1954 Leo Kavanagh

January 11

Jack returns to Annapolis to finish his term in the House of Delegates and gives thought to what he will do next. He could run for re-election but he misses being home. He has to talk to his wife Betty about it and will decide before April when the Legislative Session comes to an end.

January 18

The Shop starts the year strong but not swamped. They are busy but not working on Saturdays which is understandable for the winter. Today a few repair parts are made for stock while a copper liner for a boiler is fabricated. Eddie gives Calvert Distilling an estimate on a vapor pipe repair. Large copper tubes have to be made then bent to 90 degrees in several spots. It will be a nice job to get and Eddie has a good feeling about it.

Quotation for Calvert Distilling. January 18, 1954.

January 30

On this Saturday, Leo M. Kavanagh has a sudden and fatal heart attack at 4 am in his home. The family is stunned as Leo was a healthy man and only sixty-one years of age. His wife, Maymie and daughter Mary are devastated and in a state of shock. The Kavanagh’s rally together and work to get through it. Eddie is hit hard by this as well. Leo was his older brother and they had worked together day in and day out for over forty years. They had only begun to even consider their retirement but now Leo is gone. He was not just Eddie’s brother but his partner at the Shop, his co-worker and co-owner and friend. Eddie won’t be able to grieve for long as decisions will have to be made about the Shop. Leo’s will must be read and his wife and daughter will inherit his half of the Joseph Kavanagh Co. Leo’s funeral is held at St. Elizabeth’s where his family and friends including many of his fellow Knights of Columbus members mourn and say their farewells. Leo is buried at New Cathedral Cemetery where his parents and other ancestors are laid to rest.

February 10

Jack, Betty and their girls, Betty Ann, Nancy, Mary and Jane have Sunday dinner with Jack’s parents, Eddie and Annie. Annie loves anytime she can get with the girls and they feel the same way. They love Mimi as they call her and she welcomes each with a hug and a kiss as if she hadn’t seen them in weeks. Eddie and Mimi live across the street and see the girls almost every day. The girls call Eddie, Eddie. It is his preference just as his father Joe didn’t go by Grandpa or Pop. Eddie is the same. He is called Eddie by his granddaughters and his sons generally. Jack called him Pop as a boy and occasionally now but never at the Shop where he was always Eddie. Annie bakes a ham and there is pie for dessert which is the young girls’ favorite part. After dinner, Eddie pulls Jack aside into the front room to talk while the girls play with their mother and grandmother.

“Jack, Leo’s will was read and Maymie and Mary get his share of the company. They won’t be involved in the day to day but will be paid some rent for the property. They own half of the building.” a slight shrug of his shoulders as he pauses, “We’ll keep doing what we do and it should all be fine.”

“What can I do to help, Pop? I know without Leo you will have a lot to do,” Jack offers, realizing that his father’s work will just about double.

“I might need some help with drawings and I’ll be glad to have you back from Annapolis. That’s for sure but I know you gotta focus on being a Delegate, son. You do your job in the House and I’ll be fine. If it’s busy, that’s a good thing. You know how it is at the Shop.” Eddie assures Jack.

Jack glances over his father’s shoulder as he hears Mary’s voice rise from the next room, “I’ll be back full time in April. I’ll do whatever it takes to help.”

His father smiles at him, “I know, Jack. I know you will. It’s strange already without Leo. It’s not the same without him. We worked together our whole lives in that building.” A somber frown crosses his face, “He was my brother but we’ll get it worked out. I know you’ll help. I will need you more in the office part of the day but you should be doing that anyway. You gotta get used to dealing with customers,” a pause as he taps a cigarette from its pack, “and doing everything else.”

“What about Ed?” Jack asks. It’s his turn to frown as he watches his father with the cigarette.

His father places the cigarette to his lips, “He doesn’t want any parts of the owning and running the Shop. He told me so and, Jack, he doesn’t have the demeanor. He’s not serious enough. He….,” Eddie seems to think better of complaining about one son to the other when he finishes, “You’re better suited for it, Jack and honestly, Ed, is more of a Shop guy: a good coppersmith, and that’s what he wants to be.”

Jack takes his time, then answers his father, “If you say so, Pop. You know best. I’m ready to learn all you want to teach me. I want to help out and help the company. I did go to school for drafting and mechanics so I can handle the drawings. Whatever it takes, I’m ready for it.”

Eddie nods and pats his son on the shoulder than calls for the ladies to come in and gather around the piano. It’s Eddie’s way of telling Jack he’s happy he’s willing to help and the conversation is over. Eddie begins to play the piano and soon the girls are dancing and singing along. Jack takes his turn playing too and they all join in together. The same sort of Kavanagh Sunday dinner with song that Eddie had with his parents.

The Shop’s job book entry. National Brewery job. March 11, 1954.

March 25

Jack has decided to run for re-election in the 2nd District of Baltimore City. He and Betty discussed it and though she would prefer to have him close to home, she understands it is important to him and will support him 100%. He and his father confer with Jack Pollack, one of Jack’s mentors in the party and Jack Kavanagh will be on the ballot for re-election. On Central Avenue, the Shop received an order for the vapor pipe repair job that was quoted to Calvert Distilling earlier this year. It takes a week to finish the tube and then find a way to work the bends with the proper radius. Eddie has been having John Benser, the Shop’s machinist make a few bending dies when he can. This makes it simpler to achieve the specific curve needed. In the case of this order, the tubes are over ten inches in diameter and their only choice is to made a new set of tools from wood. Benser machines a die and clamp block while the tubes are filled with sand. The sand is poured in, then pounded down with a pipe. Once full, the tubes are carefully pulled around the die. It’s a very slow process for each bend but a good job and Eddie is happy to see this one billed.

The Shop’s job book entry. Calvert Distilling Job. March 25, 1954.

April 1

Some of the Shop’s distillery work is not related to the whiskey industry. Today a dished copper top for a column still is finished for US Industrial Chemical Co., a chemical producer who requires alcohol distilling. The top is made from copper sheet and weighs over four hundred pounds when finished, so most of the crew have been working on this order for the last two days.

The Shop’s job book entry. US Industrial Chemical Co. job. April 1, 1954. Page 1.
The Shop’ job book entry. US Industrial Chemical Co. job. April, 1, 1954. Page 2.

April 10

The House of Delegates session closes and Jack returns to the Shop full-time but is running for re-election. On a Saturday, the crew are not working, but Jack is in the small corner office with his father. Eddie and Jack are there to plan the schedule for the week. Since Leo’s passing, Jack has tried to help his father at the Shop and now can do more. He will handle expediting jobs while Eddie focuses on taking calls and making quotations. The absence of Leo is felt, as the drawings as well as any engineering on stills and brewing vats, falls to Jack now. He can handle it but it is more work. It is a transitional period with Leo passing but they are managing and each day is focused on the jobs at hand.

