refused to work because they won’t let them kiss when she visits. Kitty is very distraught but finds the strength to continue:

Not even a kiss. We can only talk through bars now. They can’t stop Jimmy and I from loving each other, Uncle Joe.”

Of course they can’t,” Joe answers her while looking at his wife. “They aren’t trying to do that, but it’s prison. They have rules.”

I don’t care about the rules. They have it in for Jimmy. They keep accusing him of having saws and keys in his cell. It’s not true. They plant things there to make him look guilty.” Kitty says as Jo rolls her eyes ever so subtly to her husband.

There’s nothing that can be done about it, Kitty.” Joe pats her shoulder. “You are home in Baltimore with your family. That’s for the best. You spend some time at Regina’s and you’ll feel better soon.”

I’ll do that, and I will be closer to Jack too. That’s the best part.” Kitty offers a soft smile.

Yes, that’s also nice.” says Johanna as she gathers the tea cups and walks to the kitchen. Joe again assures Kitty that it will all be fine and offers her a ride to her sister’s home. Johanna gives Kitty a good-bye hug and Joe ushers his niece out the front door while his wife mouths the word “trouble” to him.

February 11

Anna Kavanagh takes her final vows and becomes a Visitation nun, Sister Mary Agnes. The ceremony is held in the chapel at the Visitation convent on Roland Avenue. Both of Anna’s parents attend, Joe taking the afternoon off from work. The Visitation sisters take vows of Poverty, Chastity and Obedience. Joe and Johanna congratulate their daughter, keeping their reservations to themselves. They are very strong in the Catholic faith but the cloistered life is one of separation from family, a big adjustment for any family as close as the Kavanagh’s, a life of service and devotion to the Lord, with family communication and visits taking a back seat. Anna’s parents enjoy the service and stay for a small gathering afterwards then Jo drives them home. Johanna sticks to her guns and still refuses to get in a car with her husband driving.

Sister Mary Agnes - Visitation1
Sr. Mary Agnes(Anna Kavanagh) at the Visitation Convent. February 11, 1929.

March 16

On a cool Saturday night just before midnight, Jack Hart escapes from the Maryland Penitentiary again, this time accompanied and assisted by another inmate, George Bailey. Jack sawed through three locks to get out of his solitary cell and then released Bailey from his. They climbed carefully onto the top of the cell block. Using a can opener, the two escapees cut a hole in a ventilation shaft. Next, Hart and Bailey climbed onto the roof of the prison and dropped a makeshift rope(made from bedding and fabric) down to the Eager Street side of the building. Jack went down first and then the rope snapped or was cut. The police couldn’t determine which it was. George Bailey finds himself stranded on the roof, where he’s discovered the next day. Without looking back, Jack hastens along Eager and quickly turns down a side street. Jack is out. Jack is free.

March 17

On this St. Patrick’s Day Sunday, the Kavanagh’s read of Jack Hart’s escape. Joe calls his sons and his brother and they meet at Joe’s house to discuss. A corned beef and cabbage dinner is quickly organized and prepared by Johanna. Joe tells them all to be ready for the obligatory police visits and searches. They will stick to their story that they only knew Jack as James Connelly. They knew him as Kitty’s husband and that’s it. Of course, there will be no mention of the bootlegging he did with the Kavanagh’s. After the rest of the family leaves, Joe calls Regina’s house to speak to Kitty. Regina answers and tells Joe that Kitty is resting. She has already received a visit from the police and they questioned Kitty immediately. She told them she doesn’t know anything about it and is as surprised as they are that Jack has escaped. Joe is concerned for Kitty but Regina says she handled it well but is very tired. She tires easily now. Regina is very happy Kitty has moved in so she can be cared for more closely.

March 18

The Kavanagh’s arrive at 201 S. Central Avenue at 7:00 a.m. and the police are there waiting for them. Officers Dawson, Mayo, Springate and McNeil search the Shop top to bottom again. They find nothing and are quick to explain that they are only doing their jobs. They question Joe and the crew about Jack, if they have heard from him. Joe answers for all of them and gives an unequivocal no. He has not and does not expect to see Hart or hear from him. The four officers have searched the place five times over the last few years. They know the Kavanagh’s by now and accept their answer. They do not linger this time as the common belief is that Hart has left the City. The police depart after requesting that if anyone hears of or from Jack Hart, they must notify the authorities immediately. After the police leave, Joe gets his crew back to work but at lunch the Kavanagh’s have a brief chat while eating corned beef sandwiches. They all agree that it went well. The police seem to understand they don’t know where Jack is. If and when the police return, they will just let them search and handle it the same way. Later in the day, Eddie sees his father exit the Shop and step over to the corner of Pratt and Central. Joe would do this often and smoke his pipe while watching the traffic go by. Eddie puts his hammer down and joins Joe. Eddie lights a cigarette and asks his father about his call to Regina’s house. Joe recounts the brief conversation while they smoke Finally, Eddie has a question.

