1944 The USS Strickland

January 4

After work, Eddie drives Jack to a Navy recruitment office and Jack enlists in the United States Navy. Jack is a 19 year old boy and he’s afraid but not too afraid to do what is expected of him. Eddie takes his time on the way home, not anxious to see his wife’s reaction. He assures his son everything will be okay but it will be tougher for Annie. She is heartbroken with concern and fear for her youngest son, her baby.

January 11

Jack Kavanagh takes a train to Chicago to attend the US Naval Training Program in Great Lakes, Illinois. His parents escort him to the station and a bitter tear-filled goodbye is said between Mother and son. A tight squeezing hug from Annie, a pat on the back from Eddie and Jack boards the train. He tries to put the farewell behind him and face what is ahead. He’s pleased to be joining the Navy; he loves the sea, having visited Ocean City, Maryland several times in his youth. He loved the ocean and the beach, he loved the water. It seemed the best fit, plus he heard the food was better. He arrives with a large group of young American boys not sure what to expect or what to do. They are quickly processed and it’s time for chow, beans and bread. Jack was not impressed but he eats it along with the rest of the boys and they are assigned to several weeks of training in Navy specific rules and regulations as well as their areas of expertise. Jack will be attending Metalsmith School which suits him very well after apprenticing and working as a coppersmith for three years. At the Shop, a cold day is spent finishing a copper dome for a condenser from National Distillers. Copper sheet is heated and then pounded into shape, the dome made by one man with a wooden mallet underneath the sheet while two use brass hammers from above. It is completed by lunchtime then delivered and installed in the afternoon.

February 15

Jack finishes his training, becoming a Metalsmith 1st Class and he is assigned to the USS Strickland(DE-333), a destroyer escort. The destroyer escort is a smaller battleship used primarily in support or to defend convoys of ships both commercial and military. Early next month, Jack and the rest of the crew will take a train to San Diego, California from which the Strickland will begin its maiden voyage

Jack Kavnagh’s certificate that confirms his completion of his studies at the Great Lakes Naval Training Facility. 1944.

.March 4

The crew of the Joseph Kavanagh Company work busily through a Saturday morning in anticipation of the weekend. Ed Kavanagh Jr. is particularly antsy to get out of there; he and his new girl, Lillian Fetsch, have entered a jitterbug contest and they need the practice. He met her a month ago and they have been dating steadily since. The crew work a half-day and Ed and the rest take off into the Spring afternoon sunshine, most to spend the day with family, but Ed and Lil will have a night of dancing and music.

March 8

The Strickland is launched on its “shakedown” voyage and heads to Bermuda. After passing all its basic tests and maneuvers she heads to Norfolk, VA. They receive mail call in Norfolk and Jack is shocked and thrilled to have a large bound stack of letters, all from his Mother. As he flips through the envelopes, it becomes clear that his mother has written him nearly every day. He finds the oldest postmark and rips that one open and reads it. The letter is word from home, his Mother’s love and wishes for his safety. He quickly reads it and moves on to the next. Each is a little different with brief updates on the family including news about Ed dating Lillian and the weather in Baltimore. Several of his bunk mates comment on the large pile of letters and kid Jack that he must have a lot of girls. He says just one, my Mother, then he winks and grins as the cabin breaks into laughter.

March 24

The Strickland heads to the North Atlantic as part of a convoy protecting sixty merchant ships. This is their first real military mission and Jack knows he is very far from home now and getting farther away each day. His thoughts often move to Baltimore, his family and the Shop. The Shop is still humming along with a lot of ship work and their standard distillery and brewery jobs.

April 8

Jack and the crew of the USS Strickland reach Gibraltar safely with no contact from the enemy. So far, Jack’s service consists of early rising, bad food and a day of machining and making spare and replacement parts for the ship. He is fine with the early mornings and the long working days but the food leaves a lot to be desired. So much for the Navy having better food or if it’s true, then he seriously pitied those Army boys.

April 11

The Luftwaffe attack the Strickland when it passes into the Mediterranean Sea. As they sail past Algeria, the Germans attack with bombing and torpedo runs. Jack sees his first combat action of the war. The attack occurs early in the morning and most of the crew are awakened from their bunks by the sound of guns and explosions. The rest are at battle stations and the fighting is furious for a few minutes. Jack moves to the machine shop where he works along with his fellow metalsmiths and they wait for instructions. The metal room is a cacophony of explosions and crashes before it all goes quiet and the air raid ends as quickly as it started. The Strickland successfully protected the convoy, taking no damage, and repelled the German assault. Despite all of that, the young Navy boys are shaken up because it was their first time. Jack and his fellow crew members will grow accustomed to the sound of battle from inside the belly of a ship.

Dad Jack Navy Uniform by rock
Jack Kavanagh in his Navy uniform. 1944.

May 11

The Strickland returns to New York and continues escorting convoys back and forth for five months. The ships sail across the Atlantic, then into the Mediterranean Sea. They rarely see any action on the way back to the US but are sometimes harassed by German planes and submarines when they approach European waters, and the pass through Gibraltar is particularly hairy. Jack is adjusting to life at sea and he does love the water so there is a small silver lining. He misses his hometown, his family and his friends but he is seeing some of the world with stopovers in England and France so far. They have yet to have a weekend of Liberty but the boys are all looking forward to getting off the ship soon even for just a few hours. The scuttlebutt has them getting a weekend of R and R in England this summer.

June 6

Operation Overlord begins on what becomes know as D-Day. Allied troops begin the largest sea to ground assault in history. The Axis are dug in deep but the US and British troops will not be deterred and they establish a beach head. The invasion of Europe is on as over 150,000 Allied troops land at Normandy led by Supreme Allied Commander, Dwight Eisenhower. The Germans had received coded transmissions stating that the attack would be at Calais, France but it was a ruse and by the time the Nazis had realized it, they were unable to stop the Allies. The nation listens on the radio and reads the newspapers with a collective baited breath, desperate for any and all details and praying that this is the beginning of victory and peace.

July 13

The USS Strickland is handling some convoy duty mainly in the Mediterranean now and Jack’s days are usually filled with machining and mechanics. The officer on duty is well-trained and a good sailor but he is no machinist according to Jack. He has quickly seen that Metalsmith Kavanagh has skill and experience working metal and has placed Jack as a “go between” himself and the crew. Jack divvies the work between machinists, fabricators and welders, about twenty men total. Even at the young age of twenty, Jack has an eye for talent and a keen understanding of metal work. The system works well and Jack shuffles between machines and crew to be sure the parts they are making are finished properly and as fast as possible. Many things can and do go wrong on a ship, especially one at war thus a machine shop on board comes in very handy. Custom fixes of tanks, shafts and pipes all pass through the Strickland’s Shop as well as a steady stream of stock parts they make. Jack does give thought to the Shop at Pratt and Central while he works in the bowels of the destroyer escort. His duties are familiar but in a strangely unfamiliar environment. Jack and his fellow sailors have by now made the adjustment to sea life, but working in a metal shop on the type of jobs he’d be doing at the Joseph Kavanagh Company is strangely eerie to Jack.

August 20

As has been said before, August is the cruelest month for a smith. Excessive heat and humidity along with torch work turns the Pratt and Central building into a hot box usually for the entire month. The crew deal with it as best they can, drinking water and stepping outside for a smoke once in a while. It’s hot outside but it feels like a relief to stand out in the fresh air for even a few minutes. Today, they finish a 30” tubular condenser for Carroltown Springs Distillery and then ship it on its way. This one is an easy install with the Shop furnishing fittings and the Carroltown’s workers will install it themselves.

Shop job book from 1940’s. Note Carolltown Springs Distillery Job at bottom of page. August 20, 1944.

August 25

Paris is liberated by the Allied forces combined with Free French Units. It is the best news yet from Europe. Progress is being made by all accounts but freeing Paris, one of the Continent’s Grand old cities, is a boost to Americans reading and listening at home.

September 12

The Shop’s crew are finishing an order that is to be freighted to Philadelphia for the Navy Shipyard there. Eddie watches carefully as two large pump-chambers are hoisted up by a block and tackle and swung into the Shop’s truck. Two men stand on each side to support it and finally heave the chambers into the truck. Mr. Funke and Mr. Vincent will transport the chambers and a few other parts to the train station and send it on its way. Eddie thinks back to not so long ago when he did most deliveries, installs and would, certainly, have taken care of any runs to the train station. His mind then wanders to where his son is. Where is Jack in this wide world? He assumes still in the North Atlantic or Mediterranean based on the last letters they’ve received. He shakes it out of his thoughts as Funke approaches for final instructions. Eddie dispatches him and returns to the corner office in the Shop to get back to work.

October 9

The “Streetcar Series” is played with the St. Louis Cardinals defeating the St. Louis Browns, four games to two. It was the Browns first and only American League pennant. Teams throughout the league are losing players to the draft and the talent level is rather depleted. The Cardinals are fortunate as star player Stan Musial has been lucky and not drafted. Musial alone doesn’t make the difference in the World Series but he has a big impact on winning the pennant. The Kavanagh’s follow the season and the series closely but with a little less enthusiasm than they normally have. The war and worries about Jack temper their excitement even for baseball but it is always that welcome distraction from work and the daily grind.

October 11

The Junior World Series is played in Baltimore and the Kavanagh’s are very interested in this one. The International League Orioles defeat the American Association Louisville Colonels and the family follows and roots the team on to the championship. Baltimore’s fans are passionate and in a frenzy when the Orioles take the pennant and local anticipation of the match up is at a fever pitch. Fans come out in droves and the Junior World Series outdraws the MLB World Series this year and the City is jubilant and celebrates with the club as they parade through town surrounded by cheering crowds. Major league baseball team owners take note of the rampant fan base that Baltimore has.

October 23

The USS Strickland is transferred to convoy duty in the North Atlantic now steaming between London and New York with no more trips to the Mediterranean. Jack is homesick as are most of the crew so this news is good news. They will be returning to New York more frequently now and there are hopes of Liberty and R and R but merely being in an American port will lift their spirits. It will be home if not their homes. They were rewarded with their first liberty a week ago in London. The crew including Jack were excited to see the sites and most of all to get off the ship. At the Shop, Eddie is finishing a bid on a brewery repair. He’s double checking his numbers and prices before calling in the quote. The crew are as busy as they can be. Ship parts are made and a fountain is being fabricated today as the work keeps coming. They are working five full days and a half-day Saturday. It’s what Leo and Eddie prefer. If they are doing that, they are making money and things are going right. Eddie’s mind drifts to his son, Jack. He has no idea where he is. The letters his son has written have told them they were sailing to Europe, but Eddie has no specifics. The Atlantic is a big ocean and he assumes his son is somewhere on the Atlantic but is not sure.

Dad Jack Navy Front Row-2nd from the left
Some of the USS Strickland’s crew including Jack Kavanagh in front. 1944.

November 7

Franklin Delano Roosevelt wins an unprecedented fourth term to the presidency defeating Thomas Dewey in a landslide. The Kavanagh’s were staunchly Democrat by now and voted for Roosevelt though with more trepidation this time. The war is going on and it appears to be going well but no end is in sight and the family worries for Jack. They hope FDR and the Allied leaders can find an end and get to it soon.

November 14

Jack lays in his bunk reading his mail. His mother writes every day. Now that the ship has been at sea long enough, letters and anything from home become precious commodities. Jack has a large stash of letters from his Mother chpck full of details about things going on in the States, Baltimore anyway. Sailors and soldiers want to hear from home more than almost anything else. Jack is an industrious young man and is asked for his letters from many of his crew mates. He is more than happy to oblige charging only one cookie to read two letters. Several nights a week, the sailors receive four cookies for their dessert and because of his letters, Jack is able to stock up on cookies pretty well. In Baltimore, the Shop on Pratt and Central is spending a busy Tuesday finishing a job for James Distillery. It has been an ongoing repair and replacement with today a condenser being completed. Leo and Eddie are glad to see this one go out the door as it has been an ever-changing sequence of modifications to the existing distilling system but the customer is rewarded with a good strong product. Still, the Kavanagh’s are ready to move forward while the rest of their crew are laboring away at some pump chambers, valves, elbows and fittings for Navy ships. The Shop is staying busy, never missing a step this year.

The Shop’s job book with several items made for James Distillery. November 15, 1944.

November 23

Eddie and Annie are hosting Thanksgiving dinner at 434 N. Lakewood Avenue. Eddie’s parents are there, Joe and Johanna as well as Ed Jr. and his girl, Lillian. The dinner is delicious with all the holiday standards of turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes, cranberries and parsnips. All ate their fill and the meal was very pleasant if not a little quieter than usual. After some pie for dessert, Young Ed and Lil are gone, out for a night of dancing and fun. Annie and Johanna are sorting through leftovers and cleaning up the kitchen while Joe and Eddie listen to the latest news on the radio.

“There are a lot more to put away this year. More leftovers. I should have expected it. Jack is always such a good eater and he loves Thanksgiving.” says Annie as she frowns down at a plate of parsnips that is still half covered.

Johanna turns to her daughter-in-law replying, “Well, it was a delicious dinner. The turkey was perfect and next Thanksgiving Jack will get to enjoy it all.” She smiled but it felt like she was fighting to do so.

“I can’t even imagine what kind of Thanksgiving he’s having on that ship. I just know they are not feeding him properly and what about Christmas? What kind of Christmas dinner do they have?” She shakes her head then pauses a moment. “I’m so afraid he won’t come back, Mother.” Annie covers her eyes with a dish towel as she turns away from Johanna. “He’s such a good boy and I know he’s smart and I know he’ll be careful but I can’t stop being afraid for him. He’s my baby boy.” She slips into soft tears as she squeezes her eyes tight.

Johanna turns to her and looks into those eyes, “Listen Annie. Our Jack is going to be okay. I don’t know when or how but they are going to win this war. I know they will and I, for sure, know that Jack is coming home. You hear me.” She placed a reassuring hand on Annie’s shoulder and continued, “One thing I know is Jack is going to come walking through that door one day soon.” Sweeping her hand to point to the door that looked over the back yard and alley. “He will come right through that door. I guarantee it, dear. He will.” The two slipped into a hug with Annie nodding her head emphatically.

December 3

The Kavanagh’s attend Sunday mass at the Visitation Convent. They spend the day with Sister Mary Agnes(Aunt Anna) and she is thrilled to hear the latest news. Ed and his girlfriend Lillian are getting married. Ed proposed on Thanksgiving night and she accepted. They are to be married on Valentine’s Day of next year. She congratulates Ed and is pleased to meet Lil and the family is very excited especially with so much wrong at the moment, a wedding is a pick-me-up for them all.