April 15

The Baltimore Orioles play their first game in Baltimore at Memorial Stadium. Thousands line the streets as the team leads a parade to the game. Players sign autographs and speak to fans as the crowd cheers. The Orioles beat the White Sox 3-1 in their first home game in Baltimore before 46,000 excited fans. The Kavanagh’s have the game on the radio in the Shop’s office and they work but keep an ear on the game through the afternoon. It’s the first Opening Day in Baltimore and tomorrow it will be discussed in depth throughout the City and most certainly at the Joseph Kavanagh Company

May 9

Jack takes his father to their first Orioles game on a fine spring Sunday. Eddie and Jack can hardly contain themselves. Two true lovers of baseball at a major league game here in Baltimore. They sit and talk as they wait for the game to start. Bob Turley is the starting pitcher for the Orioles facing Art Houtteman of the Cleveland Indians. This game is a true pitching duel with the game tied at one through nine innings. Turley pitches ten innings and in the bottom of the tenth, his sacrifice bunt sets up Center fielder Gil Cloan who lines a single to center scoring the winning run. The crowd goes wild and Eddie and Jack are both whistling and cheering. It’s a very exciting game and a great first trip to Memorial Stadium for baseball. Father and son talk on the ride home about the game and the players. Jack decides he will bring the whole family out to a game or two and he can’t wait to bring his girls to see the Orioles and share some baseball with them.

June 22

The Shop is busy fabricating a railing for a residence. The usual array of brewery and distilling parts are made as well. Jack is working but also campaigning with his fellow Democrats. The Primary is next week and influence in the party seems to come down to two camps, Jack Pollack leading one and gubernatorial candidate George Mahoney the other.

June 28

Jack loses his re-election bid to the House of Delegates, He and two of the other Pollack men were defeated by the Mahoney group in the Democratic Party. Jack seems to have fallen victim to some political infighting. The people have spoken and Jack does not receive a nomination to return to the General Assembly. He is disappointed but at the same time he’ll be happy to be home with his family and to devote more time to the Shop. Betty is quietly relieved though she would have supported Jack no matter the result.

July 2

Jack, Betty and their girls attend their first Orioles game on a Friday night. Betty is eight months pregnant but going means so much to Jack and the girls, she wants to be with them. Jack told her he would take the four girls and she could stay home but she would have none of it. So they take in a ballgame on a warm summer night. Sitting in the lower box on the third base side, they watch Baltimore welcome the Detroit Tigers to town. The Orioles, though still in the bottom of the standings, win tonight in another close well-pitched affair. Joe Coleman out duels Art Aber and the Birds beat the Tigers 2-0. The girls cheer on the Orioles and Jack is in high heaven to be watching a game with his wife and kids.

July 9

Betty meets a young woman from the neighborhood named Katherine. Jack and Betty have been looking for someone to help with the girls on a more regular basis. Katherine fits the bill perfectly. She lives in the neighborhood and is a friend from the Kavanagh side of the family. Betty grows to trust her quickly and Katherine will keep the girls whenever Betty has errands, trips to the store, doctor or school.

The Kavnagh girls in the backyard of 447 N. Lakewood Avenue. Mary, Betty Ann and Jane(left to right). Mid 1950s.

July 21

Betty Kavanagh gives birth to another girl, Jacqueline who is called Jackie. She is named after Jack her father and he is as thrilled as he could be. He loves his Daddy’s little girls. The family is excited for another baby in the family. Her older sisters are all excited to hold her, and Mimi and Eddie along with them. Jack and Betty are also very happy they have found Katherine because with a new baby and four older girls, they will need all the help they can get.

Betty Kavanagh and baby Jackie.

July 31

The Summer at the Shop is busier and they are back to working Saturday half-days. Calvert Distilling has been keeping them busy a lot this year with repairs and replacement parts. Calvert needs some baffles replaced in an evaporator and today they are completed at the Shop. Copper sheets were cut and drilled and the ends annealed. The old baffle plates are pulled from the evaporator and the new ones installed. Five men handle this one while the rest are busy on a few boiler parts.

The Shop’s job book entry. National Brewery job. August 10, 1954.

August 16

Gunther’s Brewery orders some replacement unions. This is a repeat job. They made these last year and now they make another set. Gunther’s is another customer who sends work to the Joseph Kavanagh Company nearly every month and they have been doing business with the Kavanagh’s for decades. The small fittings whether stock or custom parts flow out of the Shop regularly. Repeat jobs are welcomed because if they did it once, they know they can do it again.

August 22

Jack takes his girls to a Sunday afternoon Orioles game. Betty stays home with baby Jackie this time and Jack corrals the girls into his Chrysler Windsor and heads to Memorial Stadium. The Orioles are hosting the Cleveland Indians today. The Indians are at the top of the standings and the Orioles are mired at the bottom. The game goes as most would guess with first place Cleveland pounding the Birds 12-1 today. The girls have a good time and cheer when they can as Jack explains to them that baseball is a game and sometimes you lose. Jack drives his girls home and they chatter to him and to each other. He saw his team get beat pretty bad but doesn’t care. He has a soft smile of contentment on his face as he answers his daughters queries and listens to them discussing the game.

September 6

Betty Ann and Nancy start their school year at St. Elizabeth’s, Betty in first grade and Nancy in kindergarten. Jack drives them down Lakewood Avenue to where the street is interrupted by Patterson Park. The school is on this corner at Baltimore Street. He drops both girls off and wishes them a good day. At lunch, Betty will walk down to pick up Nancy then return several hours later to pick up first grader, Betty Ann. Katherine will stay with the girls while Betty is at school. Katherine is a great help to Betty and the girls all love her.

The Shop’s job book entry. National Brewery job. September 10′ 1954.
The Shop’s job book entry. Gunther’s Brewery job. September 10, 1954.

September 13

More fittings, unions and adapters are made for both Gunther’s and National Brewery in the Shop, and Eddie has his own project to work on today. He has begun making a copper pitcher for his sister to honor her twenty-five years of service as a Visitation nun. He will make a pitcher like others have been made at the Joseph Kavanagh Company since Old Uncle Joe started it in 1866. Eddie will anneal a piece of copper sheet, then hammer and bend, shaping the sheet into a bowl at first, then a pitcher. The inside will be tinned and a small handle annealed, bent and soldered to the pitcher. Eddie does a special cleaning with acid to finish this particular pitcher giving it a very handsome look. He engraves his sister’s name and the years of her vocation and involvement in the Visitation Convent.

The Shop’s job book entry. Gunther’s Brewery job. September 13′ 1954.

September 26

The Baltimore Colts begin their second season at Memorial Stadium. They play in the same place as the Orioles and will do so for a long time The two franchises share the space and make many memories for Baltimore sports fans but not so much so far. The Orioles finished their season yesterday losing 11-0 for their 100th loss of the season. The Colts are crushed today 48-0 by the Los Angeles Rams. Both clubs are new and not expected to compete at this point. Things will change in a few years.