“Joe? Do you think Jack went to see Kitty?” Eddie asks to his father’s surprise.

“I don’t know and I don’t want to know.” Joe answers then takes a slow draw on his pipe. “And neither do you.”

“Do you think Regina would know if they saw each other?” Eddie spits a bit of tobacco out after his second question.

“Nope. Kitty’s too smart to let anyone know.” Joe answers.

“You mean Jack’s too smart.” replies Eddie with an eyebrow raised.

Joe’s eyes widen and he says, “Kitty’s too smart.” He pauses then tells Eddie, “Break is over. Time to get back in there.” He heads to the door and enters followed by his son. Joe turns left into the office while Eddie turns right into the Shop proper. He tosses his cigarette and replaces it with a stick of Double Mint gum then grabs his hammer.

April 24

Over a month has passed and Jack is still missing. The Shop is busy, flush with copper cooking vessels, brass bearings for a boiler and some replacement fittings for Globe Brewery. The crew labors distracted by the cool breeze of a spring day. The sun shines as Joe takes his daily walk onto the corner of Pratt and Central watching cars whiz by. He looks up at the blue sky, lights his pipe and wonders where did Jack get to anyway.

June 17

It is a busy summer Monday. Steamship repairs, boiler work, cooking kettles and ornamental rails fill the Shop. The men begin working a half day every Saturday. This year hasn’t started as well as last but the men have work and they go with the extra hours for now. Joe is always looking for potential jobs and so he follows business dealings in Baltimore and Maryland. He has heard that an aircraft company, Glenn L. Martin has opened a factory in Middle River and wonders if there is any work for them in aircraft parts. He can only hope. Joe is constantly on the lookout for new customers.

August 10

Eddie attends a meeting of Coppersmiths Local #80 on a hot and humid Saturday night. He reports to his union brothers that the Joseph Kavanagh Company is doing well and presently has quite a bit of coppersmith work. They are working at least a half day every Saturday and some times all day. The rank and file are pleased to hear this and hope it continues. Any union shop that is busy is good news for the union. After the meeting, Eddie drives home on his Indian Motorcycle cruising through the streets of Baltimore. He brings along several letters to answer from other Locals tucked in his briefcase that is strapped to the bike.

October 15

The talk of the Shop on this Tuesday is the World Series. Connie Mack’s Philadelphia Athletics defeated the Chicago Cubs four games to one; Joe has known Mack for years and has always rooted for his team. The series was highlighted by two incredible comebacks by the Athletics. In game four, Philadelphia scores ten runs in the seventh inning to win 10-8, a wild inning that included a misplayed three run inside-the-park home run. The last inside-the-park homer in a World Series game until 2015. Once again, in game five the Athletics rally from behind to win the game and the series. Trailing 2-0 in the bottom of the ninth, they score three and win the championship. Joe goes over that last inning with delight. Mule Haas tying it with a 2-run home run then several batters latter Al Simmons racing home to win it all on a Bing Miller double. Joe is very happy for his old acquaintance. They’ve seen each other a few times over the years and Joe loves to go up to Philly for a ballgame, though his obligations at the Shop limit his opportunities to do so. Joe’s son Eddie was also pulling for the Athletics. He was always an American League guy, though his true loyalty was with Babe Ruth and the New York Yankees. More of a fan of Ruth than the team, still he rooted for them just to hear more about the Babe. Ruth has a good season, hitting a crisp .345 while mashing 46 home runs. The Yanks finish a distant second to the Athletics: 18 games back.

October 29

The New York Stock Market crashes and this day becomes known as Black Tuesday. The market drops a whopping 70 points in two days. That amounts to a 25% drop in stock prices. There is a rebound but not much of one. Stocks had been on a bull run through the 20s but the market couldn’t bear it any longer. A correction wouldn’t do the trick and panic spreads, causing widespread sell-offs of stock. The U.S. economy had been showing signs of slowing for several months. Steel sales and automobile sales were down but no one expected this. The market fell primarily due to over speculation. The economy was on a tear through the 1920s with many people jumping into the stock market. A large portion of these investors were buying stock with borrowed money and banks were loaning up to 2/3 of the purchase price of stock to investors. When stocks took a tumble first in March and then September, it was a warning of the instability of the market. By October, when stocks fell, chaos reigned, with some stocks being sold so quickly the ticker tapes couldn’t keep up, and banks calling in loans from investors holding worthless stock. The market remains unstable and will continue to fall over the next several years.

November 8

Very quickly, the work slows down. Joe notices within days of the Crash that the phone isn’t ringing much. The Shop has some work on the books but the Kavanagh’s worry about the future, especially with the winter coming on. They work on fabricating a brass railing and some boiler parts today. Joe and James will brace for a rough winter but they have no idea how bad it will get and for how long.