December 23

The Christmas Party at the Joseph Kavanagh Company is held this Friday and it is a more somber and smaller affair than in years past. The Kavanagh’s invite fewer customers because it seems more of a time for family and good friends. Those customers who they have known for years and deal with regularly are there as are the Shop’s crew. There are heaping platters of ham and turkey with assorted side dishes, a few pies made my Johanna and beer and rye whiskey. The family does have something to celebrate and look forward to next year because Ed Jr. is marrying Lillian Fetsch. There is much hugging and back slapping for young Ed and welcoming words for Lil. Apart from the impending nuptials, the talk is about the Shop and the holiday but soon morphs into discussion of our American boys at war. The enthusiasm for the war has been tempered now with a realistic understanding of how many lives may be lost in this conflict. The news is mostly good with France freed and the Japanese seeming to be on the run in the Pacific. The party goers toast our troops and our great nation then pray for an end to this war. Joe leads them all in song and despite the worry hanging over them all, they welcome Christmas and prepare for a New Year. The volume of work at the Shop has kept up steam through the entire year and there is a month’s worth of jobs to start 1945. The business is doing well and there is a wedding next year. The Kavanagh’s need only two things to make things perfect. An end to this Second World War and the safe return of Jack.

December 25

The USS Strickland is docked in Plymouth, England for a few days to observe the holiday. A large Christmas dinner is planned and sponsored by the Junior Red Cross of Kearny New Jersey High School. There is Western Maryland turkey, mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes and more. The sailors are thrilled at the prospect of a real holiday feast especially after almost a year of Navy food. It is a boisterous dinner with joking and kidding each other. Jack sits with his bunk mates and chats; he does observe there are no parsnips which puzzles him. They speak of war; they have heard that France has been liberated from German occupation and take this as a good sign that things are going well. They talk excitedly of the delicious meal before them but most of the talk is of the US and how to get back there. These young men have a wonderful night and for a while, it feels like they are home, but as it closes, they know that they are not. They miss their families, friends and their country. They are far from home and they still have no idea when they will return.

Menu for Christmas Dinner 1944 served on the USS Strickland.



Franklin Delano Roosevelt is re-elected as the President of the United States. The Academy Awards are held at Grauman’s Chinese theater for the first time with Casablanca winning Best Picture. The Office of Strategic Services or OSS is formed and will later become the Central Intelligence Agency or CIA. Harvard Mark, IBM’s first computer is dedicated. Smokey the Bear first appears in United States Forest Service Ads. “The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet” premiers on radio. Joe Frazier, Diana Ross, George Lucas, Frank Oz, and Richard Belzer are born.

There are 48 states in the Union.

Dad Jack Navy1
Several crew members of the USS Strickland on Liberty including Jack Kavanagh who is in the center to the left. 1944.

To read prior posts, click the Table of Contents Link below:

Table of Contents

1943 Two Deaths and the War Reaches the Kavanagh’s

January 11

The Shop rolls on busily as the US is beginning to take a leading role in the war around the world. It’s a difficult time for Americans; there are shortages and rationing but the work is abundant. The US is all in on a war that feels justified. We are doing the right thing and on the right team. Americans rally around like rarely before and work together to fight the good fight and bring our boys home.

January 18

Leo Paul Kavanagh has a heart attack and dies suddenly. The family is shocked and deeply saddened. Young Leo was a baseball player and a good young man by all accounts. He was an athlete and in good health or so it appeared to all, but his heart fails him and he dies at the young age of twenty-five.

January 21

Leo Paul Kavanagh is laid to rest in New Cathedral Cemetery with so many Kavanagh’s who have preceded him. The funeral is held at St. Elizabeth’s of Hungary Church where most of the family are parishioners. His parents, Leo and Maymie, are still in a shocked state. He passed so quickly and so unexpectedly, the grief has hardly hit them yet. It will and it will hit hard. Leo had held out hope that after his boy’s baseball playing days, he would return to the Shop. He would partner with Eddie’s boys and lead the Joseph Kavanagh Company into the future. It won’t happen now and the family decides it is best to remember Leo Paul as the ballplayer he was. A good cheery fellow but a baseball player. He loved the game more than most Kavanagh’s and that’s really saying something.

February 7

The Battle of Guadalcanal comes to a close with the US and Allied forces victorious over the Japanese. Guadalcanal was the first major offensive by the Allies in the Pacific Front and it brings an end to the Japanese offensive movements. The war rages on but this battle turns the table on the Axis and they are forced to go on the defensive.

February 10

Jack continues at MICA and is advancing in drafting, learning the nuances of sketches and point of view for isometric drawings. These are all things he can use at the Shop and Jack thinks about studying Mechanics at MICA as well. If he can afford it, Jack will have to consider it. He’s a strong student and a quick study as he was at Mt. St. Joe’s. After class, he hops on a streetcar to get to the Shop where he must assist his father and Mr. Funke. A large beer vat is being replicated on Central Avenue today. The old one will be returned to the customer, but they want a duplicate. It takes five men to make in five days. It is a lot of work to bang out fast but it is a rush order. The rest of the crew labor on ship parts, distilling drip pans and some boiler parts. A cold day but the Shop is warmed by torches and hard work.

February 14

The US suffers its first major defeat of the war when German troops attack in Tunisia to take back some of the North African territory lost in the prior year. The country follows this war so closely on radio and through the newspaper that a defeat stings Americans, but they know a battle is just a battle and not the entire war. Still, any loss frightens them and drives home how long this war might take.

March 15

The Joseph Kavanagh Company is very busy as more Navy ships are needed and the war pushes the economy on stronger with each passing day. Today, a variety of fittings and parts are made for the pump chambers and associated systems the Shop makes for the shipyards in Philadelphia and Baltimore. The crew cut through the day with rare ease. The weather is pleasant and some days, everything you do seems to go wrong but some days, it all goes right. Leo and Eddie lock the Shop as they both head home feeling confident in their business. The work seems endless and the company has become a fixture in the Baltimore industrial establishment. Their endurance and longevity aid them but their quality makes the difference. The Kavanagh brothers depart and return to their families, Eddie accompanied by his sons; all driving home in Eddie’s Chevy with Jack behind the wheel.

April 3

Leo and Eddie sit in their small office and discuss the news as Leo sketches a large storage tank and Eddie works on a quotation for a distillery. The war is showing no signs of slowing down as fighting continues throughout the Pacific on what are, to the Kavanagh’s, remote islands, and battles rage in North Africa. The Allies have yet to assail Europe and it will only get worse when that happens. The brothers agree that this war will continue for some time. The US has begun rationing more items: metals and even shoes recently. The war effort has priority over everything else in the country now. The hope of a quick end is gone but victory and peace are still the focus. Eddie worries about his son, Jack and his chances of being drafted. He knows they increase every day and he dreads the thought of it. He wants his boy here and he knows his wife will be heartbroken.

Pricing notes on a Continuous Beer Still from 1943. It will be re-quoted in 1944 and the Shop receives the job.

April 22

Today is the anniversary of the 1907 walk out when Joe, James and Frank Kavanagh split from their elder brother Martin. They had had enough of Martin’s mismanagement and his eratic behavior. He was not paying them much and was leading the Shop in a dark direction. After the younger Kavanagh’s formed their own Shop, Martin was bankrupt within three years. This day is also lost to history at this point; it was only discovered after research into old job ledgers, tax documents and newspaper articles that were dug up in 2018. So it is not celebrated in any way and is just an ordinary Thursday with the Shop’s workers making their ship parts while also repairing a still. Four men are on the job site taking care of that while Leo and Eddie field calls. They are getting busier, aided by their large stock of copper block and sheet. The government has put limitations on copper purchases as much is need for munitions for the war. The mint will even make pennies from steel this year to save the copper for the war. The Shop stocked up a good bit last year and they are reaping the benefits now. They have an upper hand on many competing coppersmith shops because they have material on hand. The Kavanagh’s also pride themselves on getting the most out of material. The cuts are precisely made to salvage as much as possible and any scrap is kept on hand and more often then not re-used.

May 12

Winston Churchill meets with President Roosevelt in Washington, D.C. for the Trident Conference and the Axis armies are defeated in North Africa, surrendering to the British and Americans. The War seems destined to be a long one but progress is being made slowly by the Allies.

May 20

Jack Kavanagh turns 19 and the family has a little party for him. His mother makes one of his favorite meals, ham and potatoes. His grandmother makes him a peach pie which is his very favorite dessert. They eat and discuss the news a bit; Churchill addressed Congress to continue rallying support for the war efforts. Annie is quick to change the subject and move things on to lighter fare as this is her son’s birthday. She encourages them all to gather around the piano in the parlor, knowing that the Kavanagh men are always up for a performance. especially her father-in-law. Joe, Eddie and Jack begin taking turns playing and singing. Jack’s brother Ed excuses himself early from the party to go out with his friends. Ed is a little more of a hard partying type than Jack though, of course, Ed is older. It does not go unnoticed by his parents, and his father, in particular, has told him to take it easy on the drinking and carousing. Ed listens but he does what he wants to do. Jack has a great time at his party; he loves family time around the dinner table and especially around the piano.

June 20

Eddie and Jack visit Bugle Field on Edison Highway to watch their favorite local team, the Baltimore E-lite Giants. They have been supporting this team for a few years, attending most Sunday games and the occasional Saturday evening. Jack is a little disappointed as the team is without Roy Campanella who is playing in Mexico this summer. Eddie and Jack watch a doubleheader between Baltimore and the Homestead Grays. They watch two well-played games, talking the whole time about the players and the strategy of the two managers. Jack wishes Campanella was still with the team. He had grown to be quite the fan of this young catcher, watching him develop over several seasons with the E-lite Giants. In fact, through out his life, Jack loved to talk baseball, especially the players and teams he saw. He always said the best he ever saw was Roy Campanella.

July 11

The war in Europe begins in earnest with the Allies, US paratroopers and infantry attacking Sicily. The Kavanagh’s hear the news reports on the radio then read the newspaper account the next morning in hopes there are more details. Americans track what is happening around the world every day as the events unfold. For many, the war seems more real now that there is fighting in Europe. Primarily European immigrants, the battles in the Pacific are far-off islands but Europe is still home in many ways to a lot of Americans. The Kavanagh’s continue working hard at the Shop and they talk baseball more than battles but partly to distance themselves from what they hear on the radio and read in the paper. It is real, very real but while they sweat and labor, they would rather not face it. It will make the day harder whereas the talk of ballgames and family push the minutes by faster.

August 21

A hot Saturday is spent fashioning a long ornate brass railing at the Shop along with a mix of fittings and valves that they fabricate and sell. The railing is heating very carefully as brass is fickle and reacts unpredictably to quick changes in temperature. The railing is then pulled inch by inch around wooden wheels and rings to achieve the long swooping radius required. They work a half-day as this one is a blistering Baltimore summer day. There is little talk of the war or baseball today as they attend to their work but do discuss the heat as that is human nature. They suffer through the day then head home at lunch. The news from the war continues to roll in with Allied bombers attacking Germany and other Axis nations while combined US and British forces have completed the conquest of Sicily. The US forces are led by General George S. Patton and the British by Field Marshal Bernard Montgomery.

Dad & Eddie (Father)1946
Eddie Kavanagh. 1940s.

September 4

James Kavanagh dies. His son Guy calls the Shop and passes it on to Leo and Eddie who call their father, Joe, to tell him.

“Hello, Joseph Kavanagh,” their father answers as if he were still at the Shop. Old habits die hard.

“Joe, it’s Eddie,” his son replies, then pauses for a moment to think of what to say. “I got a call from Guy about your brother, James.” Another pause and Eddie inhales on his cigarette. “He passed away, Joe. Earlier today. He had been sick but not serious then things turned bad fast for him. I’m sorry.”

There was a long silence then Joe spoke up, “Oh I’m sorry to hear that. I didn’t know he was sick. I’m glad Guy let us know. Thanks for calling, Eddie.”

The phone clicks and Eddie holds the receiver in his hand for a moment then hangs up. He knows his father who’s not one to show much emotion, and James and he were not on speaking terms. After the split with the Shop, James and Joe never spoke. Joe does not attend the funeral. Joe is the last survivor of all of his siblings now. His sister Sally had passed several years before, leaving only Joe and James but now Joe is the last of the nine children of Patrick and Katherine Kavanagh. Joe can’t help but think about all his siblings. Charles Leo died as an infant, and brother, Vincent De Paul tragically drowned at the age of nine. Both sisters, Katherine & Sarah(called Sally) married and raised families but they have passed. Martin, the eldest, after his troubles with the Shop was killed in Chicago in an industrial accident. Eugene died in a train wreck in 1903. Frank died in 1924 at the Panama Canal from malaria and now James is gone, as well. Now Joe is the last survivor, just as Uncle Joe was. Both outlived all their siblings. Joe muses over it all, but is still not moved enough to attend James’ funeral. There was too much bad blood after the split over the Shop from both brothers. Neither made any effort to stay in touch. Joe considers his age, 77, and realizes he is very lucky. He’s the last.

September 8

General Eisenhower publicly announces the surrender of Italy to Allied forces. There is a surge of hope for a quick end to the fight in Europe. It is quickly quelled as the complexities and challenges of the invasion of Italy pale in comparison to what it will take to attack the Germans who are dug in, well supplied and well armed.

October 11

The New York Yankees exacted some revenge on the St. Louis Cardinals when they won the World Series in a rematch of last year’s contest. The Yanks won the Series four games to one and were, again, led by “the Yankee Clipper,” as he was called, Joe DiMaggio. More and more players are being drafted or enlisting in the service so there are challenges for franchises to field a team. The Kavanagh’s follow the series closely as they follow the baseball season. They talk of the games at work, around the dinner table and as they listen to them on the radio. The war is still on everyone’s minds but talk of ballgames is a welcome respite to thoughts of what is going on around the world now. It is as it always has been with baseball being a large part of the Kavanagh’s lives. Love of the game itself is as strong in the family now as it was fifty years ago.

November 25

A large traditional Thanksgiving dinner is held at 434 N. Lakewood Avenue with all the trimmings of turkey, potatoes, stuffing, cranberries and, of course, parsnips. Parsnips are a root vegetable and very much a staple of the Kavanagh diet if not the Irish in general. Cooked with butter and honey or brown sugar, they make their way onto the Kavanagh dining table for every major holiday and some times throughout the year. This love of parsnips is one thing that does not fade from the family as even today, Kavanagh holiday dinners certainly include them. Annie slaves over the stove all day, baking a turkey and attending to the many sides that go with it. Her in-laws, Joe and Johanna, join her and Eddie and their sons for the holiday feast. The food is delicious and they eat and talk through the meal, mostly about the war and the world but also the Shop. Afterward, there is apple pie and cake brought by Johanna. They enjoy dessert with tea then retire to the parlor for music. The Kavanagh’s gather around the piano, singing and taking turns playing. It is a pleasant respite to the normal day-to-day and when Joe and Johanna leave they all make plans to visit Sr. Mary Agnes at the Visitation Convent on Saturday. Sr. Mary Agnes is Joe and Johanna’s daughter, Anna, who has been part of the order for fifteen years.