October 2

The New York Giants sweep their way to the World Series, winning all four games against the Cleveland Indians. The Indians had taken the American League Pennant by winning a record-setting 111 games. They were favored to win it all but the Giants were up to the task. In game one, Willie Mays makes one of the most incredible catches ever on a long drive by Vic Wertz. It is remembered as one of the greatest defensive plays of all time and is symbolic of this series. Leo Durocher wins his first World Series and the Kavanagh’s enjoy the games. They also assumed Cleveland would win easily, but that’s why they play the games, because you never know. If possible, they may be even more interested in the Series this year with a home team in the league. Jack hopes some day to see the Orioles play for the championship. If you have a team, you can dream.

November 13

Jack and Betty go to the movies on a Saturday night for the first time since the baby was born. There is a new holiday movie out with Bing Crosby and Danny Kaye called “White Christmas.” Eddie and Annie keep the girls including baby Jackie while their parents go out for the night. They love the movie and the music and mostly love getting out for a couple of hours. They would love to go for egg rolls as they used to but Betty wants to get home to the baby. Five young girls (Annie has cousin Patsy at her house every Saturday night) and a baby is a lot to handle for Annie. Both Jack and Betty don’t want to tire her out. Eddie is there and he will play a little on the piano with the girls and watch some television but eventually he’s likely to disappear behind the newspaper. When they get to 434 N. Lakewood Avenue, they tell Jack’s parents and their girls all about the movie and the girls tell them how much fun they had with Mimi. In a few minutes, the Kavanagh girls are walking down the street and back home for the rest of the night.

Betty, Nancy, Patsy2 (1)
Nancy, Patsy and Betty Ann Kavanagh(left to right) on the grounds of the Visitation Convent. Mid 1950s.

November 27

After celebrating Thanksgiving with both Jack and Betty’s families, the Kavanagh’s visit Aunt Anna, Sister Mary Agnes on the following Saturday. She is celebrating her Silver Jubilee having been part of the order for twenty-five years. After Mass at the Convent, Eddie presents Anna with the pitcher he made for her. She thinks it’s beautiful and is very touched that her brother would do this. It reminds her of the Shop and her father and all the family that worked there. She thanks him and she thanks God for giving her the calling that has changed and enriched her life for so many years. Eddie loves his sister dearly and she feels the same. They are that much closer to each other now with their brother Leo gone.

Sister Mary Agnes(Anna Kavanagh) on the grounds of the Visitation Convent.

December 15

Eddie sends out a few Christmas gifts to customers. He has decided that some of his friends in the industry deserve a small token. Most get ties but a few get a bottle of whiskey. It is becoming an industry custom as he receives some too. His wife Annie shops for the ties and he takes care of the lucky few who get rye.

Thank you note from one of the men from Gunther’s Brewery that Eddie Kavnagh knew. He received a tie and whiskey. December 26, 1954.

December 24

The Shop’s annual Christmas Eve Party is thrown on a cold Friday. The place is converted from messy Shop to less messy holiday party in a couple of hours. The front room of Central Avenue is full of people eating, drinking and celebrating. Customers recognize and greet each other, shaking hands and wishing each other well and a fine party is held. The guests talk of the Colts who had another tough season and the hopes for the Orioles next year. The new baby, Jackie, is held and passed around while the older kids play about. The party is just like every year but Eddie misses his brother. Leo and Eddie worked together for so long and his death was so unexpected. Eddie goes over it in his mind quite often and today certainly. He feels so many unresolved issues as he never said a proper farewell to his older brother and he has trouble getting past it. When a few folks call for some songs, he puts it into the back of his mind. They do sing and toast the Shop, the holiday and the future. After the party, two employees are a bit inebriated and Jack offers to give them a lift home. Eddie is not too pleased with the workers but seems fine once his son decides to drive them home. Eddie and Annie take Betty and the kids back to Lakewood Avenue while Jack drives the two workers, each with a Christmas turkey in hand, to their destinations. One is driven to his house and the other just needs a ride to a bus stop and he will take a bus to West Baltimore where he lives. Finally, Jack drives East across town headed back home. He can’t wait for Christmas with all his girls. He even has a red and white suit picked out to wear later tonight.

Thank you note from one of the men from Gunther’s Brewery that Eddie Kavanagh knew. He received a tie. December 31, 1954.



Dwight Eisenhower is the President of the United States. Elvis Presley records his first record. The first nuclear submarine, the Nautilus, is launched. Mass vaccinations of children for polio begins. The Brown vs. Board of Education Supreme Court decision rules segregation in schools is unconstitutional. The words “Under God” are added to the Pledge of Allegiance. The Tonight Show hosted by Steve Allen premiers. The first Burger King opens. The films “the Caine Mutiny” and “On the Waterfront” are released. Oprah Winfrey, Denzel Washington, Condoleezza Rice, Ron Howard, and Stevie Ray Vaughan are born.

There are 48 states in the Union.

Copper pitcher made by Eddie Kavanagh to honor his sister Silver Jubilee. 1954.

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

Table of Contents

1953 The Colts and the Orioles

January 5

Another year starts with the Shop still busy and the Kavanagh’s are happy. Busiest of all of them is Jack who besides the Shop and having four little girls, is also a member of the Maryland House of Delegates. He is a Democrat as is his father and his father before him. Jack is happy to serve and is getting more experience at legislating as well as the ins and outs of politics in Annapolis, but it is a grueling haul sometimes. He lives in Baltimore, but while the House is in session he must be in Annapolis five days a week. It is a lot of driving and a lot of relying on his wife, Betty. Betty has almost completely recovered from polio and walks freely now with just a small limp. No crutches or wheelchairs in sight and she manages the four girls and the household well. She occasionally gets help from one of the young women in the neighborhood who will stay with one or two of the girls while Betty goes to the store or takes the other girls to the doctor or wherever. Still, Jack knows it’s hard work for her, though she is as supportive as she could be. They have a very busy life and are handling it as best as they can.

The Joseph Kavanagh Company. 201 S. Central Avenue. Picture taken in early 1970s.

January 15

The NFL awards a football team to a Baltimore group of investors lead by Carroll Rosenbloom. The team is named the Baltimore Colts, a new franchise built from what was left of the Dallas Texans who had folded after one year. Baltimore is very excited and that includes the Kavanagh’s. There was a Baltimore Colts team in a rival league for several years but this is the NFL, the big leagues of football. Jack Kavanagh is very interested and makes plans to attend some games and will become a big fan of the Colts. To Jack, it’s sports. It’s a local team, a Baltimore team so he is all for it. They will play at Memorial Stadium on Thirty-third Street.

January 19

On a very cold Monday night, nearly 70% of the country watches on TV as Lucy from the I Love Lucy Show has a baby. Jack, Betty and their four girls sit, watch and laugh along with one of the most popular shows on television. Each week the Kavanagh’s and most of America tune in for laughs with Lucy. This episode will become a classic in TV history.