November 30

The Saturday after Thanksgiving Joe and Johanna visit Anna (Sr. Mary Agnes) at the Visitation convent in Roland Park. She tells them that she’s very happy with the life she has chosen and has adapted well. They discuss her brothers’ children, the Shop and the neighborhood. She inquires about Kitty and her mother tells her that Kitty isn’t well. She seems weaker and is having more trouble walking and moving about. Joe and Jo are concerned and have advised Kitty to see a doctor. They touch briefly on Jack Hart’s escape, with Joe doing his best to brush over it quickly. Sister Mary Agnes tells her parents that Jimmy Connelly is a lost soul who needs guidance. She promises to pray for both Kitty and Jack.

The Visitation Convent. 5712 Roland Avenue. Baltimore, MD. 1929.

December 15

Kitty’s condition has worsened and she’s admitted to the Volunteers of America Hospital. Joe drives her there accompanied by her sister Regina. Kitty is diagnosed with spinal trouble and essentially is bedridden. Her sister Regina has done everything she could to care for Kitty and Joe comforts her as best he can, but both are worried for Kitty. This is clearly serious and they can only hope and pray for a recovery.

December 24

The yearly Christmas Party is held. The Shop is quickly cleaned and decorated for the holiday affair. Young Leo, Ed, Mary and Jack play in the Shop, excited at the prospect of Christmas. Three generations of Kavanagh’s welcome the holiday with cheer but there is much concern for next year with the economy so erratic. They’ve already felt the effects and have stopped working Saturdays; their backlog of scheduled work has gotten a lot shorter. Nonetheless, they celebrate, sharing food and drink and song. They hope for the best next year as they have so many times in the past. The family is also concerned about Kitty who remains in the hospital. She grows weaker very quickly when visited and seems to have little strength. As far as her husband goes, there’s no sign of Jack Hart. During his previous escape, there were always rumors or false reports of him but this time he’s gone. Jack is a ghost.



Herbert Hoover is the President of the United States. The Baltimore Museum of Art opens. Seven of Al Capone’s enemies are shot to death on February 14 in what is called the St. Valentine’s Massacre. The First Academy Awards are held. “Wings” wins the Best Picture. The Wickersham Commission begins an investigation into illegal whiskey production. Amos and Andy premieres on radio. JC Penney becomes the first retailer with stores in all 48 states. Foster Grant mass produces sunglasses for the first time. Admiral Byrd flies over the South Pole. Martin Luther King, Audrey Hepburn, Jackie Kennedy Onassis, Grace Kelly, and Dick Clark are born.

There are 48 states in the Union.

Joseph A. “Crazy Joe” Kavanagh. Late 1920s.


1928 The Visitation

January 2

The first Monday of the New Year is a bitter cold one. The crew are thrilled to get the torches lit and the annealing oven hot. Anything to get some warmth into the Pratt and Central building. The Kavanagh’s and their workers attend to their usual candy and ice cream kettles. The Shop once again is full of replacements and repairs for their confectionery customers. These cold days are tough to work through but over the years, you get very accustomed to never getting accustomed to it.

February 11

Anna Kavanagh visits the Visitation convent in Roland Park. She meets with the sisters and informs them of her decision to join them. She must spend a year living a cloistered life as they do before she can take her final vows. Her parents, Joe and Jo are saddened. They feel a certain pride as they are very devout Roman Catholics but that is tempered by the reality of not seeing their daughter very often. The cloistered life is one of service and devotion to the Church. The Sisters and their families have limited opportunities to see each other and socialize. Still, it is Anna’s wish and her mother and father respect that.

February 25

On this Saturday, Joe and Johanna drive their daughter to The Visitation Convent at 5712 Roland Avenue where Anna will begin her first year of living the cloistered life of faith and service. The Visitation nuns are very devoted to the Blessed Virgin Mary. Anna feels this same dedication already. Her parents escort her into the convent building and hug her goodbye. Johanna weeps but does her best to play it down for her daughter’s sake. Anna wants this life and her mother will not stand in the way, and neither will Joe. He will miss his daughter greatly. They have played piano together regularly, singing and loving their duets. Joe takes Johanna by the hand and they leave Anna to the trusted sisters of the Visitation. The drive home to Collington Avenue is a quiet and somber one.

Sr. Mary Agnes ( Anna Kavanagh ) on the Visitation convent grounds. 1971.

April 9

The Shop’s crew spends a busy day on some brewery repairs for Gunther’s: valves and fittings to make and replace as well as some seams on vats to repair. Part of the work is done on Central Avenue and some is finished on site. Eddie leads a crew of five men at the brewery. They do not encounter any unexpected problems or angry supervisors. No dancing is necessary this time.

May 12

On this Saturday, Joe and Johanna Kavanagh spend several hours at the Visitation convent with their daughter Anna. Visits are infrequent and they take advantage of the time together to discuss the family’s activities. They also speak of the commitment Anna is about to make. Her parents do not try to dissuade her but she knows they are not happy with her choice.