November 28

President Roosevelt, Winston Churchill and Soviet leader, Joseph Stalin meet in Tehran to discus the planned invasion of Europe and the conflict around the globe. After several days of meetings, June of next year is targeted for the incursion into Europe. Details will be discussed and coordinated but the general approach for the invasion is agreed upon by all three.

Dad (Jack) & his mother Mimi
Annie Kavanagh 1940s.

December 17

Eddie arrives home from the Shop and joins his wife at the kitchen table after kissing her cheek. Annie is sitting quietly with a letter clutched in one hand and a handkerchief in the other.

“What is wrong, Annie?” her husbands asks as he fishes through his pockets for his pack of cigarettes.

Annie begins to answer but stops herself then says, “Oh, I’m just worried about our boys and all this terrible news we keep hearing from around the world. This war is a horrible thing.” She dabs her eyes then grows silent.

Eddie pats her arm and assures her, “Everything will be fine. I am sure of it. This war can’t go on forever and we’ve been lucky so far with the boys. Jack has not been called yet and all we can do is hope that keeps up.” He lights his cigarette and unfolds the latest edition of the newspaper.

“I know Eddie but I just worry. I-I can’t help but worry.” She rises from the table and stuffs the envelope into her sweater pocket. “Dinner will be just a few minutes.”

“What’s that? That letter?” Eddie asks though he’s preoccupied with the paper.

“It’s nothing. Something delivered by mistake. A wrong address,” she answers as she tends to a large pot of Irish stew on the stove. “You better call the boys in to dinner. The stew is done and I have biscuits too.”

“Mmm sounds great. Perfect for a December day.” Eddie smiles then walks to the doorway and calls his sons. Ed and Jack join them and they enjoy their biscuits and stew as they talk of the Shop and briefly discuss the impending holiday.

December 24

The annual Christmas Party is a loud boisterous affair this year, much of the worry and concern over the war has been replaced with a heightened enthusiasm for the fight against Hitler and the other Axis powers. The dirty Shop is quickly cleaned and decorated for the party. Customers, vendors, employees and friends join the Kavanagh’s to celebrate the Yule. This event has happened every year on Central Avenue since the Shop moved here. There is food, drink and always music: carols being sung by the group and some holiday favorites sung solo by Joe Kavanagh. The world is at war and it weighs on everyone but the holidays are the holidays and they celebrate appropriately. It has been a successful year for the business but tough on the family. Two deaths; one if not expected was not surprising, James was an older fellow and had lived a long life. Leo Paul, however, was not close to his prime yet and had so much life ahead of him. The family has done its best to be there for Leo, Maymie and Mary, their daughter. A death that occurs so suddenly is hard to grasp much less understand. They pray and rest on their faith and each other to get through it. The family has mourned and now looks to the future, welcoming Christmas and the coming new year. Only one Kavanagh is strangely quiet and detached from the festivities. Annie, Eddie’s wife, carries a sad secret; Jack has received his induction notice to report for training and service. Annie has kept it secret for a week. She hid it and will tell Jack and the rest after the holiday. She didn’t want to spoil Christmas for him but she is grievously worried for her son. She feels certain then when he goes off to this war, he will not return the same if at all. She has yet to confide with her husband but will do so Christmas night after all the celebrating is over. Joe has taken center stage on the dirty wooden floor boards of the Shop and is leading them all in “Oh Holy Night.” The party breaks up and the Kavanagh’s go home as do their customers and workers. Tomorrow is Christmas but it won’t be a holiday like most years. It will be short-lived when reality hits and they all find out that Jack will be going off to war.



Franklin Delano Roosevelt is the President of the United States. The Manhattan Project establishes a base at Los Alamos, New Mexico to develop an atomic bomb. FDR becomes the first president to travel overseas by plane when he attends the Casablanca Conference with Winston Churchill. General Dwight Eisenhower is chosen as Supreme Allied Commander. The Pentagon building is completed. Rogers and Hammerstein’s Oklahoma opens on Broadway. The Jefferson Memorial is dedicated. The All American Girls Baseball League begins play. Christopher Walken, Jim Morrison, Janis Joplin, Billie Jean King and Joe Morgan are born. George Washington Carver, Nikola Tesla and Fats Waller die.

There are 48 states in the Union.

Metalsmith 3rd Class Jack Kavanagh.

To read previous years, click the Table of Contents link below:

Table of Contents


1942 World War Two

January 12

Eddie and Leo have decided to hire two more coppersmiths. They may need more helpers too, but they definitely need more smiths. The Navy work from the Philadelphia Shipyard and their winter candy-making work has them falling behind on their jobs. The Shop has some of their steady distillery and brewery repairs to do as well. In addition, they have received some orders for ship parts from the local Bethlehem Shipyard. The Kavanagh’s welcome the work but it has all hit at the same time, mixed with the fears that come with a war. Eddie will find two good men from Coppersmiths Local#80 and hire them immediately.

January 26

The first American troops arrive in Europe, landing in Northern Ireland. The US is now mobilizing its forces to coordinate with their Allies before any invasion or assault plans are made. The Shop remains busy working on ship parts for the Philly Navy Shipyard as well as the Bethlehem Steel Shipyard, the usual candy kettles and alcohol industry work. Plus, today they are fabricating a copper fountain to be placed in front of a hotel downtown. Perforated sheet is rolled into a tube, then the tube is curved into a circle. All seams are soldered and this “sprayer tube” controls and releases the water in and out of the fountain. The crew are working five days and a half-day on Saturday each week, and that is very unusual for the winter and bodes well for the rest of the year.

February 2

FDR signs an executive order to intern Japanese Americans and seize their property. Japanese-Americans are removed from their homes and forcibly housed in internment camps throughout the West. The Kavanagh’s are hardly aware of it, as the focus of the news is the fighting around the world and, like many Americans, they assume the President’s actions are necessary. Most likely, they do not think of it through the eyes of these citizens who have been incarcerated entirely due to their ethnicity. In times of emergency people try to think of the greater good and sometimes, the greater good isn’t good for everyone.

February 16

The latest news about the war is that the Japanese have defeated the British in Singapore, taking control of the colony. The surrender and occupation of Singapore is called the “worst defeat” in British history by Winston Churchill. The Japanese begin a program of ethnic cleansing of the local Chinese population, which results in over 25,000 Chinese deaths. In Baltimore, Leo and Eddie are busy in their small corner office, planning their week. They speak of the war and wonder when the US will get directly involved. It is only a matter of time, and Eddie is very concerned for his son Jack who turns 18 in May. Jack will graduate high school and could soon be a prime candidate for the draft.

March 20

A large shipment of copper block and sheet arrives at the Shop from Baltimore Copper Smelting on this Friday. It is the largest order they have placed in years, but Leo and Eddie have decided they need to stock up for the future. Demand may get high for all metals, prices may rise and limitations may be applied as the war progresses. The sale of new cars has already been banned to save the nation’s steel supplies for military vehicles. The Kavanagh’s want to be sure to have the materials they need especially with this great deal of Navy work that is promised.

April 9

The Shop is busy with a variety of coppersmith work today, the crew hammering away to shape and turn copper sheet. Leo and Eddie lead their men as fire is thrown around, clamps and dies used to bend copper into the desired shapes. It is the 76th Anniversary to the day of the original Joseph Michael Kavanagh opening the Shop for business. They were Kavanagh and Smith then, as Old Uncle Joe had a partner, George Smith. The partnership lasted about ten years when Joe set out on his own. His business passed to his nephews and over time, at last, to the second Joseph Kavanagh, then finally to his sons, Leo and Eddie. This day is not celebrated or recognized at the Shop. By 1942, this date is lost to history. The Kavanagh’s don’t celebrate it, recognize it or even realize it. Only by searching old tax records in 2018 was this date discovered and verified.

May 14

The Shop remains buried with work as the country gears up for war. Eddie looks forward to his second son returning to the Shop to work for the Summer. Young Ed’s training is going well and the Shop could use the help. Today Jack is playing a baseball game for Mount St. Joseph’s baseball team. He’s catching and managing this year because he always loved the strategic end of the game just as much as he loved playing. The idea of managing appealed to him from the start. Jack is excited today because his cousin Leo Paul Kavanagh is watching the game. Leo is a minor league baseball pitcher and an alumnus of Mt. St. Joseph’s. He was the school’s ace pitcher when he was a student athlete. Jack and he are close despite Leo being seven years older and often being on the road with his teammates. Jack loves the notion that even in the minor leagues, Leo is getting paid to play ball professionally.

June 1

Jack Kavanagh has graduated from high school and he is back at the Shop to begin the third year of his apprenticeship. This year he will need to grow more comfortable with a torch, to be more precise with his hammer hits and most of all, he must learn discernment. He must learn to know when you are finished, when the piece is correct, when it is “good enough.” Jack will have to pass the pitcher test this year. It is the final test for a coppersmith at the Shop: to be able to take a flat copper sheet and work it into a pitcher on his own. Jack will also have to register for the draft in the coming weeks, and the family is concerned, but Eddie has some friends on the draft board. Those friends assure Eddie that the first batch of draftees is passed and it’s unlikely that Jack will be called this year. Maybe the war will be over in a year and it will be a moot point but at the least, Eddie is able to console his wife that Jack isn’t going anywhere this year. Annie is very worried for her sons and the threat of war. Her brothers served in the first World War, and she doesn’t want this for her boys. Their oldest boy, Eddie, is serving in the Army’s Quartermaster Corps and will be able to serve here in Maryland and not sent off to war. Jack is the one they are particularly concerned for because if he is drafted, he will certainly go overseas.

June 8

The Battle of Midway began on June 4th as the Japanese planned to hit the US base there hard and push the Americans out of the Pacific Front. This time American cryptographers have decoded the Japanese radio messages and the US is prepared for the attack. The battle takes four days, but by June 7, the US has soundly defeated the attacking Japanese. The US loses one aircraft carrier but sinks four of the Japanese carriers. Over 300 Americans die compared to over 3000 Japanese. Eddie reads the story aloud to his brother as Leo finishes a sketch of a still they’re scheduled to make the following week. Both brothers are heartened by this victory and hope that the war can be brought to an end quickly.

July 4

On a hot summer Saturday, a Baltimore crab feast is held for Independence Day by Joe and Johanna Kavanagh on Thirty-third Street. Their sons bring their families over for the celebration; Leo with his wife, Maymie, his son, Leo Paul and daughter, Mary, and Eddie with his wife Annie and sons, Ed and Jack. As they enter the house, the strong smell of steaming blue crabs fills their nostrils. It is a mix of black pepper, rock salt and a seasoning blend that recently came on the market. Produced locally by a company that opened in 1939, it is called Old Bay Seasoning. It’s perfect for seafood and becomes a fixture in steaming the local Chesapeake Bay blue crabs. Johanna keeps an eye on the crabs steaming away in a very large pot, made by Eddie at the Shop years ago. Her sons and their wives cover the large dining room table with newspaper which is used to keep the assorted crab shells and fallen spices from marring the table. Crab mallets and knives are placed on the table and the family waits, the heightened expectation of something delicious to most Marylanders. The fragrance of pepper and Old Bay is enough to make your eyes water if you pull the lid off the pot but the Kavanagh’s know the result will be perfect. The crabs are pulled out with tongs, then piled high on the table and all the family gather around. Beer is distributed to some and iced tea to the rest and soon the room is filled with the sound of mallets hitting crabs and shells splintering. A Maryland crab feast is very much a social meal with much discussion between mallet hits and bites of the sweet crab meat. The Kavanagh’s talk baseball and the Shop and listen to music and the occasional news break on the radio. They speak of the War in Europe and the latest news but feel a small respite in their worry as all signs indicate that Jack will be safe from the draft for at least this year. After everyone has had their fill, the remaining crabs are “picked” for crab cakes tomorrow. The adults remain around the table while the younger folks sit outside in the backyard awaiting fireworks. One by one the remaining crabs are pulled open and the lump crab meat is removed and placed in a bowl. Crab claws are cracked and yanked open and the meat placed in the same bowl, all to be used the next day. The family continues to chat as they set about their task to get to as much crab meat as possible. Once the crab “picking” is finished, the whole family gathers outside as the rockets begin to explode and light up the night in many different colors. It is Independence Day and despite being at War, it’s a day of celebration.

July 11

Another trip is made to Bugle Field for baseball, but this time Eddie and Jack have company. Eddie’s brother Leo and his son, Leo Paul make the trip with them for a long Saturday night of ballgames. Jack is excited to have Leo Paul along to get a player’s perspective. There are three baseball games scheduled today, the Baltimore E-lite Giants are hosting the Newark Eagles. And that game will be followed by a pair of barnstorming teams who will face off. And finally two local club teams will play. The four Kavanagh’s have a great time and the games go late into the next morning. The final out is recorded just before 2:00 am. Eddie’s wife, Annie, is not thrilled when they arrive home at such a late hour but she knows it’s baseball and she knows how much her husband and son love it. The four Kavanagh men had a lot of fun especially Jack and it was worth pressing Annie’s patience a bit.

August 10

It is a scorcher today in Baltimore, and the Shop at Pratt and Central is a hot box. Young Jack is the low man on the totem pole and his father assigns him the job of annealing some small copper tubes in the annealing oven. The tubes will be bent into a variety of 90 degree and 45 degree elbows. They will be used for several distilling jobs and the rest placed in stock to be used for a variety of applications. It’ s a bad day to be standing in front of the oven the copper bakes. Jack must keep an eye on the parts inside to assure they don’t melt, then quickly pull them at the right time and replace them with a few more, using a shovel to handle them. Ten can be fit in the oven at a time and it is a hot spot to be working on any day but on a hot and humid August day, it’s the worst possible scenario. His father’s only advice is “Don’t get drowsy” and Jack proceeds through the day, sweat sliding down his back even at 9 AM. As the day gets longer, the heat wears harder and harder on him but he does his job. He thinks to himself, maybe some day I’ll make my own son do this sizzling hot crappy job on a summer’s day and get some retribution.

The Shop’s old annealing oven. 2019. Out of service for 30 years bu it still exists.

August 28

Ed Jr. is still in the Army’s Quartermaster Corps but works about every other week for a few days. He still teases and even pushes his younger brother around but he has always done so and Jack has grown accustomed to it. This summer Jack passes the pitcher test. He makes his first pitcher on his own and is a fully-trained coppersmith now. What was once copper sheet is a functional, well-crafted pitcher with a good strong handle. He has gained all the skills necessary, and rather quickly. Both his father Eddie and his Uncle Leo are impressed with Jack’s speedy and successful progression. He seems to be a “Natural” smith if there is such a thing.

The first pitcher made by Jack Kavanagh Sr. to pass his apprenticeship in 1942. Given to his son, Joe on his wedding day. Picture taken 2019.