February 11

The Shop’s crew are busy laboring through the day while Leo and Eddie take calls and prepare jobs for the next day. It’s a typical Wednesday at the Joseph Kavanagh Company, a winter’s day whose chill is fought with the heat of torches and the annealing oven. February is not such a bad time to be a coppersmith at work. The men of the Joseph Kavanagh Company are working on a variety of jobs today including a brass railing, a storage tank and some custom brewery fittings. All of these require heat so the place is warm at the very least. The Shop has always worked on a wide scale of jobs. Large jobs that take weeks, the average job that takes a few days and the small one or two hour job. Today machinist John Benser threads some copper tube for Brass and Copper Supply Co. The Kavanagh’s have accumulated a large inventory of copper tube of different sizes. A nine inch piece is cut from an old drop or leftover piece and Benser does the threading. Five dollars is made on this job.

The Shop’s job book entry. Brass & Copper Supply Co. job. February 13, 1953.

March 13

Friday the 13th is good luck in Baltimore today because news reports are stating that Bill Veeck, the owner of the St. Louis Browns baseball team, has reached a deal to move the team to Baltimore and they will begin play this season in Memorial Stadium. Baseball fans in this City are joyous and celebrating in the streets. The Kavanagh’s are among them. There is much slapping of backs and clasping of hands between them. To finally have a local major league team after all these years is a dream come true, especially for Eddie. He’s a die hard fan and is old enough to remember the old Orioles that his father loved so much. Leo and Eddie reminisce a bit about their father and the tales he would tell of the old Orioles. The brothers know he would be thrilled.

March 19

On this Thursday at the Shop, a few custom unions are made for Gunther’s Brewery. These parts are their bread and butter and hardly a day passes without some brewing or distilling parts, large or small. The rest of the crew are making brass fittings and two copper liners for a boiler repair job. It’s a very typical spring day in Baltimore, but tonight the Academy Awards is broadcast for the first time on television and Jack and Betty Kavanagh watch it live. This is the first time they have seen most of the stars out of their film roles and they both enjoy the show. “The Greatest Show on Earth” wins Best Picture.

The Shop’s job book entry. Gunther’s Brewery job. March 19, 1953.

March 23

The baseball season gets closer to starting but there will be no Opening Day in Baltimore. The American League owners have voted to block the Browns’ move claiming it would be impractical to relocate a team this close to the start of the season. Baltimore baseball fans are enraged and rightly disappointed while Mayor Tommy D’Alesandro threatens to sue. These are moot points as the St. Louis Browns will begin the season April 14 by hosting the Detroit Tigers at Sportsman’s Park but a move by the Browns is not out of the question. Rather it is merely tabled until after the season. The Kavanagh’s slip into a “I’ll believe it when I see it” mentality.

April 10

The regular session of the House of Delegates comes to an end and Jack is happy for it. He does enjoy his involvement with the Assembly but he misses his family. He knows that Betty has a lot on her hands and Jack is very glad to be home so she can get a break. He is happy to be back at the Shop full time as well. As much as likes politics and being involved in the General Assembly, coppersmith work/ Shop work is his forte and what he has done since he was an apprentice.

Delegate Jack Kavanagh. Democrat. 2nd District.

May 14

A railing is finished today at Pratt and Central. This rail is long and serpentine with curves that twist back and forth to match a winding sidewalk. It is made in sections, then will be assembled on site. The crew heat brass and pull the pieces around blocks and dies to match a thin flimsy steel rod they are given as a template. They will match it as close as possible to make the contractor’s installation easier. It’s acceptable to the customer and picked up today. Another job out the door and they move on to the next.

May 25

Nine steel tubes are bent today for a new customer, Sterman Mechanical Laboratory. They have needed a few bends several times this year and have another order placed for June. The Shop, after so many custom bends for still parts and brewing parts, has acquired a fair stock of bending dies. The die is a steel block that is rounded and tubes are bent around them manually with heat if necessary. They come in different sizes depending on the curve needed. A die is grooved to fit different size pipes or tubes as well. It is grooved to keep the pipe or tube from flattening or collapsing as it is being bent. Eddie believes this is another area of work where they can make some money. Even for a few pieces, if they have the tools, they can find a way to make money. While they eat their lunch, Eddie talks to his brother Leo about having John Benser, their machinist make some more dies.

“Leo, I think we should have John (Benser) make some bending dies whenever he gets the chance.” Eddie says chewing his sandwich as he shuffles through some orders on his desk.

“It sounds like a good idea but we can’t spend too much time on it or too much money unless we have a specific order to fill.” Leo sips his coffee as he considers his brother’s idea.

Eddie replies, “I only mean when he has some idle time. There are a few hours every week when he does some clean up and organizing. I’m not saying that isn’t important but he could set a piece in a lathe and take some cuts while he does all that. There would be no rush since there’s no order but bit by bit, he can get some tools made.”

“He does have a few hours here and there. I agree on that. It’s fine with me but it can’t interfere with any real jobs he’s working on.” Leo stands and pours himself another cup of coffee, “Jobs need to always take precedence.”

“Of course,” his brother answers, “but I’m confident that pipe and tube bending for these sort of general mechanical purposes is a good market for the Shop now and down the road. The more tools we have, the more variety of bends we can make.”

“Well, we have received some work like this and it seems to be increasing. Let’s do it. Tell Benser to start fitting in some die-making, but we should figure out what sizes to make first. Maybe give him a list. We can use any spare steel that we have laying around but not buy any steel for these. Just use some excess.” Leo says as he bites into an apple.

Eddie lights a cigarette, “Fair enough. We won’t buy any steel. We’ll use what’s laying around and I’ll give John a list of sizes to start making.” He takes a long puff, “It might not be much but I’m sure we’ll make some money at it.” The phone rings and Eddie quickly grabs it. The brothers get back to work and in the morning, Eddie has a chat with John Benser, who starts making dies whenever he can.

The Shop’s job book entry. Sturman Mechanical Laboratory job. May 25, 1953.

June 29

The crew discusses the new football team. Leo and Eddie are baseball fans almost exclusively and have only a passing interest in football but Ed Jr., Jack and some of the younger workers are very interested in this new Baltimore Colts team. This is a local team in the National Football League and having your own team makes it more fun as you have someone to root for. Several fellows are already set on going to a couple games including Jack. Another set of unions are made for Gunther’s Brewery, who have sent a steady stream of work in all year, and a large circular fountain is fabricated.

The Shop’s job book entry. Gunther’s Brewery job. June 29, 1953.

July 7

The Shop completes a copper water bath for Calvert Distillery. It is a rectangular basin that is tinned completely on the inside. The tinning will stop any contamination. This is another fairly standard part for the Kavanagh’s and crew. Sheets of copper are heated and bent vertically to make a box. The seams and corners are soldered and the inside surfaces are tinned. Then some clean up to finish the bath and it is ready for installation. The Summer has been a busy one and they are working five days plus a half-day on Saturday. The crew welcome the extra hours. Summer is a good time to have a little extra money to spend.