July 27

The Kavangh’s hold a brief meeting at the Shop after hours. Brothers Joe and James are there. Joe’s sons Leo and Eddie along with James’ son Guy are present. They discuss the upcoming execution of Charles “Country” Carey who was one of Jack Hart’s gang and accompanied Jack to the Shop on several whiskey runs. Carey was also part of Hart’s group that murdered William Norris in 1922 during a payroll robbery. Jack and the rest were all convicted of the robbery and murder of Norris but avoided the death penalty. All were sentenced to life terms in prison. Last year, Carey attempted to escape with another inmate, Benjamin Spragins Jr.. A prison clerk, Alfred Walker was shot and killed during the attempt. Neither Carey nor Spragins have revealed how they acquired a gun in the penitentiary and the escapees never made it out of prison. Both were sentenced to death for the murder of Walker. The story has been in the paper but without the deep coverage that Jack Hart always received, which is good news for the Shop and the family as they have no known association with Carey. There have been several appeals in support of Carey, one coming from another member of Jack’s gang, Walter “Noisy” Sokorow who claimed to have important information about the events. The governor was unswayed and so far, both men are to be hanged at the Penitentiary on August 3. The Kavanaghs hardly knew Carey but feel compelled to go over the events again. They knew “Country” just enough to feel the strangeness of knowing precisely when he will die.

August 3

Charles “Country” Carey and Benjamin Spragins Jr. are executed by hanging just after midnight at the Maryland Penitentiary.

August 4

The Shop is full of hammering on this mild summer Saturday. The crew work on some ballast pump chambers they are building for the Philadelphia Navy Shipyard. Joe sits in his small corner office and reads the Baltimore Sun account of the Carey and Spragins execution. According to the Coroner, it did not go well. Both men were left dangling and most likely were strangled to death. Joe can not imagine such a way to die. The same news story includes several opinions promoting the electric chair or lethal gas for executions as more humane ways to kill a man. Joe folds the paper and walks out to the Shop. He puffs on his pipe and watches sheet copper being pounded into a lid for one of the pump chambers. The Kavanagh’s close the Shop at noon and head home for the weekend.

September 11

The crew at Kavanagh’s are very busy today as the Shop is loaded with work. A large boiler replacement job has been brought in by E. J. Codd Co. In addition, they have two small ornamental railings to bend and several very large cooking vessels. The large jacket kettles are for a cafeteria in Baltimore City. Joe is thrilled at the volume of work and while chatting with the crew breaks into his celebratory jig. The boys clap their hands and get a few laughs out of the old vaudevillian’s dance. He chuckles as well but is quick to get them all back to work.

October 9

The New York Yankees sweep the St. Louis Cardinals to win the World Series. It is the first time any team has swept two series in a row. Ruth hits .625 in the four games and belts three homers in game four, the only man to achieve such a feat twice. Lou Gehrig hits four home runs and drives in nine in the series, a very lopsided affair as the Yanks outscore the Cards, 27-10 in the Fall Classic. The Kavanagh’s discuss each game and marvel at the incredible Yankee lineup. Joe and Eddie have their annual debate over Cobb and Ruth. In some fitting fashion, this one is perhaps a tie. Both players hit exactly .323 for the season though Ruth hit 54 home runs to Cobb’s one. Cobb was never one for the long ball. He was more of a singles and doubles hitter who got many of both. Ty Cobb’s career comes to an end this year. He made a public announcement to that effect just before the end of the season. His age and some small injuries limited him to 95 games played. Joe Kavanagh will miss cheering for him and following his statistics. At age 41, Cobb is too old for baseball. Joe will always considers Cobb the greatest baseball player of all time. Cobb set over 90 batting records during his playing days and his career batting average of .366 has never been approached in the modern game and never will be.

November 2

Meanwhile, a few miles from The Shop, on this Friday, Oliver Lawrence and Bernardine Crew welcome a baby daughter, Bernardine Elizabeth. Their second born child and only daughter is born at home at 1612 Guilford Avenue in Baltimore. Lawrence was a plumber’s helper and sometimes chauffeur. They don’t know the Kavanagh’s, but in twenty years the families will be bound together. The baby is called Betty. She grows to be the most compassionate and loving person I have ever known. She was wise, witty and as down-to-earth as anyone could be. She was my mother.

November 6

Herbert Hoover defeats Alfred E. Smith to win the presidency. Hoover wins by a large margin and the Republican Party retains the presidency. The Kavanagh’s voted for Smith. He was the first Roman Catholic to be nominated by a major party for the highest office. This alone probably delivered their votes to Mr. Smith though they were not fans of Calvin Coolidge either. Coolidge was not running but they assumed Hoover would govern in a similar fashion.