September 7

Jack begins attending the Maryland Institute College of Art to study drafting. Jack loves it and throws himself into learning all he can. He works at the Shop when he is not in class. Even days when he has a class, he takes a bus to get to work afterward, working five days plus Saturday mornings and going to school for two.

October 6

The St. Louis Cardinals lose the first game of the World Series to the New York Yankees, but then win four in a row to capture the championship. The Cardinals roster consists almost entirely of homegrown talent from their own farm system including the first World Series appearance of a young outfielder, Stan Musial. The Kavanagh’s and crew discuss the Series game by game as they work. This time Eddie has his son Jack at work with him and a large part of the day is spent talking about baseball. The Cardinals did win 106 games this year but still, most picked the Yankees to win the World Series, but it did not work out that way. The young star of the Red Sox who batted .406 last year, Ted Williams, follows that up by winning the Triple Crown in the American League this year, leading all players in batting average, home runs and runs batted in. Williams is again denied the MVP award, edged out this time by Yankee second basemen, Joe Gordon. Gordon’s stellar defense, a cool .322 batting average and the fact his team won the pennant, bring the award to him.

October 23

The Battle of El Alamein is fought starting with a heavy bombardment by the British. The war is heating up in North Africa and the Allies are having some success pushing the Axis forces back toward the Mediterranean. The Kavanagh’s keep track of it all via the radio and the newspaper. The Shop remains very busy and they are still working five days plus a half-day Saturday. Today, Jack is working with Mr. Funke, the Shop’s oldest non-Kavanagh employee, on a copper liner for a boiler repair. This liner is a tricky one as there is very little tolerance in the diameter and it must be held very tight to the diameter of the boiler’s tank. Funke and Jack hammer it gently and continually measure it to hold the standard they need. Leo and Eddie are watching them working and Jack hears his father say that this is a job for Old Uncle Joe. He knew how to get something exact if that’s what you needed. Leo nods in agreement as they both smile. Jack has heard about Old Uncle Joe’s skills for years. By now and into the future, the original Joe has become a nearly mythical figure in the Shop. His talent with a hammer is legendary and the man is held on high to the Kavanagh’s. In their eyes, he is the greatest coppersmith of all time. Eventually, Mr. Funke and Jack finish the liner, the diameter is just about perfect and it looks great. The rest of the crew are busy making ship parts, stock fittings and fabricating a replacement beer vat. A cool Fall day passes quickly due to the amount of work they push through today.

November 17

General Dwight D. Eisenhower and American troops land in North Africa and, combining with British troops, they begin closing in on German units. This seems to be the first ground offensive movement by the US and it is covered in the newspaper where the Kavanagh’s read and follow closely. Again, they pray that this is a sign of a fast ending to the war around the world.

December 3

The US begins rationing gasoline and the war’s impact at home gets more acute. Drivers are given rationing tickets as the military’s need for fuel outweighs the citizenry; sacrifices must be made. The Shop keeps going strong with no end in site. Leo and Eddie lead their crew as they prep today for a distillery installation the following week. Eddie is recounting to his brother a conversation he had with their parents about the gas rationing.

“Joe says that gas rationing will hurt the economy. This is the guy who hated cars when they first came out,” Eddie adds as Leo smirks, “he then says that regular folks like him won’t be able to travel about and spend money. They won’t be able to put money into the economy.”

“Imagine how many less accidents there will be with Joe not driving,” Leo retorts grinning from ear to ear.

“That’s the funny part.” Eddie answered,” Mother chimed in right away that the cost to the economy might be worth the boost in public safety with Joe not driving.” Both fell into laughter as their father Joe was a notoriously awful driver and had been involved in more than his share of automobile accidents.

After a good chuckle, Leo asked, “What did Joe say to Mother?”

“He laughed too.” said Eddie smiling back at this brother. “He could never disagree with Mother. Besides, this time,” he paused and lit a cigarette quickly then shook the match out, “he knows she’s right.” They share another laugh then get back to their work as they recall the days of working for their father, Joe. He was a taskmaster to work for but almost always entertaining.

December 24

The Joseph Kavanagh Company’s Christmas Party is held as it is every year. Joe and Johanna are there with their sons and their sons’ families and Joe is very proud of the job his boys have done. The Shop is busy and even thriving with work scheduled for the first month of the new year, a luxury that Joe rarely had and an assurance of a good start to 1943. Like all Americans, the family worries about the war and what will happen in Europe. They pray for the Americans already there and, yes, they hope and pray that the war is over fast for their own selfish reasons. An eighteen year old boy is a prime target for the draft and none of them want Jack to go to war. The party starts off slowly but soon the usual parade of customers and vendors pass through the doors and the Pratt and Central building is filled with songs and yuletide celebration. The Kavanagh’s and friends enjoy a festive party with good food and good company. At the end, as always, Joe leads them in a joyful version of “Oh Holy Night” and the party comes to a close. Customers and employees depart and the Kavanagh’s disperse for several days. The annual party at the Shop is the family’s big gathering for the holiday. On Christmas Day proper, Eddie and his family are at the Hartmann’s house, Annie’s family, while Leo and his family are with his wife’s folks as well. The Shop is the home of the Kavanagh’s in so many ways, it only seems right to celebrate there. They have their houses and they live their lives in them but the Shop is home. It has been for generations and will be for generations more.



Franklin Delano Roosevelt is the President of the United States of America. Daylight Savings Time is instituted on February 9 of this year. The films “Bambi” and “Casablanca” are released. The first nuclear reactor in America is built by Enrico Fermi as part of the Manhattan Project. Muhammad Ali, Aretha Franklin, Lou Reed, John Irving and Jimi Hendrix are born.

There are 48 states in the Union.

Jack Kavanagh. Mt. Saint Joseph’s Graduation picture. 1942. Age 18.

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

Table of Contents

1941 Infamy

January 13

As it has been for so many years, the confectionery customers have helped the Shop to start off well in 1941. The Kavanagh’s usually have distilling and brewing work to do each month. The copper candy and peanut kettles make them that much busier. The Shop has made kettles for the candy-making industry nearly since its inception. Leo and Eddie take phone calls, set their schedule for the week and sort out which workers will do what. The crew are heating and hammering, pounding copper sheet into kettles, pots and vats as they do nearly every day.

February 18

Boiler work fills the Shop on a sunny winter day. The workers have kettles and distilling pots to repair but most are working on two sets of boiler parts. Large copper liners are heated and curved while a variety of fittings and valves are made. The heat of torches is the small respite of working at a place like the Shop. You are holding some heat in your hands and, as long as you know what you are doing, that does warm the day.

March 28

Eddie has come to an arrangement with the local draft board that will keep his son, Ed Jr. from being assigned overseas. He will enlist in the Army’s Quartermaster Corps. They build camps and work on infrastructure at military bases in support of combat troops. He discusses it with his son who is twenty-one years old and keenly aware of his situation. Ed Jr. is very relieved that he will not be called into combat service if the US enters this war. He will go along and enlist next month.

April 6

Germany invades Yugoslavia and Greece simultaneously. The Axis seeks to maintain shipping access to the Mediterranean so they take these two nations though there is partisan fighting within both throughout the remainder of the war. Like most Americans, the Kavanagh’s follow the activity in Europe closely, concerned that the US will be there eventually. The Shop’s crew work hard on some brewery vats that need repairing. They are leaking bad enough to require hauling to Central Avenue for repairs. Along with more boiler parts and a brass railing, it keeps the workers busy throughout a breezy spring day.

April 14

Ed Jr. enlists in the US Army Quartermaster’s Corps 104th to avoid being drafted and to guarantee he will stay close to home and not be assigned overseas even if the US goes to war. He is based in Maryland and will be able to work his job when not on duty. The Quartermasters establish and build the infrastructure for military bases. They do the nuts and bolts of building and maintaining and encampment and this one is in support of the 64th Infantry. Ed reports for duty and he will have several months of orientation and training before assignment which will be local in Maryland. When he is off duty, he’ll be allowed to work at the Shop and visit his home. All and all, a very favorable deal for Young Ed and he is grateful.

The Army’s Quartermaster Corps Unit # 104 including Ed Kavanagh Jr. 1941.

April 28

The Shop receives some work from the Philadelphia Navy Shipyard. Eddie will pay them a visit next week to work out details. The Joseph Kavanagh Company will be contracted to make some ballast chambers and bend a variety of copper tubes for the internal ship systems. This job will be long term, spread over an open-ended time frame. The Navy can’t specify just yet how many ships they will be producing but they need to get started soon. Eddie plans to take a train to Philadelphia next week and while he’s gone Leo will have the crew focusing on some more distillery work for Baltimore Rye.

May 27

British ships sink the German battleship Bismark. This is a major victory for the Allies and the newspapers cover it all. Americans are swiftly swinging toward support for the Western Europeans though not quite in favor of direct involvement. The Kavanagh’s are in agreement with most Americans; they see the threat posed by Hitler and his partners in the Axis. They see an attack on freedom in Europe that could grow to endanger all, but their feelings are tempered by the fact that it is still far away. Today, the crew work on a brass railing for a church and a round fountain, standard fare for the Joseph Kavanagh Company, and the crew easily attend to both while they discuss the sudden dramatic victory of the British. The war becomes fodder for conversation across the country as each step is carefully reviewed and analyzed.

June 3

Yankee Great Lou Gehrig has died from ALS at age 37. Joe has stopped into the Shop to talk about it with his boys. Joe has been a huge fan of baseball all of his life and is stunned that such a young man whose career was shortened by this disorder should now lose his life to it. Leo and Eddie feel the same way and the Kavanagh’s think highly of Gehrig, not only due to his lofty statistics, which were lofty indeed, but rather because of his gentle nature toward his gifts, skills and the success he achieved on the baseball diamond. A terrible tragic loss for baseball, the US and most acutely the Gehrig family and the extended family that was his Yankee teammates.

June 9

Jack returns to the Shop for the second year of his apprenticeship under the tutelage of his father. In the fall, he will return to high school for the final time. Jack knows he will be tested this summer to learn as much as possible. His father is a tough teacher but also a skilled coppersmith. Eddie was tougher on his sons than his workers in many ways but if you want to learn how to work copper, Eddie was your man.

June 14

Eddie and Leo sit in the Shop’s office on a Saturday morning discussing more baseball news: Joe DiMaggio’s hitting streak. The Yankees’ DiMaggio has managed at least one hit in nearly thirty games. They both believe he has a chance to get to thirty and beyond. That would be an amazing accomplishment. Baseball is a sport steeped in failure. You are considered great if you can hit one out of three times at bat. The odds are rarely in a hitter’s favor, and to successfully hit in thirty or more games takes great talent, hard work and even a little luck. The crew is working a half-day finishing a brass railing and making some of their stock fittings.

June 22

Germany, aided by Italy and several of the other Axis powers, invades the Soviet Union. Hitler claims the Soviets were plotting against Germany with the British. A large scale invasion drives the Red Army back quickly and it is now a two front war in Europe. The Soviets are hit hard and lose men, arms and territory quickly. The story is another shocking turn to the events going on in Europe. The Germans deliberately choosing to engage the large nation to their East seems foolish but they mean to knock the Soviet Union back enough to keep them from entering the war full scale. It will take some time but this strategy will turn into one of Adolph Hitler’s biggest blunders.

June 29

Eddie and his son, Jack spend a Sunday at Bugle Field watching three baseball games. The E-Lite Giants host the Homestead Grays for two games, and a pair of barnstorming teams square off for game three. The Giants rally to defeat the Grays in game one led by catcher, Roy Campanella. The young Campanella has grown into a great hitter who will finish with a .345 batting average this year. Jack has watched him play for three seasons and has witnessed his growth as a player. Jack also is a catcher, on the Mt. St. Joe high school baseball team, so he has a natural affinity for catchers. The second game they see on this day is an exhibition but the biggest draw of the three games. Satchel Paige, the most well known and most talented pitcher in the Negro Leagues has been loaned (for cash) to the Grays for several road games. Everyone in the crowd is anxious to see Paige pitch even in an exhibition. He does not disappoint, striking out seven in four innings of shutout ball. Jack and his father love these days at the ballpark, watching games, comparing players and reliving the games of old. They ride home still conversing and reviewing each game, enjoying some father and son time. Jack was thrilled to see the famous Satchel Paige pitch and has become a bigger fan of Roy Campanella with each season. He has no idea that both will be in the Baseball Hall of Fame some day.

July 4

Joe and Johanna hold an Independence Day Party and cook out at Thirty-third Street for their sons and their grandchildren. Joe and his sons speak first about DiMaggio’s ongoing hitting streak which stands at 45. He is tied with Wee Willie Keeler, the former Baltimore Oriole for the longest streak in history. It is an astonishing accomplishment and all three men heap praise on Joe DiMaggio, and they are all confident that a new record will be set at the Yankees’ next ballgame. They love baseball and enjoy talking about the game but soon the conversation turns to the Shop and Eddie and Leo fill Joe in on what’s going on with the Navy Shipyard work. Joe offers his services. The brothers have already considered bringing their father back before he suggests it. He is good at sales and could help out with phone calls. Leo and Eddie are both very busy and with little time to attend to the telephone but they are hesitant to put their father back on the payroll. The brothers decide to approach the Navy about it. If they can get some compensation from the Navy to bring Joe back as a consultant, they will do it. As they eat and watch fireworks exploding over the hills of Patterson Park, they give thought to whether the Navy will pay to bring Joe back. He can help the Shop and his boys, and all the signs say they will need the assistance. They wait to hire Joe back and proceed with the day-to-day of running the Shop. America celebrates the nation’s birthday as this family does, and this day always brings to mind thoughts of freedom and independence. With the world at war, a quiet concern for the future fills the country with uncertainty. No one knows what to expect but they know enough to be afraid of it.

July 18

Eddie and Leo start the morning talking about Joe DiMaggio’s hitting streak which ended at fifty-six the day before. DiMaggio is a special ballplayer both brothers agree and they are mostly impressed with his consistency. Hitting successfully in fifty-six games is one of the most incredible achievements ever in the sport and the brothers shake their heads in near disbelief. Today in the Shop, Eddie begins teaching his son, Jack how to anneal. His first task is how to safely light the torch. It seems simple but like anything else, the hard part is doing it right, every time. Jack learns the subtlety of movement necessary to thorough even annealing of copper. It is all in the control of the heat. If the torch in your hand moves at the same pace throughout the process, the heat is controlled and the annealing is more even. It takes time to become proficient at using a torch and even longer to get comfortable with one. That comfort is the goal, but never while sacrificing attention and due diligence.