The Shop’s job book entry. Calvert Distilling job. August 7, 1953.

July 27

The US, the People’s Republic of China, North Korea and South Korea sign an armistice agreement bringing an end to the Korean Conflict. Leo and Eddie, sitting in their corner office, discuss the story in the paper, both relieved this war is finally over. It always seemed so far away to them but they knew there were Americans in danger, fighting for our country. Like most Americans, regardless of the result, they are happy to have our soldiers home. The Korean War started so soon after World War Two ended, the nation is war weary and happy for peace.

Quotation for Calvert Distilling. August 20, 1953.

August 28

The Shop is busy on one of those hot and hazy August dog days. The crew are heating and hammering, working hard while Eddie is putting the finishing touches on a quotation for Calvert Distilling for a heating coil. The coil will be made from 5/8” copper tube and he has quoted it two ways. They need a heating coil with two passes through its system and Eddie has given them a price but also quoted the cost of a four pass coil which will perform must better. Calvert will order the two pass in a few weeks but it’s always worth a shot to try to get as much work as possible especially to Eddie. He took his shot and perhaps next time, they will order the four pass.

Quotation for Calvert Distilling. August 28, 1953.

September 7

Betty Ann, the oldest of Jack and Betty’s girls begins kindergarten at St. Elizabeth’s of Hungary School. St. E’s is located at the corner of Lakewood and Baltimore Street just four blocks from their house. Parents and daughter are nervous but excited as Jack drops her off for her first day of school. Betty will walk down to pick her up at lunch time while a neighbor keeps an eye on the girls. Young Betty does fine and tells her mother and sisters all about her first day at school. Jack and Betty will grow very accustomed to this school because they will have at least one child in St. Elizabeth’s school for the next twenty-five years.

B N M J 5
Betty Kavanagh with her daughters, Betty Ann, Nancy, Mary and Jane.(left to right). 1953.

September 27

The Baltimore Colts play their first game at Memorial Stadium on Thirty-third Street. The stadium is a work in progress with construction not quite finished. The Colts beat the Chicago Bears 13-0 in their inaugural game before a crowd of 24,000 very excited Baltimoreans. The Kavanagh’s listen on the radio, rooting and cheering for their new and victorious team.

September 29

The American League owners meet and vote to approve the sale of the St. Louis Browns to a group of owners in Baltimore headed by Jerry Hoffberger. The owners dislike Bill Veeck; his showman’s ways and unusual approach to promotion rankles the more traditional owners in the league. They only approve the move if Veeck agrees to sell his shares completely. Baltimore is one very happy town. This time it is for real, a done deal and there will be no changing it. The other owners wanted Bill Veeck and his large personality and flair for the unconventional out of baseball. Once it was clear that Veeck would sell out completely, an agreement was reached quickly. The team will no longer be called the St. Louis Browns but the Baltimore Orioles just like that team of old. Leo and Eddie can’t believe it. Their memories of the old National League Orioles and their short-lived appearance in the new American League are vague at best but their father’s stories of that team were a constant in the two brothers’ lives. Joe spoke often of the Orioles and how they played such a hard-nosed style and were always competitive and more often than not, winners. Eddie’s son Jack is jubilant. He has an NFL team to pull for and the Baltimore Orioles are coming back to town. Jack too heard Joe’s stories and he thinks of his grandfather and how happy he would be at this moment. It’s slightly bittersweet for Joe’s sons and grandsons who know what this would mean to Joe, but mostly it’s a very good feeling and they can not wait for Opening Day.

B N M J & DAD 1953
Jack Kavanagh and his daughters, Nancy, Betty Ann, Mary and Jane(left to right) 1953.

October 3

Jack Kavanagh and several friends attend their first Baltimore Colts game. They are very excited to be at the game, but are disappointed as the home team falls to the Detroit Lions 27-17. Jack has a great time despite the result and will soon become an ardent fan of this team. Though always a baseball fan, he finds a special connection to this Colts franchise. This first year will not be a good one record wise as the team finishes with three wins to nine losses but the fans hardly care as they begin to love these chilly Fall and Winter Sundays of football.

October 5

The Yankees beat the Brooklyn Dodgers again in the World Series. It’s a repeat of last year except it only takes New York six games this time. Just like last year, Eddie and Jack’s loyalty is split with Eddie pulling for the Yanks and his son rooting for Roy Campanella’s Dodgers. They watch games four and five together over the weekend while sharing a beer. It’s an exciting series with offensive highlights from both teams. In game six, Brooklyn rallies from two behind in the top of the ninth to tie the game at three but in the home half of the inning, second baseman Billy Martin lines a single up the middle to send right fielder Hank Bauer scampering home with the game-winning and series-winning run. Martin records twelve hits to lead the Yanks to their record setting fifth World Series Championship in a row. The Kavanagh’s love every minute of it but are more excited about the prospect of having their own team in the league next year.

October 22

Eureka Coppersmiths & Plumbing Company orders some steel u-bolts from the Shop. These are annealed just as copper is but you have to do the bending while it’s still very hot, cherry red. Eureka doesn’t bend steel but the crew at Central Avenue are well trained in using heat and working with steel whenever necessary. The rod is clamped down and then the torch is put on them until they are red. Next, the piece is pulled over a round die while the heat is still on them. For good bending with steel, it’s best to keep the torch on it as you work it, a hot job, for sure, but on a cool October day, a torch is a welcome tool to have in hand.

The Shop’s job book entry. Eureka Coppersmith & Plumbing Co. job. October 22, 1953.

October 27

The Joseph Kavanagh Company will finish the year strong as they continue to have a great mix of big jobs every month along with a steady stream of small repairs and replacement parts. Today some nose couplings are fabricated for National Brewing Co. They do these all the time and even these small orders help keep the doors open.

The Shop’s job book entry. National Brewing job. October 27, 1953.

November 11

The Shop purchases another old lathe from Medler’s Copper Shop. Medler’s closed up last year and Leo and Eddie bought several pieces of equipment from them and today adds another one, a twelve inch lathe. It is re-conditioned and cleaned up for use in the Shop. The Kavanagh’s have one of this size but it’s even older than the one from Mercer’s. They haul this one up to the second floor with a block and tackle. It swings in the air for a moment but these men know what they are doing. Once it’s high enough, the lathe is swung into the large upstairs side door and placed where machinist, John Benser wants it. Soon, it is set and anchored upstairs and ready to be used as needed.

The Shop’s job book entry. Re-conditioning a lathe purchased from Medler’s Copper shop. November 11, 1953.

November 26

The Sunday after Thanksgiving is spent at the Visitation Convent visiting Aunt Anna, Sister Mary Agnes. The family spend some time on the grounds taking pictures and letting the girls run and play. Afterward, they have tea and talk, catching up on the family and speaking of the coming Christmas holiday. Aunt Anna grins and chuckles a bit as Eddie speaks of the Orioles return. She agrees that Joe would be very happy and her brother’s excitement reminds her of when he was a young man and she a small girl. The family is close and has been so since she was a girl and through the nearly twenty-five years of her vocation.