December 22

The Christmas Party at the Shop is held this Friday. In a flurry of tree-purchasing and decorating, 201. S. Central Avenue is ready for the holidays. Employees, Kavanagh’s and customers mingle. They eat, drink and sing to celebrate Christmas. Joe and Johanna’s daughter, Anna is at the convent and is unable to attend the party. Her absence is keenly felt by her parents. They will visit her on Sunday, Christmas Day. She has made her choice and will take her final vows next year. The Shop has had another good year. They have managed to stay rather busy throughout and they continue to work alternating Saturdays. This works well as it makes everyone a little more money and still avoids burning the crew out with too many hours. The Kavanagh’s are slowly but surely building the Shop back to the level of work it used to attain. Positive steps in the right direction seem to be leading them to better days. It is still the Roaring 20s and the good times are here. What could possibly go wrong?



Calvin Coolidge finishes his term as President of the United States. The first television station goes on the air in New York. WGY Television. Mickey Mouse and Minnie Mouse appear in their first films including Steamboat Willie. Richard Byrd begins his first exploration of the Arctic. Arnold Rothstein, the gambler long blamed for the 1919 Black Sox Scandal is gunned down in a Manhattan hotel. The Boston Garden is opened. Eliot Ness assumes control of the Prohibition task force in Chicago. Grammar school education becomes mandatory in Maryland. Fred Rogers, Maya Angelou, Shirley Temple, Andy Warhol and Bo Diddley are born.

There remain 48 states in the Union.

Mom Betty
Betty Crew Kavanagh’s baby picture. 1929.

1927 Vocation

January 3

The year starts well at the Shop. One of their confectionery customers, the Darby Candy Company, is expanding its factory and has ordered a dozen new large kettles to be fabricated, a very nice job to start the year. January & February are the months when the Shop’s candy and ice cream customers get their repairs and replacements done. The Darby order makes for an outstanding month to start the year. Brothers Joe and James take it as a good sign that the year will be as successful as the last.

February 10

Joe reads the newspaper in the small corner office of the Shop. Ty Cobb has signed with the Philadelphia Athletics. Cobb was released by Detroit after a tough year as player/manager. Joe is such a fan of Cobb and to have him playing for Connie Mack in Philly is a chance Joe won’t be able to pass up. He makes plans to take a trip to Philadelphia to see a ballgame this year. The Shop is still busy. They have more kettles for sweets to make, but also several boiler jobs have come along. Copper liners and some flanges are made, as well as valves and fittings for the boiler tanks. The Shop is busy enough that the men have begun working alternating Saturdays already.

March 28

The Shop spends a busy Spring making a municipal fountain and a railing for a school. In the case of the fountain, copper sheet is heated and rolled into tube; then the tube is gradually pulled around grooved blocks to bend it, a slow process but the Kavanaghs and crew are accustomed to it. The railing is bent in a similar fashion, even more slowly. The brass railing is a more irregular curve and is bent inch by inch very gradually to prevent any errors. Eddie leads the crew on this one. He has the most steady hand of all the smiths and also a great eye for the finished product. Eddie had great discernment of what the customer needed and how to give them the best product. The Kavanagh’s continue to work every other Saturday and plan to do so throughout the year if possible.

May 22

On this Sunday, Joe listens to the radio, marveling at news accounts of Charles Lindbergh crossing the Atlantic flying solo. Joe cannot imagine the courage it would take to attempt such a trip. The world is getting a little smaller all the time. Joe gives some thought to the coming week at the Shop. The crew will be working on several beer vats and a large water tank. The tank is 3000 gallons. The Kavanagh’s will have half of their crew working on this one. It must be made, tested, then disassembled before being delivered to the customer next month.

June 18

Joe visits Philadelphia to take in an Athletics game. He wants to see his hero Ty Cobb playing for his old acquaintance, Connie Mack. He would love to meet Cobb but it doesn’t happen. Mr. Mack is busy with game preparation and Cobb is nowhere to be seen on the field until the start of the ball game. The Athletics are hosting the Chicago White Sox. Philly wins 6-2 led by catcher, Mickey Cochrane who homers and drives in three runs. Cobb goes one out of three for the day, a pretty good game, well worth the trip to Philadelphia .

July 17

Eddie attends a Knights of Columbus Convention in Atlantic City, New Jersey. It is a very rare week off work for Eddie but he is an active member of the Knights of Columbus. Eddie belongs to several church and community groups. The Kavanaghs believe in being very involved with the community and especially with the Church. Of course, Eddie is also General Secretary of the Coppersmiths Local. As a natural organizer, he enjoys being involved with these groups. The Shop is flush with steamship work. Stacks, fittings and gauges are made from brass. The crew works in the heat. The conversation is about baseball and Eddie not being at work. A Shop tradition is if someone is not at work for a day or two, especially a Kavanagh, everything that goes wrong is their fault. Eddie receives a lot of blame this week.