August 12

Eddie makes a three day trip to Philly to confer with the shipbuilders at the Shipyard. Firstly, they refuse to pay any consultant fee to Joe who they deem too old because he is in his 70s. Eddie knows his father will not be happy to hear that, but he accepts it. It was worth a shot to try to get some money for Joe’s help. As is, they will try to make it work without Joe but will call him if necessary. Eddie goes over drawings with the Navy men and clarifies what the Shop can do for them, the company’s capabilities and tolerances. Eddie is able to get a good sense of the scope of the work the Navy will need, and he knows the Shop will be busy for sometime due to the Shipyard and also due to the war.

August 18

The Shop begins prep work for the copper chambers and tanks they need to make for the Navy. Jack learns the use of a torch quickly, schooled by his father. First, he learns how to safely light a torch then how to handle it. Safety is not just first but paramount when dealing with fire and gas. The next step for Jack is to learn to control the fire and make it work for you. Next, he will learn different processes and approaches to annealing different metals. Copper is definitely simpler to work with than brass, for instance. The last thing any smith learns, especially in regard to using heat, is discernment. Is it hot enough? Is it completely softened by the heat? A coppersmith can anneal when he knows these things with surety. The crew still tease young Jack as they did last summer but he takes it well and laughs along with them. This garnishes a certain respect from the workers and cuts down on the razzing, because if Jack laughs along with it, what’s the point of teasing. Jack’s brother, Ed, is at the Shop part-time this summer, spending most of these months on duty with the Quartermasters Corps.

Ed Kavanagh Jr. with Army’s Quartermaster Corps Unit # 104. 1941.

September 8

Jack returns to Mount Saint Joseph’s High School for his senior year having learned a great deal in two summers. Eddie is proud of Jack’s work and his approach to work. He took any razzing and kidding in stride and focused on learning and working hard. Eddie is proud of both his boys, and begins envisioning a future with both at the Shop, both being part of the team, the crew.

September 22

Eddie spends another four day trip in Philly as Leo runs the Shop alone. They are busy and doing well with several brewing and distilling repair jobs scheduled through October. The younger Ed is still serving locally in the Army’s Quartermaster Corps. He is able to work part-time as he does have some days when he is off duty. Ed Jr. is advancing, though his father still bemoans his over attention to detail. Ed is meticulous and it slows the work down too much for his father. That being said, Eddie is mostly happy that his son is home and in no danger of deployment overseas. The Shop is humming along and they are working six days every week now.

October 6

The New York Yankees win the World Series defeating the Brooklyn Dodgers four games to one. The media dub this match-up the “Subway Series” with both teams playing in New York. The Yanks are again led by Joe DiMaggio who has an incredible season including the 56 game hitting streak. The Kavanagh’s marvel at this feat. Fifty-six consecutive games of hitting safely is astonishing. DiMaggio hits over .400 during the streak and drives in 55 runs. Remarkably, after this streak ends, on the very next day, DiMaggio starts another hitting streak of sixteen games. The 56 game hitting streak is another record deemed unbreakable by most baseball fans and as of 2019, they are correct. In this same amazing season, a young Boston Red Sox outfielder, Ted Williams eclipses the .400 mark for batting average. Hitting .39955 going into the final day of the season, he does not rest but plays both ends of a doubleheader, going 6 for 8 and boosting his average to .406. Joe DiMaggio and Ted Williams will be forever connected because of this astounding season and the shared era in which they played. Despite Williams cracking the nearly impossible barrier of the .400 batting average, DiMaggio wins the Most Valuable Player Award.

November 29

The family visits Aunt Anna, Sister Mary Agnes, at the Visitation Convent on Roland Avenue. The Kavanagh’s try to see her at least once a month and always near each holiday. They talk about the family and the Shop with her and she is happy to hear it all. They discuss the problems in Europe and Sister Mary Agnes is praying for peace for all involved.

December 7

Eddie, Anna and their sons return from St. Elizabeth’s Church after celebrating Mass and prepare for a lazy Sunday at home. They enjoy a light lunch of sandwiches and listen to the radio. A Sunday roast will be made by Annie tonight with all the assorted fixings of roast potatoes, carrots and onions. As Annie prepares dinner, the music on the radio is interrupted by a news report. A US Naval base has been attacked in Hawaii. The Japanese have launched a surprise air assault on Pearl Harbor. It is a shocking first strike and the US fleet is badly damaged. Over 2000 Americans die and over 1100 more are wounded. With hardly a word, Annie has called her husband and son into the room and they all stand aghast listening to the report. The United States has been attacked and taken terrible losses. The nation is going to war.

USS Arizona Pearl Harbor Memorial. Courtesy of US Navy
USS Arizona Pearl Harbor Memorial. Hawaii. Courtesy of US Navy.

December 8

President Roosevelt delivers his “Day that will live in Infamy” speech as America listens on the radio. Americans rally around our nation like rarely before. There is something deeply personal about your nation’s autonomy being attacked. The morality of war can be complicated from an outsider’s viewpoint. All the questions of whether the US should intervene in favor of its allies and make war against the Axis powers are moot now for not only is there justification for war, there is desire for it. Justice must be served and war is what it will take. There is a somberness to the nation’s mood, but also clarity. FDR has made it clear what needs to be done and what will be done. The attack on Hawaii was an affront to all citizens and the public is not only in favor of American involvement, they demand it. The world demands it.

December 14

After church at St. Elizabeth’s of Hungary Church at the corner of Lakewood Avenue and Baltimore Street, Eddie is fooling about on the piano with his son Jack. They take turns playing melodies and chords; both love the piano like Eddie’s father Joe. Jack is a third generation ivory tickler in this family. He has been taking lessons for nine years and is still learning but has become an accomplished player. Eddie leaves Jack to continue playing and steps into the kitchen where Annie sits quietly sipping some tea.

He joins her at the table, lights a cigarette and asks her, “What’s wrong Annie? I know you are worried. What is it?”

Her eyes rise from her tea cup and she answers, “They are going to take our Jack and send him to war, Eddie. I know it.” Tears fill her eyes and she looks away from her husband.

“We don’t know that yet, Annie. We don’t. Things are bad and we are at war but we don’t know how long this will last. We were able to keep Ed out of it but I don’t think we’ll have the same luck with Jack. We can just hope and pray this war ends fast and maybe he’ll be okay.” Eddie tries to re-assure her though the same concerns weigh on him.

“It won’t end fast enough. Jack will graduate from school in the spring and be eighteen. He will have to register and they will make him go.” Annie says in a very matter-of-fact way.

“We will get Jack into some kind of college program, hon. That might help. I spoke to him about attending the Maryland Institute in the fall. He can study drafting and how to read drawings. It will help him at the Shop and in his future. Maybe it will help him get a deferment.” Eddie says, though not in a very convincing tone.

“That won’t work. They will take him. You know it and I know it. I am so scared for him, Eddie.” She begins to weep and Eddie jumps up from his chair, moves to her side and wraps his arms around her.

“We’ll see what happens, Annie. It will be okay. I promise.” he whispers into her ear. He hopes he is right and faces the real fear that his son could go to war. And he might not come back.

December 24

The Shop holds its Christmas party as a good year ends but with a great deal of uncertainty and concern for the future. The US is at war with Japan, Germany, Italy and the lesser Axis powers and everything else takes a backseat to that in importance. The Shop has had a fine year financially and it has been greatly augmented by the Navy work but if all things were equal they would trade that work away for peace. Things don’t work that way and Europe was propelled toward war by Germany’s and its allies’ actions. The moves that lead to the conflict on the continent also were stepping stones to US involvement. The country did its best to stay out of the conflict but Japan played a hand and now war has spread around the globe. A US territory was attacked and in short order the US will move troops and munitions into play. The war that started in Europe is now a true world war with battles in North Africa and the Pacific. The Russians have rallied against the Germans but the battle for the Eastern Front looks to be a long drawn out affair. The Western Front will have to wait for the Allies to find a way to invade the German occupied continent. On the Pacific Front, the US has taken a mighty hit but plans for a swift response in kind. Americans are afraid but they are buoyed by a consistent feeling that they are on the right side of history. Germany and Italy have invaded countries at will in Europe, and Japan attacked Hawaii and that is American territory. It was an attack on our nation, and Americans, including the Kavanagh’s, know now that involvement in this war is necessary. They have brought the war to us and we must protect ourselves and fight back. This year ends full of doubt and concern for the Shop, the Kavanagh’s, their country and the world.



Franklin Delano Roosevelt is the President of the United States. The USO is created. The first issues of Captain America Comics and Wonder Woman Comics are published. The National Gallery of Art opens. The films, Dumbo and Citizen Kane are released. The sculpting portion of Mount Rushmore is completed. Bob Dylan, Emmett Till, Joan Baez, Otis Redding, and Pete Rose are born.

There are 48 states in the Union.

Jack, Ed and Billy Hartmann
Jack Kavanagh, Ed Kavanagh Jr. in his Army uniform and their cousin Billy Hartmann ( left to right). 1941.

To read past years’ posts, click the Table of Contents link below:

Table of Contents


1940 The Unknown Joe

January 15

Another good start to a year at the Joseph Kavanagh Company. Brewing vats, cooking kettles and distilling pots are made from copper sheet, heated and turned to the desired diameter. The associated apparatus and parts are taken from stock or custom fabricated. Leo and Eddie sit in the Shop office, fielding calls and doing the necessary prep work for upcoming jobs. Their father, Joe is not visiting today so it’s a bit more peaceful for the brothers and their crew.

February 20

It is a frigid snowy day in Baltimore, and the Kavanagh’s deal with it like everyone else. A few inches of snow is shoveled away, and they will have to stop working occasionally to shovel more, in order to stay ahead of it. The Shop is still busy, certainly for February, though today a repair at Gunther’s is canceled due to the snow. Joe has only been by the Shop twice this year; the cold seems to encourage him to stay home, and that is a good thing. It does give his sons time to adjust and make the job their own. Running a business like the Joseph Kavanagh Company is complicated, and each person who is involved in it has his own approach to it. When Joe is around, besides distracting Leo and Eddie, it makes it more difficult for his sons to find their style, to find their method that works best. Joe is making an effort, at his wife’s request, to give the boys some space, though he plans to stop by periodically, at least when it gets warm.

March 22

Spring brings sun, warmth and Joe visiting the Shop with a mounted deer’s head in tow to hang on the wall of his office. His sons are puzzled because Joe does not hunt, and they have no idea where he could have gotten such a thing. It turns out that the deer head merely caught his eye in a neighborhood store, and he bought it on a whim. Joe thinks it looks great and will fit nicely in his upstairs office. When Eddie asks why he didn’t hang it up at home, Joe tells him that his wife, Johanna, won’t let him. Both sons are amused but agree to hang it in the office. Eddie nails it up for this father because wielding a hammer is not a skill Joe ever had to develop. This visit by Joe is a pleasant one, he talks to his sons, then spends an hour upstairs admiring the deer’s head and typing a couple of letters to friends. Before leaving, he spends a few minutes with the crew during their 2:00 pm coffee break. He’s on the way home by 2:30 pm and this is more like what the boys expected from Joe’s retirement, brief social visits from their father, then they are left to their work.

April 1

Joe stops in the Shop today about lunch time to chat with his boys. He doesn’t linger but he asks how things are going. His sons tell him things are good and they are working on a large brass railing today in addition to making some distillery drip pans. The crew is busy on a breezy Spring day so Joe doesn’t linger. He stays long enough to make some jokes about the 16th US Census being due today and it’s April Fool’s Day.

April 13

Germany has invaded Denmark and Norway, the former falling in a matter of hours, and the latter taking two months. Hitler’s Nazis take these two nations to ensure access to the North Atlantic but quickly turn their attention to the rest of Western Europe. America carefully watches Europe right now, noting each step being taken by Nazi Germany and praying that a peaceful solution will arise and keep the US from becoming involved.

May 10

Neville Chamberlain has stepped down as Prime Minister of England and Winston Churchill has been given the position. On the same day, Germany launches its long-awaited attack against France. To avoid the well defended Maginot Line, the Nazi army attacks Belgium, Holland and Luxembourg. They roll through these small neutral nations and plunge into France. French troops and their British allies are no match for the German Armored Divisions and they are forced to fall back, losing a great deal of their equipment. The Kavanagh’s read about it in the papers as they attend to their duties at the Shop. Leo is going over the accounts today before their bookkeeper visits and Eddie is making a list of stock materials they will need in the next several months. The crew finishes fabricating a fountain today and make more commercial cooking vessels.

June 3

Ed Jr. is finished with college and back at the Shop and he is joined by Jack Kavanagh who begins his apprenticeship this summer before returning to high school in the Fall. He is called Jack, a nickname for John as his name is John Joseph, but a mistake on his birth certificate has it backwards. He is really Joseph John but no one will know this until he retires and applies for Social Security. He will work at the Joseph Kavanagh Company for over forty years and not know that he is Joseph Kavanagh. He is the Unknown Joe, but for now he is simply the new guy at the Shop, and despite being a Kavanagh, he will take some hazing and teasing. It is part of the Shop’s tradition and is relatively harmless. Eddie handles Jack’s training himself as he did with Ed Jr. He teaches Jack how to use a hammer to start. Well, how to hold it properly is taught first before even how to swing it properly. Eddie teaches his son as he had been taught by his Uncle Frank, who was the last man taught by Old Uncle Joe: the basics of copper work, the particulars of hammering, and eventually, the skills of annealing. It is an adjustment for the sixteen year old Jack but he works hard to learn all he can.

Ed's Wedding2

June 10

Italy declares war on France and attacks from the South. They also declare war on England and fully enter the war on the side of their ally, Germany. France is faced with two invading armies now, and even with British support they can’t match the odds. President Roosevelt condemns the move of Italy, and the US remains neutral, but is supporting the Western European Allies as much as they can.

June 14

Paris falls to Hitler’s German forces and soon will enter into talks to surrender. Americans can’t believe it, but the German Blitzkrieg strategy worked exceptionally well. Paris being taken is shocking to the Kavanagh’s. They couldn’t imagine that the Germans would be able to move so fast. It is still far away and they focus on the Shop which is busy and full of work. A brass railing is being bent today. After the brass is annealed, it is slowly pulled around several wheels of different diameters. This way they are able to achieve larger curves or smaller ones in the same piece. They match a wooden template etched with pencil to show them the customer’s desired bend. Eddie watches as Funke and the younger Kavanagh’s, Ed and Jack, carefully pull the rail inch by inch to match the design. Jack has managed well for his first week, the men are a little tough on the young guy at times and the work is hard, but he is fitting in well so far. He thought he would work more with his father but that has not been the case. Eddie has taken the lead on Jack’s training but otherwise his role is more supervisory. The lessons in handling a hammer and eventually any torch training will be done by Eddie but as far as day to day labor on jobs, Jack is assisting his brother or most likely Mr. Funke, who has worked at the Shop for many years.