Kav at Visitation
The Kavanagh’s at the Visitation Convent. Eddie and Annie with their sons, Ed and Jack, their daughter-in-laws, Lillian and Betty and granddaughters, Patsy, Betty Ann and Nancy. 1953.

December 24

The Shop’s Christmas Eve Party is held as it is every year on the corner of Pratt and Central. In short order, the dirty, messy Shop is cleaned and decorated for the holiday. Friends, customers and employees celebrate with the Kavanagh’s. The party is not merely to welcome the Yuletide holiday but also to toast another year of work finished. It has been a good year with the work remaining abundant. The guests mingle about the first floor of the building, eating, drinking and singing together. They talk of the City and the Colts who finished their first season. They finished next to last in their division but hopes are high for improvement. The partygoers speak quite a bit in anticipation of the new baseball team with the old name. Baltimore will get its Orioles back. This is what truly has the Kavanagh’s anxious for the Spring. This City has not had a team in over fifty years but the memories are still there of that old National League team led by John McGraw. Leo, Eddie and their children are reminded of their father Joe and his strong love of the Orioles. The man truly loved the game and when the Birds were here, he was a mad fan. Even with the passing of Joe and Johanna in the last two years, three generations do party and play in the Shop this year. The brothers, Leo and Eddie and their children and grandchildren are all there. Leo’s grandson Jimmy and Ed Jr.’s daughter Patsy play with Jack and Betty’s girls, running about the place. Leo and Eddie drink a quiet toast together as they watch the fun. They are doing well and keeping the Shop and its tradition alive. They are honoring the past and preparing for the future. Today they are watching the future as the kids run by them laughing. Sitting with Betty, Jack smiles to see his girls having such fun, knowing that they can’t wait for Santa to come. This part of being a father is something that thrills Jack. He has another thing to be happy about as well. No one else knows yet but Betty told Jack last night, she is pregnant and next year they will have baby # 5.



Dwight D. Eisenhower is the President of the United States. The first Corvette and the first color television go on sale. Hugh Hefner publishes the first issue of Playboy Magazine with Marilyn Monroe on the cover and in the centerfold. Swanson sells its first TV Dinner. The first Denny’s opens. Narcotics Anonymous is founded. The films, “From Here to Eternity,” “The War of the Worlds” and “Gentlemen Prefer Blondes” are released. The first polio vaccine is developed by Jonas Salk. The Korean War ends in a stalemate. 33,000 Americans die and over 100,000 are wounded. Hulk Hogan, Ken Burns, Cyndi Lauper, Pat Benatar, and John Malkovich are born.

There are 48 states in the Union.

Dad & Eddie (Father)1946
Eddie Kavanagh and his son, Jack. Late 1940s.

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

Table of Contents

1952 Johanna

January 7

1952 starts well for the Kavanagh’s and the Shop. There is another new baby, Jane Frances born on December 26 of last year. Dr. Insley who delivered her said, “she was the last thing in Santa’s bag.” Jack and Betty are so happy and excited with another baby. They have four little girls now. Representing the 2nd district, Jack is preparing for the House of Delegates to begin its session next week. The Shop remains busy with a solid backlog of a month’s work. That’s great for January. Jack’s father Eddie and his Uncle Leo are very happy. Busy in January? Old Uncle Joe would be thrilled.

Jane Kavanagh. 1952.

January 15

Frank L. Wright Distillers orders some custom quick opening valves and the Shop’s crew gets to it. These valves are made specifically to the size of the pipe or tube. It takes a little longer than anticipated to make some patterns, but the cutting, soldering and fabricating the valves goes quickly once the template is right. The patterns will be saved in case another set of valves are ever needed of this size and configuration. This is how it is done at the Shop. The first time a specific size valve or coupling is made it takes longer. Longer to develop and make a template to match so they may not make as much money as they hope but down the road they will have a pattern and the job will go much quicker.

The Shop’ job book entry. Frank L. Wright Distillers job. January 15, 1952.

January 29

The Shop finishes several jobs for National Brewing. These are standard replacement parts, copper lids and couplings. All small parts but these are what keep the cash flow flowing. The crew splits up on these two orders. Thin sheet is heated and shaped for the lids and the couplings are worked and machined from brass. These are parts they have been making for years. They keep a good stock of them but often they are custom made for the customer’s needs.

The Shop’s job book entry. National Brewing job. January 28, 1952.
The Shop’s job book entry. National Brewing job. January 29, 1952.

February 4

Leo and Eddie’s men spend a busy day primarily on a boiler repair job that includes rolled steel bands for stiffeners. The stiffener does exactly what it sounds like, stiffening and maintaining the curve and contours of the boiler tank. The more accurately this shape is maintained the better the productivity of the boiler. The quality of work of the Joseph Kavanagh Company has at this point been established. Their presence and longevity in Baltimore industry attest to their capabilities. The Shop’s work is exacting. Detail and precision matter and are maintained so their parts and pieces work better. The standard was set long ago and the reputation precedes the work now.

February 7

Betty Kavanagh is doing her exercises nearly every night while Jack watches the girls. Jack lays on the floor with his daughters and he pretends he is a baby along with their dolls. The girls giggle and tickle their Dad. An abundance of hugs and kisses from all four of Daddy’s girls are given every night. It makes Betty smile and gives her the time to exercise her legs. The doctor is sure theses exercises will speed her recovery from the effects of polio. The virus is gone but her muscles are still weak. He has given her six months at minimum before she can walk without crutches but Betty means to beat that. She goes at it hard and feels she is getting stronger and her legs are more steady the more she works.

B N M J 2 1952
Jack and Betty Kavanagh’s daughter. Left to right. Mary, Jane, Nancy, Betty Anne. Outside of backyard of 447 N. Lakewood Avenue. 1952.

February 14

Johanna Kavanagh falls in the kitchen of her house on Thirty-third Street just before 4 pm. She is able to make it to the telephone and calls the Shop where they are just about to close up for the day. Her sons call an ambulance and meet it at the hospital. Johanna is admitted to St. Joseph’s Hospital. She has fractured her neck and right leg. Her sons are very worried for her, a fall at her age is a bad thing. She is resting comfortably but the family’s concerns continue.


February 19

Jack Kavanagh is in Annapolis as the House of Delegates has a whole slate of bills to vote on. The primary is a bill that gives the University of MD more autonomy over its budget and purchases and control of any surpluses. The bill passes but Jack and a few others are opposed. Their thinking was this is the only State agency that would have such control. They are concerned that other schools, hospital, etc. would now demand the same power. Jack’s mind is on his grandmother in the hospital but he must be here.

Jane Kavanagh next to Jack Kavanagh’s 1946 Chrysler Windsor. Note the House of Delegates License Plate. 1952.