August 19

A very hot humid Friday ends the week. The crew has this Saturday off and they’re happy for it. It was a long week of heat and fire at the Joseph Kavanagh Company. The men are working on a large order of Navy replacement parts, some very small copper pipe elbows. The elbows are bent fairly easily but must be annealed first. It is much easier to heat these in the Shop’s annealing oven than by torch, but it raises the temperature in the building to stifling heights. The Kavanagh’s and crew suffer through the week but are happy for the work. It has been a good year so far and now the men enjoy a two day break from their labors.

October 8

The Yankees sweep the Pirates four games to none to win the World Series. The Yanks have an incredible lineup led by Ruth and Lou Gehrig. The media calls them “Murderer’s Row” and they win 111 games. Ruth homers twice in the series to lead New York. The deciding game ends in unusual fashion. In the bottom of the ninth with the score tied, Johnny Miljus uncorks a wild one and Earle Combs scampers home from third to win the game and the series. It is still the only World Series to end on a wild pitch. The annual seasonal debate between Joe and Eddie about Cobb and Ruth continues. Eddie boasts that Ruth mashed a ridiculous 60 homers this year while Joe emphasizes that Cobb has reached 4,000 hits for his career. Ty Cobb is the first to do so and Joe is sure that no one else will ever hit that many in a career again. Also, for the year Cobb bats a respectable .357 besting Ruth by one point. Still, there is no doubt in anyone’s mind including Joe’s that Cobb’s career is nearing the end. Ruth, Gehrig and the rest of the pin-striped Yankees are in their prime.

November 19

Eddie and Anna attend a showing of the new film, the Jazz Singer. It is the latest thing, a movie with sound, a “talkie.” They enjoy the film a great deal especially the musical accompaniment. Their boys, Ed(9) and Jack(3) spend the Saturday afternoon at Collington Avenue with Eddie’s parents. While Eddie’s sister, Anna plays the piano for the boys, Jo prepares lamb stew for them all for dinner. During dinner Eddie and Anna praise the movie and the music. Joe is interested but is sure none of these films will ever compare to live performance. Joe always said there was nothing like vaudeville.

December 3

Anna Kavanagh tells her parents she has received a calling. She wishes to join a convent and become a cloistered Visitation nun. Her mother, Johanna is very upset. She wants her daughter close at home and wants her to have a family. If Anna joins the Visitation, she can not come home. She can only be seen at certain times and under certain conditions. Joe wants his daughter to be happy but defers to his wife on this. Johanna makes clear her feelings without appearing disappointed. Anna has felt this calling and she is decided.

December 23

It is time for the Christmas party at the Shop. The usual festivities are held a day early on a Friday with the Kavanagh’s, their crew and customers. The Shop is decorated in the typical makeshift fashion it is each year, a tree decorated with a handful of ornaments and some odd ends from the Shop: spirals of brass that remain from drilled holes and small copper tube elbows. There is much food and some drink. Prohibition is on but in Baltimore, you can always find some whiskey. The group sings and celebrates the holiday. The year has been successful. They have a steady stream of work again though they have lower sales than before Prohibition, smaller sales and a smaller crew but they are making money again. The same familiar faces, men they have had for years, including family. Joe and Jo are troubled about Anna’s decision. To receive a calling is a great gift in the Catholic faith. Still, Jo feels she is losing another daughter. The parents will support Anna but not without some reservations. The Shop faces another winter but this time with more confidence. They seem to have found their niche again. The Roaring Twenties are on and hopes are high. The future is now with talking motion pictures and airplanes.



Calvin Coolidge is the President but he announces he will not seek re-election next year. The first transatlantic phone call is made. The Federal Radio Commission which will become the FCC is formed. The Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences is founded. CBS Radio is created with 47 stations. The first armored car robbery is committed in Pennsylvania. The musical “Show Boat” premiers on Broadway. Erma Bombeck, Neil Simon, George C. Scott, Eartha Kitt and Harry Belafonte are born.

There are 48 states in the Union

Eddie Kavanagh on the far right with fellow Knights of Columbus at a convention in Atlantic City, New Jersey. July 1927.



1926 Tap Dancing at the Brewery

January 7

Ice cream and candy kettles fill the Shop to start the year. Brothers Joe and James are pleased. Last year was a good one. They have had to scale back their crew bit by bit but now they seem to have a balance of work and employees. The crew of 20 including 5 Kavanaghs are spread throughout the Shop and it’s small front office. Joe handles all phone calls from customers, quotations and jobs. James handles the engineering for the kettles, brewing systems and cooking vessels they make. His son Guy does the books. Invoicing and paying the bills. They work primarily in the small corner office during the day. Trips into the Shop proper to check on job progress and the crew keep one or two of them in and out pretty often. Also, Joe enjoys holding court in the Shop for customers and workers a like. Joe’s oldest son Leo is a very skilled draftsman. He makes the majority of all sketches that are used in their work. Joe’s youngest son Eddie is their most talented coppersmith. He has over ten years of experience and the raw skill of a smith. Eddie is assigned the most difficult jobs. He usually leads the crew for installs as well. The Shop’s beer brewery work increased last year. The sale of “Near Beer” has helped the post prohibition beer industry. In January, their focus has been for years on candy and ice cream customers. They fabricate the kettles and apparatus for the production of the sweets. For many years, the winter months are the time of year for the confectionery companies to handle repairs and replacements. A good thing for the Kavanaghs too. The winter would otherwise be a very quiet time for the place.