June 22

France signs an armistice agreement with Germany as thousand of Allied troops are evacuated to Britain. Germany rules or has within its influence the vast majority of the mainland of Europe. It has happened so fast that most people can hardly believe it, including the Kavanagh’s. Leo and Eddie have been discussing the war every day at the Shop. They never envisioned a German victory at this point, if this counts as a victory, as the British remain unconquered. Still, it is a whole new world in Europe now and it has changed very fast.

July 7

Eddie and Jack head to Bugle Field on Edison Highway to watch some baseball games. Today, there are three scheduled, two Negro League games and one semi-pro game. The first is an official Negro National League game with the E-Lite Giants defeating the Pittsburgh Crawfords. Young Roy Campanella has started to come into his own. He walloped two homers in a road game in May and has continued to stay hot. Jack can’t help but particularly pull for this young man as he is only two years older than Jack himself. The second game played is another barnstorming match up between two travel teams while the final game is between local teams representing neighborhoods. They drink a soda and eat peanuts all day as they enjoy their favorite sport. A day at the ballpark is always a good day according to both Eddie and Jack. They talk about work on the ride home and what Jack can expect to do on Monday. Jack has nearly completed his first summer at the Shop. It’s been tough work and hot but he feels comfortable there. The work is interesting and he’s a Kavanagh so it’s right for him. As Eddie details a fountain they must make tomorrow, Jack almost feels as if he has inside information on his co-workers. It’s a good feeling for a son when his father entrusts him with Shop plans for tomorrow and beyond. At a place like the Shop, this trust pulls you in and makes you belong.

July 11

The Battle of Britain begins with the Germans launching bombing attacks on shipping points and harbors. The Nazi Luftwaffe, despite superiority in numbers are unable to outright defeat England’s RAF, but the damage is great and the fear the attacks spread is powerful. The Kavanagh’s can not believe that England would ever fall. It is shocking to see the United Kingdom besieged by an aggressor from mainland Europe but that is what is happening. The news gives more details each day and Americans read the blow-by-blow on this War in Europe.

July 26

Joe stops in to see his sons and grandsons at Pratt and Central. He is his usual boisterous self as he questions them on the jobs they have in house and what they are working on today. Most of the crew are working on two beer vats for Cumberland Brewing and the rest are scattered on some smaller work. Joe is happy to see the backlog of work the Shop has and even the large stacks of copper block and sheet they have in stock. He jokes with his grandsons and the crew for a few minutes, then he takes his leave of everyone and drives home. Leo and Eddie are much happier this year than last as far as Joe goes. He has taken a more concerted step back and is slowly adjusting to not working at the Joseph Kavanagh Company.

“Whiskey thief” Made and used by the Joseph Kavanagh Co. for checking whiskey’s or beer’s quality. Also called a “barrel thief”.

August 12

Leo works at the drawing table today making some sketches for a doubler for Baltimore Pure Rye. A doubler is a still system that is used primarily to increase whiskey’s proof or potency. Eddie is in and out of the office as he supervises the assembly of a copper tank in the Shop. The tank must be built, then disassembled for delivery. Both brothers also field phone calls throughout the day. Eddie keeps an eye on his youngest son, who is assisting moving the pieces of the tank around. Jack has learned a bit about how to use a hammer and what it is to work hard. Eddie is proud of Jack, as he is proud of Ed Jr., his eldest son. Ed is a full coppersmith now; he is a bit meticulous for Eddie’s taste but he will learn speed with experience. Jack has done well, listening and learning in his first foray into smithing.

September 5

Jack is finished with his first summer at the Shop and returns to Mount St. Joseph’s High School to continue his studies. He welcomes the return to school, though having money in your pocket as a teen is also a good thing. He enjoyed learning from his father and he took the kidding in stride as there was plenty of it especially from his brother who has always teased Jack. It was mostly in good fun and Jack was none the worse for it, learning and trying to fit in with a crew of adult working men.

September 9

The Germans have begun what is called the Blitz, night time bombing attacks on London and other cities. Eddie reads the story in the Sun at his desk out loud while his brother listens intently. They can’t believe it has come to this as Hitler’s Germany seems more and more bent on control of all of Europe. The are shocked at these attacks on cities full of civilians as opposed to battles between armies. Of course, the Germans have attacked and killed civilians before, but the Blitz truly brings it home to Americans. Beyond the bombings themselves, there is a pervasive terror spreading through London every night in anticipation of an attack.

September 16

The first peace time draft is enacted by the United States. President Roosevelt signs it into law and young men around the nation prepare to be called. This includes Ed Kavanagh Jr.; he is required to register and does so. Ed is still learning, though he is a full coppersmith. He’s gaining experience more from the elder smiths now than from his father. Eddie encourages young Ed to find ways to work faster; his son’s work is great but everything does not have to be perfect, and expediency does matter.

October 8

The Cincinnati Reds defeat the Detroit Tigers in seven games to win the World Series. It is a back and forth affair the whole way with each team alternating winning until the final game, which is a nail biter. The Reds win that one 2-1, the winning run manufactured with a bunt and a sacrifice fly. The Kavanagh’s pay close attention because it is October and that means one thing to them, the World Series. Going over the series at the Shop helps to pass the day as it has for decades. They were pulling for the Tigers due to Ty Cobb formerly playing there, but they applaud the Reds for their victory.

November 5

FDR wins re-election over Republican challenger Wendell Willkie and becomes the first and only three term president. The Kavanagh’s vote for Roosevelt as they trust him after guiding the nation out of the Great Depression. The War in Europe is on everyone’s mind, of course, but the Kavanagh’s believe FDR will keep this country out of the conflict if anyone can.

November 28

After Thanksgiving dinner at Joe and Johanna’s house on Thirty-third Street, Eddie, Annie and their boys return to Lakewood Avenue. The boys spread out in front of the radio and flip through stations to find something to listen to. Annie calls Eddie into the kitchen where she has made a pot of tea. Eddie sits at the table and his wife hands him a cup.

“Eddie?” Annie starts, “We need to talk about our boys and this draft that Ed has registered for. I don’t want my boys going overseas to fight in a war.”

“It’s not our war yet, Annie. I don’t know that it will be, but things are getting worse. This is why Roosevelt started the draft. They have to be prepared and Hitler doesn’t seem to want to stop anywhere. We just can’t worry about it right now,” Eddie answers her sipping his tea.

“Well, I am worried about it. I saw two of my brothers go off to World War I and they were never the same. They were sick from mustard gas and god knows what else. It has been very tough for them and I don’t want this for our boys, no matter what the cause is. I agree Hitler is dangerous but I don’t want my sons in this thing. I don’t want them to go far away to die in some foreign country.”

“I don’t want that either, Annie.” Eddie places his left hand on her right, “It will be okay. I think. We’ll have to trust that nothing bad happens. He had to register. It’s the law now.”

Annie says, “I know it’s the law but there must be some way to keep him here. And Jack too, in a couple of years. Eddie? You need to think of something. You know people. Use your union contacts or your business contacts. Use something to keep them safe and home. Think of something.”

Eddie looks into his wife’s eyes and says, “I am not sure if any of that will help. I can try. I will make some calls, Annie. I will. On Monday, I’ll call the draft board and see if I can get something worked out to keep Ed home. I will.”

“Good. And keep Jack in mind too. I don’t want either of them going to war. You fix this, okay?” She asks as she stands and heads to the living room to join the boys.

“I will. I said I will,” Eddie sighs and replies as she heads through the door. He lights a cigarette and sits in thought, considering what he can try to do.

December 17

President Roosevelt has ordered an expansion of the US Navy. He initiates a Lend-Lease deal with England whereby America trades battleships for naval bases in the North Atlantic. It is a safe way for the US to assist England without direct involvement. The effect on the Shop is that the Philadelphia Navy Yard calls them and puts in a large inquiry for copper ship parts and ballast pump chambers. Eddie is excited to receive this quote, as it is a terrific job for them, but he is also uneasy because this adds to the seriousness of America’s situation with its allies. Eddie fears more each day the US will be in this war. He has made contact with the local draft board and they may be able to work something out that keeps Ed Jr. stationed at home. If America enters this war, that might complicate things for both of his boys. Eddie prepares the quote and wonders if the Shop working for the Navy will help him influence the draft board. He factors into the quote that he, himself, would have to spend some time in Philly to properly expedite and handle the job. He mails off the official quote and then waits to hear back.

December 24

The Shop’s Christmas party is held on this Tuesday and for a day the troubles of the world are put out of their minds. Kavanagh’s and friends gather to celebrate the Yule as they have for years. Joe is there and works the room, moving from one group to another with a smile and a chuckle for all. He has started to adapt to not working, still coming in but not nearly as much and definitely not interfering with business. He will lead them in song as per tradition today with his sons and grandchildren in attendance. The transition of generations is going well; Leo and Eddie are doing great running the place and Ed Jr. is full time and Jack has started his apprenticeship. Another generation in charge and another generation learning as has happened before. The year has been good but the War in Europe is a concern. There are those who think US involvement is only a matter of time now. Americans are wary of another war so far away; it is not always a question of doing what’s right. It’s often fear of the cost of doing what’s right. The Kavanagh’s are most assuredly against the US going to war for selfish reasons: Eddie and Annie’s sons, Ed and Jack. Ed is of age and Jack will be soon. Like many Americans, the cost is too much. The thought of the cost is even too much. They pray along with the rest of the world that some miracle solves what’s going on in Europe. Winter is coming. The Kavanagh’s hope for the best.



Franklin Delano Roosevelt is re-elected to the Presidency. Tom and Jerry and Elmer Fudd debut. Carbon-14 is discovered. Booker T. Washington becomes the first African-American depicted on a US postage stamp. The radio program, Truth or Consequences, premieres. The First McDonald’s opens. The First Sturgis Motorcycle Rally is held. Smokey Robinson, Willie Stargell, Nancy Pelosi, John Lewis and Frank Zappa and are born. F. Scott Fitzgerald dies.

There are 48 states in the Union.


Eddie Kav
Eddie Kavanagh Sr. Circa 1920.

To read prior posts, click the Table of Contents link below:

Table of Contents

1939 Joe’s Curtain Call

January 6

The Shop is full of work to begin this year. Several distillery repairs and brewery jobs are scheduled and there are copper jacket kettles to make and some boiler parts. The first week has been very cold but quite busy. On this Friday, Joe reads the newspaper and sees a story about the missing pilot, Amelia Earhart. She’s been missing for several years and little hope was held out for her. Yesterday, she was officially declared dead and Joe considers this another air flight tragedy. He never has put much stock in flying of any kind and, in his mind, this is why. He also reads about the newly elected governor of Maryland, Herbert O’Conor being sworn in next week. O’Conor gained local fame for prosecuting Jack Hart and his gang seventeen years ago. Joe shakes his head to think of all that happened after the Norris murder, the manhunt for Hart, the searches of the Shop, the trial and the escapes. To think that O’Conor is now the governor carries a strange irony for Joe. He sighs and thinks of his niece Kitty, Jack Hart’s wife. He misses her and recalls the public fiasco that was her funeral with police, reporters and three hundred curious citizens showing up. What a mess it was for all of them. Fortunately, they made it through all that and better times are here. Joe has been giving some thought to the date of his retirement. He hasn’t decided on when but it will be this year probably in the Spring.

February 13

The E. J. Codd Company has received a very large boiler repair job with emergency status. It’s cold and heat is needed in a municipal building downtown. The Shop’s part of this job includes several copper liners to fabricate, many fittings and valves and a few steel flanges to make. The order is a rush and extra money is charged to cover the hours. Joe loves this kind of thing and the excitement of such a rush job is one of those things he knows he will miss.

March 16

The radio and newspapers are full of the news that Germany has invaded Czechoslovakia. Despite Hitler’s assurances that he would not do so, his troops and tanks roll into Czechoslovakia and take control of the country. Joe and his sons discuss this news and all agree that England and France will soon take a stand against Germany. They wonder what will happen next but it seems eerily similar to what happened in Europe in 1914.

March 25

At a Saturday night Coppersmiths Local #80 Union meeting, the news is good as more work is available and thus more jobs. Eddie is told by one of his union brothers that he has heard of some trouble for James Kavanagh at Baltimore Pure Rye Distilling. The still James designed and made is not working properly. They are unable to achieve the desired proof whiskey. Baltimore Pure Rye is not happy and James and the crew of the J. D. Kavanagh Company are doing their best to fix it with no luck so far. Eddie takes note of it and calls his father, Joe, to tell him about it. Joe is surprised as James was always a good engineer and understood the distilling process well. He thanks his son and they agree to keep track of the situation and see what happens.

April 18

A Mr. William Kricker, the General Manager of Baltimore Pure Rye, calls the Shop and speaks to Joe. James’ still is not working properly and they are unable to achieve a high enough proof whiskey. Joe sends Eddie out to take a look and evaluate the situation. Eddie realizes right away that there are mistakes in the still’s design. He lets them know that the Shop can fix it and guarantee the proof they desire. He passes on that the Shop will quote them a price to make the necessary repairs and changes.

May 2

Yankee great Lou Gehrig retires due to illness. He has developed amyotrophic lateral sclerosis or ALS. It is a disorder of the muscles and very little is known about it in 1939. Gehrig delivers an address to the public at Yankee Stadium announcing his retirement. Fans are shocked and saddened, rallying support for the “Iron Horse” as Gehrig was called. The Kavanagh’s are as upset as most baseball fans are. Gehrig was a true gentleman of the game by all accounts. Joe and his boys agree this is a tragedy and they pray that he will recover. Gehrig was second on the career home run list to Babe Ruth at this time and he held the incredible consecutive games played record of 2130. Joe, Leo and Eddie along with most fans feel that this record of durability will never be broken. The record will hold for over fifty years until a Fall night right here in Baltimore.

Lou Gehrig. Yankee Stadium. May 2, 1939. Photo courtesy of LouGehrig.com.

May 4

The Joseph Kavanagh Company was awarded the job to repair the still at Baltimore Pure Rye last week and took care of it immediately. Mr. Kricker and the owners are pleased with the work and agree to send all repair and replacement work for Baltimore Pure Rye to the Shop in the future. Joe and his sons eat ham sandwiches and drink coffee in the small Shop office on a rainy Spring day. They’re talking about the Baltimore Pure Rye job, the still and how Eddie got the thing to work.

“Nice job on that, Eddie,” says Leo, “This may add up to a lot of work over the next couple of years. They have to get the whole facility up and running. This is gonna be good for us.”

“You bet, brother, this could be a real good customer. It’s too bad about James. I mean I feel a little bad knowing that he has lost this job. He was probably counting on it to get his shop going.” Eddie replies as he tosses the crusts of his sandwich into the trash.

Joe sips his coffee, then speaks up, “The fact that James couldn’t handle this job and it got screwed up has nothing to do with us. We have to take the work whenever we can. We can’t worry about someone else. Even my brother.” Joe glances from one son to the other.