February 27

Johanna Kavanagh dies at St. Joseph’s Hospital. She is the last of her generation and passes quietly in her sleep. The family grieves and her sons are both stricken hard. They were both close to her and she had a deep love for her children and grandchildren. She was a source of both comfort and wisdom, each given out as needed. She had a gentle but strong way about her. Very able to stand up for herself but much more likely to stand up for others. The family remember her as the woman she was, loving and smart. They lean on each other and think of the love she gave them. She is buried at New Cathedral Cemetery with her husband Joe and their daughter Alice and granddaughter also named Alice.

Graves Kavanagh Joe & Johanna (1)
Joseph and Johanna Kavanagh’s Grave. New Cathedral Cemetery. On other side is noted that their daughter and granddaughter both named Alice are buried in same grave.

March 13

After Johanna’s death, her will is read and as expected her sons and daughter receive the bulk of her estate. A religious trust is set up for Sister Mary Agnes and her inheritance is placed there. The house on Thirty-third Street will be sold and the grandchildren and several cousins will all receive something from the estate. The biggest asset, the property on Pratt and Central goes to Leo and Eddie equally. When their father Joe died, he had already passed the business on to them so there was little change to the Shop but now the property is owned by the brothers as well as the company. The Shop is suddenly more valuable as there is no rent or note on the property anymore. Leo and Eddie work well together and get along as only brothers can. They make great partners.

The Last Will and Testament of Johanna Kavanagh.

March 30

The Kavanagh brothers sit in their corner office and enjoy a lunch of corned beef sandwiches. It’s still close enough to St. Patrick’s Day and they send Ed Jr. up to the deli. Ed is happy to leave a few minutes early for lunch and get a free sandwich. As they eat, Leo and Eddie discuss the news that President Truman will not seek re-election.

“I think Truman has done a good job and he stepped up when FDR died. I know people don’t like that he fired MacArthur but the president is the boss. He makes those calls,” Leo says before taking a bite of his sandwich.

Eddie picks his corned beef up and pauses, “Yup and I agree he did well but this war in Korea seems like a mess we can’t seem to get out of. That being said I would have liked to see Truman run again. He’s a good man, but I understand it. It’s a tough job and it’s gotta weigh on you.” He shrugs then continues eating.

“It’s so much responsibility and he finished Roosevelt’s term then had one of his own. I say if he wants to retire and rest, he deserves it.” Leo replies to his brother.

Eddie drops his sandwich on the desk and takes a sip of coffee. “Oh I agree. Let the man rest. He’s done his part but I wonder who will win the nomination. It sure looks like General Eisenhower will run for the Republicans.”

Leo nods, “He said he would accept the nomination if he’s called upon and I think he can do the job. If you can lead men to battle then you can lead a country.”

Eddie raises an eyebrow for a second. “You are right but there is a lot more to it than that. Let’s see who the Democrats nominate. I always feel loyal to the party but, yeah, let’s see who they pick.” The phone rings and Eddie grabs it and answers, “Joseph Kavanagh Company.” As Eddie speaks to a customer, Leo moves to the drafting table and gets back to work on a sketch for an upcoming job.

April 13

The Kavanagh’s visit Aunt Anna at the Visitation Convent on Roland Park Avenue for Easter. A sunny Sunday is spent with the girls playing on the grounds and catching up with Sister Mary Agnes. They discuss her teaching and her service while she is happy to hear about the Shop and especially the deeds of all the small girls of the next generation. Anna and her brothers speak of their mother and their shared love and memories of her are a comfort. Her brothers also promise to help her and they will manage the religious trust that is in her name. Leo, Eddie and Jack Kavanagh are named as trustees. They assure her that even if this money runs out, they will always support her and if she needs anything, she should ask them. The convent has very little amenities or comforts and Joe and Johanna always made sure Anna had anything she needed. Leo and Eddie will do the same.

April 17

Jack finishes his 2nd legislative sessions and is happy to be back in Baltimore full-time. He’s home with his girls, all five of them. He can focus on family and the Shop which is what he wants. He has enjoyed his first two years in the House of Delegates but still it is work and almost two hours away. Jack knows it’s tough on Betty and especially since she’s still fighting polio. She’s getting better and stronger. Jack sees that and he knows Betty is getting closer to walking. He wants to do something special for her when she does to celebrate and to make up for his time away.

Mom, Betty & Nancy
Betty Kavanagh with daughters, Jane(left) and Mary(right). 1952.

May 7

Betty Kavanagh walks into her doctor’s office without her crutches with a broad grin on her face. Her doctor is stunned that she can move so well without her crutch or brace and nearly two months faster than he thought possible. She has a limp and is a little slow afoot for now, but she is walking and can “keep moving along” as she likes to say. Betty will get stronger and steadier still though she does have a small limp for the rest of her life. It never stops her from chasing a child, grandchild or great-grandchild or to hop up when company arrives and tea needs to be made and cookies distributed. Jack and the girls are so happy for Mom, and Betty feels much more herself. She can do what she has to do now with nothing holding her back.

Jane and Mary Kavanagh. 1952.

May 18

The weekend ends for Jack and Betty with the Red Skelton show on Sunday nights. It is one of their weekly favorites especially one of Jack’s who laughs throughout the entire program. Skelton is a comedic master to Jack, and he is a man who loves to laugh. His laugh is loud, genuine and infectious.

June 20

Jack finishes a sheet metal table at the Shop. The place has needed a very square solid steel table for some time and Eddie asked his son to make one last week and it is finished today. Jack keeps careful records of the materials used and his time. His father Eddie likes that and records it all to assure they have a sense of how much time and money went into something as simple as a table.

The Shop’s job book entry. A steel table made for the Shop itself. June 20, 1952.

June 30

The Chesapeake Bay Bridge opens to traffic led by a cavalcade of cars with Governor McKeldin at the lead. Jack speaks to his wife Betty about the two of them taking a trip to the beach. He would love to take her and get away from it all. He has been visiting Ocean City since he was ten. Every couple of years, Eddie and Annie would take their boys on a trip there and Jack is sure his parents would be happy to keep the girls for a couple days. Betty is hesitant at first bur she realizes it would be a rare chance at a break for both of them and she’s all for it if they can make the arrangements.

B N M Patsy
The Kavanagh Girls including cousin Patsy in the back. Also Betty, Nancy & Mary. Lakewood Avenue. 1952.

July 17

A busy summer day at the Shop is spent on a handful of brewery and distillery repairs and one installation. Ed Jr. and Jack along with two helpers are installing a new vat at Gunther’s Brewery. They arrive at the brewery first thing in the morning. The plan is to get this job done in one day on site. It’s a lot of work with many connections and valves involved. Having four men should help and they get to it as soon as they arrive. The vessel is hauled into the building and Ed and Jack, each with a helper, begin connecting it to the existing system. It’s a hard day but neither wants to tell their father they are coming back here tomorrow and they get it done. The four men are sweating and dirty when they pull in front of 201 S. Central Avenue with ten minutes to spare before closing time.