March 10

A blustery windy day is spent at the Shop making railings. The Kavanaghs have a long complicated railing to make. The curve is irregular turning right then left. With heat, the brass is bent. After one section is completed by a group of five men, then other workers set to polishing it to a mirror finish. Long tedious work but it pays off with a beautiful finished product. The work has remained steady. They do not work many Saturdays during the cold months but Joe and James give thought to it again. Last year they alternated working Saturdays once the weather broke. That seemed to work quite well. The brothers decide to begin doing the same this year in April.

May 26

A spring Wednesday starts with the Shop receiving an emergency call from Gunther’s Brewery. They have a large leak in a beer vat and it needs to be fixed immediately. They are upset and desperate for a solution. Joe thinks it is best if he is there. He grabs his son Eddie and his nephew James Woods Jr. The three quickly climb into the truck with torches, hammers and tools. They drive as fast they can to the brewery on Conkling Street. Once inside, they make their way to the large brewing room full of vats. The floor is wet with wasted beer. The crew are mopping up and cleaning up as best they can. The supervisor approaches Joe and lets him have it. He’s not satisfied at all. These were just repaired a year ago and look at the mess. He is rambling on and firing left and right at Joe. Joe remains strangely calm. He assures the supervisor that they will fix it up in a jiffy. Joe doesn’t mention that the seams are only guaranteed for a year. The change in weather and over-use makes their repair schedule unpredictable. Joe does not want to anger this gentleman further. He pulls Eddie aside as the supervisor continues ranting. He is swearing and cursing now to his workers about the mess.

Joe tells Eddie, “You and James get in there and fix this thing as fast as you can. Run a good bead but make it quick. I don’t want this to leak anytime soon”

Eddie answers, “Sure, we can do that Joe but this guy is crazy mad.”

Joe says,” Leave him to me. Get up in there.”

Eddie and James Woods climb the ladder up into the tank and begin surveying the damage. Joe meanwhile takes the supervisor by the arm and starts speaking to him. Apologizing and assuring him that it will be fixed quickly. Joe tries to calm him down and lead the conversation away from the leaking vat. They talk of baseball and music and the City. Anything to keep this gentleman from exploding with anger. Eddie finds the leaky seam. It doesn’t seem too bad. It is pretty clear due to the size of the crack but he thinks they can fix it without much trouble. The beer leak all happened quickly once the seam is compromised, the liquid is going to pour out fast. He and his cousin examine it closely and begin cleaning and prepping the seam to solder. Eddie notices that it seems quiet out in the room now. He even hears a few laughs. He smiles to himself knowing that his father Joe is working his magic. Joe was a born entertainer and loves any chance to do so. He was a vaudevillian in his youth. Comedy and music are two of his favorite things. James Woods begins heating the copper at the seam. Eddie gets to soldering. He hears a bit more discussion outside the tank though it does not sound angry. As he runs the bead along the seam with his cousin’s assistance, Eddie begins hearing a rhythmic tapping. He ignores it for a moment but it does not stop. It’s a changing rhythm and it continues. He is about halfway along the cracked seam when he decides to find out what is going on. He hands his soldering iron to James Woods. Hoists himself up to the edge and peeks over out into the large room. He sees the supervisor and his crew all gathered in a semi-circle around Joe. Joe is smiling and tap dancing merrily as the workers watch. Eddie can’t stop the smile from spreading on his face. This is so his father, Crazy Joe Kavanagh. Joe glances up to his son and looks at him as he dances. Instinctively, Eddie shakes his head no. The seam is not ready and he hops right back into the vat. He grabs the soldering iron from his cousin and gets right back to work. He hurries because Joe is almost 60. Eddie’s not sure how long he can keep this up. Eddie is close though and he chases the bead farther and in several moments he is finished. He quickly hops up and looks out again. This time Joe is looking for him. Eddie quickly nods and drops back down. Joe does a few more quick steps and finishes with some old soft shoe flourish. The crowd break out into cheers and applause. Eddie recounts to James what has happened. Smiling they pack up and climb out of the vat. Down the ladder and back into the brewing room. Joe is shaking hands with the supervisor who is smiling broadly and thanking Joe for the dance. That was great he says. As Eddie approaches, he informs Joe that they are finished. The supervisor thanks Joe again. That was some great service. Thank you so much for coming right out and getting right to it. And that dance sure made us all happy. Joe smiles back and tells him he is more than welcome. This is what we do. We guarantee quick and reliable service and repair. The supervisor tells Joe to send us a bill and thanks again. Eddie and James toss their tools in the truck and all three climb in. Eddie is in the driver’s seat with his father next to him. Eddie has done his best to suppress a grin.