“We know that, Joe,” Leo answers his father, “Eddie means he doesn’t wish anything bad on James and hopes he does well.”

“I do too, but if it conflicts with us doing well then I pick us over him. Every day.” Joe says as he strikes a match to light his pipe.

Eddie looks closely at his father then asks, “So no hard feelings with your brother? Really? You sure this isn’t some kind of parting shot?”

Joe glares at Eddie for just a second, his eyes opening wide, then he calmly puffs his pipe and says, “No, Not at all. No hard feelings. This is no parting shot.” he looks from Eddie to Leo, then continues, “If anything, this is my curtain call. Okay? My final bow. I’m done boys.” He rises from his chair and places his hands on his hips. He begins breaking into the little jig he would do around the Shop occasionally when things were particularly good or a job was going very well, “My last day is two weeks from Friday. No party. That’s that and you two can take care of it from now on.” He does several stomp steps then a quick slide for a finish, his boys smiling broadly.

Leo and Eddie are shocked at this sudden announcement of Joe’s departure, delivered in his unique style, but knowing their father, he probably had it planned this way. “Okay. That’s great, Joe. You deserve it. Don’t worry about a thing.” says his eldest son, Leo.

“Yes, yes, Joe. It will all be fine at the Shop. We’ll take care of it. We promise.” Eddie joins in with Leo then quickly inquires, “Does Mother know?”

“She does. You should know by now. Your mother knows all.” Joe says, his wide grin covering his face. The room grows silent for a moment, then they each get back to their duties. Joe picks up the phone to order some copper sheet, Leo resumes working on a sketch for a beer vat and Eddie heads into the Shop to get the crew back to work.

May 19

Joseph Anthony Kavanagh retires. He cleans out his desk; Leo will use this one now and the drafting table will be just that from now on. It is a very typical Friday at Joe’s Shop; the banging of hammers and the voices of workers fill the day. A few drip pans and brewery fittings are made while a fountain is fabricated. Joe stands in the Shop watching as copper tubes are curved into rings and drilled to allow the water to pass through. He has seen this done so many times, his Uncle Joe did this. It’s some of the oldest coppersmith work the Shop does. There is no party but Joe does joke and kid a bit with the crew during their afternoon break. He is soon humming a tune, then clapping his hands, then dancing his dance as the boys cheer and chuckle. After getting his crew back to work, he steps out into the Spring afternoon, standing on the corner of Pratt and Central. Joe looks up and down both streets, smoking his pipe and thinking, remembering all he can. He nods to the driver of a truck paused at the corner, then looks up at 201 S. Central, the building he has worked in for thirty-eight years. He recalls it all: the construction, moving, the starting, the struggling and the succeeding. He taps his pipe on the lamppost, dumping his ashes onto the sidewalk. He grinds them out with his shoe then returns to the Shop. The day finishes like any other but for the first time in its history, there is no Joseph Kavanagh working at the Joseph Kavanagh Company.

June 9

Ed Jr. finishes his first year of college and returns to the Shop full time for the summer. He has learned a good deal about business practices and theories but is ready to get back to smithing. The crew are happy to see the next generation Kavanagh. He is not hazed or teased any more; a full coppersmith now and over the last three summers, he has earned his spot. Joe stops in to see them and welcome his grandson back to work. Joe wanders through the Shop greeting the workers, then stops in for a smoke with his sons in the office. He sits at Leo’s desk and Leo hovers between Joe and the drafting table as the three speak. The phone rings and Joe moves to answer it, but Eddie is faster, greeting the caller with the standard, “Hello. Joseph Kavanagh Company,” that Joe himself would say every day in the past. Joe stands up and departs, bidding his sons farewell. Eddie, in mid phone conversation makes eye contact with his brother as Leo returns to his desk.

June 12

The Baseball Hall of Fame officially opens in Cooperstown, New York. The first Induction Ceremony is held and all eleven surviving Hall of Famers are honored. Babe Ruth, Ty Cobb, Christy Matthewson, Walter Johnson and Honus Wagner were the first players ever elected to the hall. Two of the old National League Baltimore Orioles were inducted as well, John McGraw and Wee Willie Keeler. Also, Joe’s old acquaintance, Connie Mack, the great manager of the Philadelphia Athletics enters the Hall of Fame. The Kavanagh’s are excited for these gentlemen who were their heroes, especially Cobb and Ruth. Through the careers of both, there was always Joe’s strident support of “the Georgia Peach,” Ty Cobb, and his son Eddie’s equally unwavering admiration for Baltimore’s own Sultan of Swat, Babe Ruth. They speak of the Hall and how wonderful it might be to visit some day and see the monuments. Eddie’s son Jack is amazed to hear that his grandfather knew Connie Mack. Joe, of course, is thrilled to tell him the story of their meeting in a hotel bar so many years ago when Joe was touring with his musical troupe. Neither Joe nor Eddie will ever make it to the Hall. Jack does, but not for a very long time.

June 27

Joe has spent a few hours again at the Shop for the third time this week. He has made a habit of coming in several days every week and it’s getting a bit much for his sons. They’re busy, either in the Shop or on the phone or making drawings. They don’t mind a brief occasional chat but Joe seems to be planning on stopping by frequently. They can’t forbid him from coming; he and their mother own the building and it wouldn’t be worth the fight. Leo thinks of a solution. They should clean out the upstairs of the Shop’s office. It is used for storage now but they could turn it into a crude office. They can put a desk in there and let Joe have his own office. Eddie loves the idea; it appeals to Joe’s vanity and will keep him from being underfoot. They will buy two desks and put Joe’s old one in the upstairs office. Each brother will get a new desk and the small one closest to the Shop door will be moved next to the safe. It can be used as needed and then eventually used by Ed Jr.

July 9

Eddie and fifteen year old Jack drive up Edison Highway and spend the day at Bugle Field for a couple of ballgames. The Baltimore E-lite Giants are hosting the Newark Eagles for two games. The first will count in the Negro National League standings as an official game. The second is purely an exhibition as both teams want some younger players to get a chance to play in a game situation. Jack and his father share a large bag of peanuts and a soda, taking in a beautiful Sunday for baseball. On the ride home, Eddie informs his younger son that next year he’ll be expected to start at the Shop, to start his trade, his apprenticeship. Jack nods and is silent, thinking of what it will be like to work at the Shop with his father, his brother and his uncle. So many Kavanagh’s have followed this path; Jack knew it would eventually be his.

August 15

Eddie, Annie, Ed Jr. and Jack spend a week vacationing in Ocean City, Maryland. They visited four years ago and they love the beach, the amusements, the rides and the fishing. Jack and the younger Ed are thrilled for a return trip. They spend the whole week exploring the city, lounging on the beach or fishing and crabbing. The boys have a blast but the week flies by. On Friday, they will make the long drive back to Baltimore with the summer nearly over. Eddie and Annie have decided to take the boys to the movies on Saturday; a new color film has been released called the Wizard of Oz. Annie thinks the kids will love it.

September 1

Leo and Eddie sit in the Shop office today talking about the latest from Europe. Germany has invaded Poland. The brothers feel sure this will be the tipping point and war is more and more likely. They know it’s very far away but once before, the US was pulled into War in Europe. The Kavanagh’s hope this doesn’t happen again. Many young men were lost in the First World War and the thought of a repeat is frightening.

September 3

By this Sunday, England and France have declared war on Germany. They had pledged support and arms to Poland earlier this year. With the German invasion underway, the two nations have little choice but to get involved. After Mass, Joe reads the story to Johanna, riddled with his own commentary and disdain for US involvement. Johanna tells her husband they should pray for all the poor souls in Europe and pray that this conflict ends quickly. Perhaps this time it will and Americans will not be a part of it.

September 5

The Kavanagh’s and all Americans receive their answer on how the US will respond to the fight in Europe. President Roosevelt declares that America will remain neutral as far as any War in Europe goes. Most citizens, including the Kavanagh’s, are very relieved. Still, there are those who think the US should be proactive and join with their Western European allies to fight off the German aggression. They are in the minority though and FDR’s announcement is welcomed by most.

September 11

Ed Jr. returns to the College of Commerce for a second year to continue his business education. He will do what he did last year, work three days and go to school for three days. Joe pays another visit and spends three hours in his office calling his old cronies in the alcohol trade to chat.

September 17

Things in Europe get worse when the Soviet Union invades Poland. The Soviets had been fighting the Japanese in Mongolia but after reaching a ceasefire, they are able to focus on Poland and the West. At the same time, the Japanese are able to turn to the Pacific for expansion.

September 27

Poland is divided between Germany and the Soviet Union per a secret non-aggression pact signed between the two countries. The Soviets also gain control of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania. Poland never surrenders but the government goes into exile as their two rivals divvy up the country. Both Germany and the Soviet Union are able to increase their sphere of influence and look West. With an agreement in place with Russia, Germany can prepare for France and England. The USSR will move against Finland soon in an effort to gain better access to the North Atlantic. Most Americans aren’t aware of this and their daily lives go on but there is a growing concern for this war. At the Shop, Eddie dispatches Mr. Funke and two helpers for a repair at Gunther’s Brewery while the rest of the crew labor on several kettles and brewery fittings for their stock. The “Kavanagh” valves and fittings that they produce are very much in demand. They make custom parts but these are standard fittings and attachments for brewing and distilling systems. Customers buy them for their own “quick fixes” and replacements. It’s a steady source of income that they make a point of staying ahead of, always sure to keep their stock high.

October 8

The New York Yankees sweep the Cincinnati Reds in the World Series winning four in a row. This is the fourth consecutive Series win for the Yanks and their eighth overall. Both teams managed 27 hits in the four games but New York homered seven times while Cincinnati failed to hit one. It is one of the shortest World Series in real time; totaling seven hours and five minutes of real time combined. Game two which the Yankees won 4- 0 was played at a brisk pace, finishing at 1 hour and 27 minutes. The Kavanagh’s follow along closely, rooting for the American League Champion Yankees, they check all the box scores and listen on the radio when they can. Each game is analyzed and discussed by Joe, his sons and grandsons, especially Jack who is such a huge baseball fan.

November 6

Joe arrives at the Shop again about mid-morning and sits in his upstairs office. He is going over paper work and old jobs. Leo and Eddie have been at their wits’ ends finding things for Joe to do. He doesn’t work here anymore but seems determined to come in several times a week and “help out.” Unfortunately, the helping out often means getting in his sons’ way and distracting them from their work. Leo comes up with an idea that Eddie thinks is brilliant. Leo suggests to Joe that he write letters to some of the distilleries who were customers before Prohibition, the ones who they have not heard from since to see if they are in need of our services. He can assure them that the Shop is still open and seeking work. Joe loves this idea and sets right to it. He slowly taps away on the typewriter upstairs and his sons are thrilled that he is occupied and busy.

Letter from Joseph A. Kavanagh to Piedmont Apple Products, an apple brandy distiller. November 6, 1939.

December 21

The Shop is finishing this year as strongly as it began. Brewery repairs and distillery work is attended to while a fountain is made today. Leo and Eddie sit in the office of the Joseph Kavanagh Company as the year winds down. They discuss the news in the paper that Lou Gehrig has been voted into the Hall of Fame. Despite only being retired for months, he is an easy pick for the Hall. Leo and Eddie are happy as it is richly deserved. Gehrig was a great player and a gentleman. Very little is known about ALS at this time but the Kavanagh’s know it is bad. The brothers chat more about baseball; then Eddie mentions that he and Annie are going to the movies Friday night. They will see “Gone With the Wind,” a new film based on the Margaret Mitchell novel. It is said to be four hours long so Eddie was hesitant to go but his wife very much wants to see it so that decided that.

December 23

The annual Shop Christmas Eve Party is held on this Saturday. The crew works a half-day then sets to cleaning and decorating the place. The usual mix of customers, vendors and employees fills Pratt and Central with celebration. It has been a good year business wise for the Shop, plentiful work and more scheduled for the New Year. They are happy with their crew and next summer it will be augmented. Ed Jr. will be full time and Jack will begin his apprenticeship. Leo and Eddie have made it through their first year on their own. At this point, the brothers know they can do it; they can run this place and be successful. It always comes down to whether or not the work is out there, and it certainly is. Leo and Eddie are close and this helps to limit any disputes so far and they have a great balance of skills. They compliment each other, which is one of the biggest reasons Joe trusted them and was able to step down. Though he has retired, his continued appearances at the Shop complicate his sons’ lives but they are dealing with it. Joe is back at the party today, holding court surrounded by his old distilling and brewing friends. He is truly in his element and his sons are happy to see it, but both hope Joe takes his retirement a little more seriously next year. They wouldn’t mind the occasional visit from him but weekly is too much. It is difficult for Joe to not be involved in some way as he has worked at the Shop for most of his life and his sons know that. It is strange for them too, not having Joe there each day, and they will give him some time to adjust. Finally, the time arrives for a song and Joe steps into the middle of the crowd of guests and leads them in “O Holy Night” as he does every year. The Little Man With the Big Voice fills the Shop with music once again and the warmth of the holiday fills them all. They are happy but brace for what could happen to their world. World War Two has begun and though little happens over the winter, all signs point to a bloody 1940. They hope for the best. Again.



Franklin Delano Roosevelt is the President of the United States. The Manhattan Project begins. The Hewlett Packard Company is formed. Raymond Chandler’s “The Big Sleep” and John Steinbeck’s “The Grapes of Wrath” are published. Batman makes his first appearance in Detective Comics. Superman’s own self-titled comic premieres. The First World Science Fiction Convention is held in New York City. The cornerstone of the Jefferson Memorial is laid. The automatic transmission is invented. Marvin Gaye, Lou Brock, Carl Yastrzemski, Tina Turner and Francis Ford Coppola are born. Chick Webb, Zane Grey and Douglas Fairbanks die.

There are 48 states in the Union.

Joseph A. “Crazy Joe” Kavanagh. 1930s. In front of 1629 Thirty-third Street.

To read older posts, click on the Table of Contents link below:

Table of Contents

1938 Incorporation

January 10

It is a busy start to the year at the Shop. They begin 1938 with several weeks worth of work already on the books and more has come in. Several distillery repairs are lined up and a few cooking jacket kettles are produced as well. The Kavanagh’s are entering a transition year as plans are being made to transfer control and ownership of the Shop to Joe’s boys, Leo (42) and Eddie (41). Joe has worked here for more than forty-two years and he is over seventy years old. It’s time for him to move aside and yes, enjoy the fruits of his labor a bit. This transfer of power might take some time to sort out, but it’s clear Joe will be gone soon enough.