Finally, he has to ask. “You know Joe, I never knew dancing was part of the job.“

Joe glances over and with a twinkle in his eyes he says,” EVERYthing is part of the job, Eddie. Everything.”

“Well, I can’t really dance.” Eddie answers as he turns onto Central Avenue.

Joe looks at his son and says, “That’s just fine. I can.”

Eddie shakes his head as they head closer to the Shop and the conversation drifts to baseball. They briefly continue their constant debate of who is better Ty Cobb or Babe Ruth. Joe the consummate fan of Cobb and Eddie a fan of Ruth. They pull in at 201 S. Central and return. Seam fixed. Leak stopped. Dance danced. Mission accomplished.

“Crazy Joe” Kavanagh 1920.

July 24

Joe takes a Saturday train to Philadelphia. He is attending a ballgame and hopes to visit Connie Mack

an old acquaintance. Connie Mack manages the Philadelphia Athletics. They met in a vaudeville theater when Mack was a player and Joe was part of a traveling musical troupe. Joe has visited Mack occasionally over the years though not in the last few crazy strange years. He has a seat near the dugout and is able to speak to him briefly before the game. They catch up a bit and talk baseball. Maybe not friends but associates who both probably enjoy thinking back to their meeting as young men. Mack’s Athletics defeat the Cleveland Indians in 10 innings. Jimmy Dykes leads off the bottom of the 10th inning with a triple and is drivein in by Jim Poole to win the game. Joe saw a good ballgame. Lefty Grove gets the win in relief. Mr. Mack’s team has a pretty good year but must settle for thrird place. Joe thinks long and hard about this life on the train ride back to Baltimore. He can still remember his musical days. The Primrose Quartet, the group of men he sang with. The tours of the Midwest, Canada and Europe. He saw the world. Yet, it was a long time ago. It is more than 30 years now since his wife asked Old Uncle Joe to give her husband a job. Get him home and off the road. It is a rueful memory for Joe. Which is not to say he doesn’t regret it. He just knows it was the right thing to do.

August 5

Today is one of those sweltering humid days that makes smithing a challenge. The Shop’s crew are busy with some steamship parts, a variety of kettles and several beer vats. The work is plentiful but the heat makes every move difficult. They torch copper and twist and turn it. All the while fighting against the temperature. A 100 degree day can feel like 200 with a torch in hand. The Kavanaghs have dealt with the dog days of summer for years at the Shop. All that experience and practice, still adds up to working men sweating and laboring through the stifling day. You get used to not getting used to it.

October, 11

The St. Louis Cardinals beat the New York Yankees in the World Series. Winning 4 games to 3. This series has Babe Ruth all over it. Good and bad. The good being in game 4, Ruth crushes a record three home runs. News accounts state this is after promising a sick boy, Johnny Sylvester that he would hit one out for him. The other two I suppose were bonuses. According to legend, the boys’ health dramatically improved after the home run. Modern research finds this event in doubt but nonetheless it has passed into the lore of baseball and Babe Ruth. One of those Ruth stories that will never cease to be told whether facts dispute them or not. On the bad side, Ruth is thrown out attempting to steal in game 7 for the final out of the game and series. His detractors including Joe Kavanagh find great delight in criticizing this ill-advised attempt. The Kavanaghs and crew discuss the series for days after its completion. Joe needles his son Eddie about Ruth’s gaffe in the final game. Still, Ruth easily wins the season compared to Ty Cobb. Ruth bats a robust .372 with 47 homers. Cobb settles for a meager by his standards, .339 while missing about half season due to injury and age.

December 24

This Friday brings the Christmas Eve Party at the Shop. The annual party is a festive one. Three generations of Kavanaghs celebrate and welcome in the holidays. Kitty does not visit this year but her sisters Regina and Mary attend with their families. Leo’s son, Leo Jr. plays with Eddie’s son, Ed Jr.. while their toddlers Mary(Leo’s daughter) and Jack(Eddie’s son) wander about the dirty Shop. Frequently scooped up and held by one relative or another. Song fills the Shop lead by Joe and his daughter Anna. It is a wonderful evening. Another year in the books for the Kavanaghs. Joe, James and their sons are more relaxed and confident that things are going in the right direction. They have managed two good years in a row. They do not have the volume of work they had before Prohibition but they are making some money. As always, they will see how the winter goes.



Calvin Coolidge is the President of the United States. The first liquid-fueled rocket is invented by Robert Goddard. Congress passes the Air Commerce Act which licenses pilots and airlines. The National Bar Association is incorporated. Iconic Route 66 is established. The NBC Radio Network is formed from 24 local stations. Jerry Lewis, Mel Brooks, Harper Lee, Chuck Berry and Tony Bennett are born. Harry Houdini and Annie Oakley die.

There are 48 states in the Union.

Pratt and Central building. 1990.