February 7

Eddie receives a call from Gunther’s Brewery and they order three beer vats to be fabricated and installed. Eddie will lead the install but do as little of the physical work as possible to give his workers more experience. He needs to be sure his crew can handle these installations without his presence. Eddie is confident in his workers but he needs to be sure. He has developed a good relationship with Gunther’s after so much work in their facility. He has become friends with a few fellows there and this makes Joe happy. Joe is seeing great progress from his boys on the business side of the job. Eddie is a little more gregarious and is quite suited for dealing with customers while Leo is a bit quieter. Leo is fine with customers but not quite like Eddie. Still, Leo seems to excel at handling the accounts, both customers and vendors. They still have a bookkeeper who comes in once a week but Leo makes it easy for him, keeping meticulous records in the same fashion that his sketches and drawings are done to exacting detail. Every day, Joe is more convinced that his sons will make a great team. The crew of twelve men is busy on this bitter cold day with a copper storage tank to build and several small orders, a railing and some drip pans to make. The Kavanagh’s and crew are able to fight off the cold of February by heat and hard work. The winter’s cold can make a smith’s job that much harder but if you’re busy, you’ll feel a little warmer. Also, the day goes by faster.

List of “Kavanagh” Brewing Fittings that the Shop made, sold and used in the 1930s.

March 13

After Sunday Mass, Joe sits reading the newspaper in his home on Thirty-third Street. The big international story of the day is Adolf Hitler’s Germany has annexed the nation of Austria. Hitler’s stated goal is to unite all German-speaking people under one country, thus the absorption of Austria. In addition, Hitler calls for Czechoslovakia to surrender a section of their land, the Sudetenland, to Germany, claiming the majority Germanic residents want to join his nation. Joe shakes his head as he finishes the story. This is eerily similar to what happened not so long ago, which led to World War I, the War to End all Wars. Joe hopes that moniker sticks but if things keep going they way they are in Europe, that could all change.

April 19

The Shop stays very busy through the spring with Eddie and Leo taking on more of a leadership role to Joe’s delight. The crew are toiling away with heat and hammers, shaping copper. The focus this week is an updated distilling system for Hannis Distilling, the makers of Joe’s favorite, Mount Vernon Rye. It has been designed by, and will be installed by the Joseph Kavanagh Company. Leo has handled the proper engineering and made full sketches and now Eddie leads half of the crew on the fabrication end. A Continuous Still for rye is built in the Shop, then it must be disassembled and installed next week. It’s a good job and truly their forte. The rest of the crew handle some smaller orders of fittings, parts and several commercial cookers.

May 14

Joe finalizes his plans for the future of the Shop and how he will pass it on to his sons. He has discussed it a great deal with his wife Johanna. She wants the boys to be protected but also wants Joe and herself to be well taken care of in their retirement years. Joe has decided to form a corporation with his sons, Leo as President and Eddie as Vice-President. Joe and Jo would still own the property and be payed $ 75.00 per week for the remainder of their lives. This way they will maintain some income, but will not be sole owners of the Shop. The three principles will own stock but Leo and Eddie will manage the day-to-day and Joe will be available as a consultant if needed. Joe likes this solution because it does give him the option of remaining a little involved if the boys need assistance and it guarantees he will have some money to enjoy his retirement. Upon Joe’s death, his stock would go to Johanna and then to the boys. He will mull it over for several weeks before presenting his plan to his sons.

June 6

Ed Jr has graduated from high school and is back to work at the Shop but will be attending the College of Commerce of Baltimore in the fall. After conferring with his father and brother, Eddie thinks it’s wise to have someone with a solid business education background working at the Shop. This will give Ed some experience and training on the management side of the Joseph Kavanagh Company. Young Ed will still finish his apprenticeship as a coppersmith but will also learn a bit about business and commerce. He will give the school a try in September and wait at least one year before he works full time.

June 19

Eddie and his younger son Jack visit Bugle Field for baseball on this Sunday afternoon. The Baltimore E-Lite Giants, a new club in the Negro National League has begun playing at this park. They play a short schedule of 20 – 30 games but Jack is very excited to see some baseball live. Two games will be played at Bugle Field today. Firstly the E-Lite Giants defeat the Washington Black Senators. The Senators will be in the bottom of the standings this year as they manage only one win in twenty-one games played. A young catcher who plays for Baltimore stands out. He’s only 16 but Roy Campanella looks to be a real good ball player. Eddie and Jack both are fans of catchers, the one player besides the pitcher who is in on every pitch. Jack is amazed that a boy only two years older than he, is playing professional baseball. The second game is another pair of Negro teams who barnstorm, playing in different cities as they travel around the country. A second game only adds to the fun for Eddie and Jack. They talk baseball on the entire ride home and Eddie tells his son, “We’ll do this again. Maybe we can do it every Sunday during the season.”

Jack Kavanagh. Altar boy at St. Elizabeth’s Church. Patterson Park. 1930s.

July 17

The Kavanagh’s gather for dinner at Thirty-third Street on a warm breezy Sunday. Eddie and Jack have spent the day at Bugle Field. Eddie, true to his word, has taken Jack to games there each Sunday. There are always at least two games and on this day, there were three. The very rare triple header is a great thrill for Jack. The third game is comprised of local semi-pro and club teams. The talent and quality of play isn’t the same, but it’s still baseball. If two games are good, three are only better, according to Eddie. The E-Lite Giants are defeated in their game against the Homestead Grays. The Grays will win the pennant this year, led by Josh Gibson and Buck Leonhard; they are a powerhouse and win the title easily. Jack fills his grandfather in on the highlights of the games today. Joe loves that his grandson has this same passion for the sport that he has. After Jack has spoken at length about today’s ballgames, Johanna calls them all into the dining room for a lamb dinner. They eat, talk, and gather around the piano, taking turns playing and singing. Jack has been taking lessons for six years now and he clearly has some talent for music. Joe is pleased at his grandson’s progress and a fun time is had by all. Before Leo and Eddie leave with their wives and kids, Joe takes them aside and fills them in on his plans for the Shop. He doesn’t ask them what they think but simply tells them that they will form a corporation among the three of them. He tells them that Leo will be President and Eddie, Vice-President, and the building will still be owned by Joe and Jo. The boys are happy and shake their father’s hand; no disappointment from Eddie about being V.P. He knew that’s how it would shake out. Both brothers are confident they’ll be successful and look to the future for their children. Finally, Joe passes along that sometime next year, he will retire, but will always be available as a consultant.

August 12

The legal paperwork is finished and the Joseph Kavanagh Company becomes a corporation. It has little effect on the daily activity at the Shop, and like any other August day, they sweat and fight through these dog days of summer. The job is hot already but August is the cruelest month for a smith. The work is still plentiful and today is occupied with some boiler parts to be made and a long curved decorative brass railing.

September 5

Ed Jr. passes the pitcher test, the final “exam” of coppersmithing at the Shop. He heats and hammers a flat copper sheet, then shapes it into a drinking pitcher. Small careful taps with a finishing hammer smooth the surface and finally a handle is curved and soldered to the pitcher. This is the last test to prove your skills as a smith. His apprenticeship finished, Ed begins attending the College of Commerce in Baltimore to get a business background. Ed is excited to see what he can learn and is also happy to have several breaks from the Shop during the week. He has classes three days a week and will work three days a week at the Shop. Leo and Eddie both look on Ed’s education and the newly incorporated Shop as steps toward success in this ever more modern world.

“Business Letters” Ed Kavanagh Junior’s school book from College of Commerce.

September 30

The Treaty of Munich is signed by Britain, France, Germany and Italy. Despite the Czechs being the focus of this meeting, they aren’t present or even properly represented. This accord surrenders the Sudetenland of Czechoslovakia to Germany. This is done primarily to pacify Hitler and he promises that this is the extent of his expansion. He assures all parties involved that he will take no further action against the Czechs. The Kavanagh’s, like many Americans, are following the news closely, and some condemn this treaty as a capitulation to Hitler. There are rumblings and calls for the U. S. to prepare for a conflict in Europe and just as strongly, there are calls for the U. S. to stay away from any military intervention at all costs.

October 9

The New York Yankees sweep the Chicago Cubs to win the World Series. The Cubs keep it close in each game but lose them all. The Yankees are led by Joe DiMaggio, who hits .326 with 32 home runs for the year while the Cubs team is anchored by veteran pitcher Dizzy Dean. Dean’s arm carried them to the pennant this year but it’s not enough to overcome the Yankees offense. The Kavanagh’s read all about it in the papers and listen on the radio when they can, including the final game in its entirety today. The World Series is and always will be a big deal at the Shop and to the Kavanagh’s. They talk about each game and analyze the box scores closely; thrilled at each and every minor detail.

October 16

Joe switches on his radio this Sunday to hear a message from Winston Churchill broadcasting to the U.S. Churchill is the most adamant critic of the Munich Agreement. He labels it a defeat for Western Europe and a victory for Germany. He encourages Americans and Western Europeans to prepare for war to resist further aggression by Hitler’s Nazi Germany. Joe takes Churchill’s warning seriously and though he’s concerned for the nation, he’s very worried for his grandsons. He doesn’t want them fighting a war in Europe. He thinks to himself, didn’t we do this twenty years ago? He hopes and prays for the best.

October 30

Eddie and his family are gathered around the radio at 8 pm on a Sunday night. They switch to WFBR to listen to Edgar Bergen’s ventriloquist act with dummy Charlie McCarthy. Always good for a laugh or two, listening to this short broadcast is a Sunday night habit. After the act finishes at approximately 8:13 PM, Eddie tells his boy Jack to switch to WCAO’s Mercury Theater Production. This show is usually entertaining as the cast is lead by Orson Welles of “The Shadow” fame. Instead of the Mercury Theater, they find themselves listening to a live news report. It seems impossible but the report is that an invasion of Martians has occurred in New Jersey. Everyone silently focuses on the radio as the station switches transmission to a report directly from the scene of the alien landing. Eddie grins and his sons do as well, this must be a story they have joined in progress but it seems interesting. Suddenly, the phone rings and Eddie grabs the receiver and says hello.

“Do you have the radio on? Do you hear what they’re saying is happening?” asks the caller, whom Eddie recognizes as his father, Joe.

“Yes, I have it on. I think it’s a joke or a story. We just started listening. It can’t be real.” Eddie replies.

“I don’t know.” says Joe, “this is the news. It’s a news reporter. They say they’re fighting a battle up in Jersey.” Eddie hears his father place the phone to his shoulder and say to his mother Johanna, “Jo, lock up the good rye, at least the Mount Vernon.”

Eddie hears a distant but firm reply, “I will do no such thing,” from his mother. Eddie then calls his father back to the phone, “Joe! Joe! Joe, this isn’t real and Martians probably don’t drink rye anyway.”

“No rye? The heathens! All the more reason to be worried.” Joe answered.

At this point, young Jack gets his father’s attention and points at the radio as the speaker announces that this is a dramatization of H. G. Wells’ “War of the Worlds.” Eddie nods and says to his father, “See. it’s fake. Just a show. They just said so on the air.”

“Oh, I heard it. Okay. Never mind.” The line clicks and Eddie stares at the phone with a wry grin spreading over his lips, shaking his head in amusement.

The next day the news of the hoax and the panic it caused is the talk of the nation. The panic is largely over-stated as most listeners knew it was entertainment. CBS did cut in several times to announce it was a drama but there certainly were individuals who were alarmed and frightened. Locally, one Baltimore jeweler, Samuel Shapiro, is reported to have had a heart attack during the program and he died two weeks later. The interest and press coverage is great for CBS and the Mercury Theater but there is an outcry from a few skeptics for no more faux news reports, but nothing comes of it.

Orson Welles. 1930s. Courtesy of Library of Congress. Carl Van Vechten – Photographer.

November 1

A big showdown is scheduled in the horse racing industry. Sea Biscuit defeats War Admiral in a match race at the Pimlico Race Course in Baltimore. The Kavanagh’s are not horse racing fans but they certainly take note of it as the City is excited to hold this race. The Pimlico Race Course hosts the Preakness every year and it is celebrated throughout Baltimore and Maryland. This was a bonus once-in-a-lifetime match up.

December 3

At a Saturday meeting of Coppersmiths Local #80, Eddie learns that the J. D. Kavanagh Coppersmith Company has been awarded a contract by Baltimore Pure Rye Distilling. They are opening a new distillery and the Shop did quote them a price but the job goes to James’ firm. Eddie calls his father about it when he gets home and Joe is surprised but not upset. The Shop has had a good year and they will start 1939 with more work scheduled. Joe thanks Eddie for letting him know but says let’s see how it goes for James. Getting the job is one thing but doing the job is another. Joe tells Eddie that he wishes James luck and, as always, to pass along anything he hears from the union.

December 23

The Shop’s Christmas party is thrown on this Friday. They have been working most Saturdays this year but will be closed tomorrow. The family will attend mass as a group tomorrow with Sr. Mary Agnes at the Visitation Convent on Roland Avenue. Today the Shop is full of merriment and mirth as customers and friends gather with the Kavanagh’s and crew. After a morning of work, an hour or so of cleanup and decorating, the party is quickly in full swing. They celebrate another year in business and as a family. The Joseph Kavanagh Company has had a fine year and Joe feels even more confident about retiring. He is 72 years old now and it is clearly time. He will be the first Kavanagh to make it to retirement from the Shop in its history. With this new corporation formed, he believes he has set his sons up for success. They work well together and have a very talented hard-working crew. At one point during the party, Joe takes his usual stroll out to the corner of Pratt and Central. He gazes up Pratt Street toward downtown Baltimore but doesn’t really see what is there. In his mind, he is back 28 years ago when this building was first erected. He recalls how he and his brothers, James and Frank, moved into a small place on Central Avenue, then within a few years, into this new and bigger Shop. They couldn’t have done it without Johanna, of course. She loaned them money to get started, then pooled her money with theirs to build Pratt and Central. It’s hard for him to believe it has been this long but the time has blown by. They’ve seen more than their share of ups and downs between Prohibition, bootlegging and issues between the brothers but they’re still here. They are still open and working. Joe is very proud of what they’ve done and what they will do in the future. In a flash, he’s back in 1938 and rejoins the party. There is more song and celebration into the evening then home for them all. For a second, Joe thinks this might be his last Christmas Eve party at the Shop. He’ll retire early next year; he’s not sure of the date yet. Then again, he can always come in to visit and enjoy the party like the rest of them. It might not be the same without his singing voice so he’ll be at next year’s party. After all, it’s the Joseph Kavanagh Company, he can come in whenever he likes.



Franklin Delano Roosevelt is the President of the United States and this year he founds the March of Dimes. Thornton Wilder’s “Our Town” is performed for the first time. Action Comics premieres featuring a character in a secondary story named Superman. Bugs Bunny makes his first appearance in a film called Porky’s Hare Hunt. Slacks are marketed by the Haggar company for the first time. The minimum wage is established. Bill Withers, Judy Blume, Etta James, Wolfman Jack and Evel Knievel are born. Clarence Darrow and Robert Johnson die.

There are still 48 states in the Union.

Pratt and Central building. 1990.

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