B N M Patsy 2
Four of the Kavanagh Girls. Ed Junior’s daughter Patsy and Jack’s daughters Betty Anne, Nancy and Mary. Summer 1952.

August 8

Jack and Betty take their first vacation and they do it without their girls. Their four daughters are staying at Eddie and Annie’s while the young couple get a weekend at the beach. Jack drives his 1946 Chrysler Windsor along Route 50 East then they cross the new bridge on their way to Ocean City. Jack and Betty marvel at the view as there is nothing but water on both sides as far as the eyes can see. It is a little unsettling for many folks on their first drive across but not to Betty and Jack. They arrive Friday evening and have a weekend of sand, seafood and boardwalking before driving back to Baltimore on Sunday. Betty quickly grows to love the town and the ocean as Jack does. It is a much needed vacation for both and a chance to spend some time together alone.

Jack & Betty at the beach
Jack and Betty at the beach.

September 10

The Shop’s usual work is interrupted by an ornamental brass job for a hotel. One of the fancier downtown hotels needs a brass hand rail and foot rail for its bar and restaurant. It has to look good too. It must be cleaned and polished after bending and will take over forty feet of tube. Half of the crew attend to this one while the other half keep at their regular orders. This rail job takes heat and very careful rolling. The curve is irregular and it must match the existing wall or the customer can not use it. The tube is bent inch by inch and checked over and over closely. The finished piece looks great and is right on the template provided.

September 20

On a Saturday night, Jack, Betty and the four girls sit in front of the television and watch the first episode of a new variety series called the Jackie Gleason Show. Gleason had worked for the DuMont Television network on a show called the “Cavalcade of Stars” but CBS offered him more money and he brought the same type of show over to their network. The family laugh a lot and enjoy the show and Jack believes he’s found another comedic genius in Jackie Gleason.

B N M J 4
The Kavanagh Girls. 1952. The backyard of 447 N. Lakewood Avenue.

September 30

The volume of work continues to be high at the Joseph Kavanagh Company. They have very much found their niche with the brewery and distilling industries. They make quick fixes and fabricate parts fast. Today a custom tee fitting is made for Calvert Distilling. Mr. Funke and a young fellow named White work on the coupling with the usual heating and hammering. Copper sheet is curved into a tube and split at one end to accommodate two of the entry points. It isn’t easy but Mr. Funke has worked at the Shop for years and he does a good job. He is Leo and Eddie’s most senior man and they rely on him in a pinch.

The Shop’s job book entry. Calvert Distilling job. September 30, 1952.

October 7

The New York Yankees win their fourth straight World Series defeating the Brooklyn Dodgers. This was a see saw series going back and froth and it comes down to a winner-take-all game seven. The Kavanagh’s usually root for the Yankees due to Eddie being such a Babe Ruth fan but this year, they are split. His son Jack is pulling for the Brooklyn Dodgers. Jack wants to see another team win for a change as the Yanks have done it three years in a row. Also, the Dodgers have Roy Campanella on their team now and Jack was a fan of his from the Negro Leagues. He came up playing for the Baltimore E-lite Giants and he was Jack’s favorite player. In Jack’s eyes, he was the greatest baseball player he ever saw. He had all the tools and knew how to use them plus he was a catcher, Jack’s old position when he was a kid. New York does win that final game and take the championship. Eddie and Jack watch games four and five at 434 N. Lakewood, both cheering hard and analyzing the games as they are played. Father and son are students of the game and they talk about every play and discuss strategy throughout each match up. Even when they disagree, they enjoy talking baseball.

October 20

Today in addition to their usual copper work, the Kavanagh’s are refurbishing an old lathe. They have always maintained a machine shop for tools and parts but this lathe will give them the chance to make bearings and other parts to make their job easier. They purchased the lathe along with some other items from Medler’s Copper Shop. Medler’s was going out of business and Eddie paid them a visit. He bought the lathe, a hand truck and some tools and with time and a little money the lathe and everything else will make money for them. Eddie is sure of it and the lathe is set up and running in short order. The Shop’s machinist John Benser is glad to have it. The bigger lathe has wider jaws and larger sections can be spun and shaped.

The Shop’s job book entry. Reconditioning a lathe purchased from Medler’s Coppersmith Shop. October 20, 1952.
The Shop’s job book entry. Reconditioning an old hand truck purchased from Medler’s Coppersmith Shop. November 5, 1952.

October 31

This Friday, Halloween is celebrated on Lakewood Avenue and the four Kavanagh girls are all in costume. The oldest at four, Betty Anne is a majorette, Nancy is Bo Peep, Mary is a bunny and not quite one year old Jane is a clown. Their mother has a bowl of candy but she doesn’t take the girls trick or treating. This is a new tradition to Betty. Her family did not celebrate Halloween in this way and besides, she has candy. She does hand it out to kids who knock on the door but she keeps her girls on the steps of 447 N. Lakewood Ave. She will give her girls the right amount of treats for the night and she really loves their little costumes. Jack does too but he loves any time he gets with the four girls who seem to be growing faster every day. Betty and Jack sometimes can’t believe they are the parents of four.

Baby Nan 1
The Kavanagh Girls. Lakewood Avenue. Halloween 1952.

November 4

Republican Dwight D. Eisenhower wins the Presidential Election defeating Democrat Adlai Stevenson. This year, the Kavanagh brothers vote for different men. Leo voted for Ike impressed with the man’s military experience and his drive. Eddie voted for Stevenson. Eddie is involved with the Democratic Party and was always a Labor man with so many years of leading the coppersmith’s union. It doesn’t matter at all between the brothers. They simply have different views on this election and in those days, such a thing was typical and acceptable.

December 22

Despite the House of Delegates not being in session, a resolution is signed by nineteen Democratic members of the House looking for a change in leadership. Theses members, including Jack Kavanagh are challenging John Luber as speaker and they wish to replace him with Chester Tawney. Tawney is a 3rd District representative and the insurgents choose him because they want a stronger City representation at the top post in the House of Delegates. It will be resolved when next year’s legislative session begins.

December 24

The Shop’s Yuletide celebration is an even madder rush today as a job ran late into the morning. Several workers were still finishing soldering on a tank while others were sweeping and making room for a tree. The tank is finished and delivered with the Shop’s truck beating guests by five minutes when the party starts. Leo, Eddie and family welcome their customers, vendors, employees and friends to a yearly gathering in honor of the holiday and the Shop. Good times or bad times, the Joseph Kavanagh Company has held a Christmas Eve party for years and it has come to symbolize the end of another year of work. A great sense of completion is felt by the Kavanagh’s who work at the Shop. There is some satisfaction in being able to turn the calendar again and move forward. The guests have a grand time eating, drinking and singing with the family. Leo and Eddie are both grandfathers now, ready to lead the family forward. They miss their mother, Johanna. She was more than the matriarch of the Kavanagh’s. She was the family’s heart. She had a caring way about her mixed with more than the average dose of wisdom. Her sons were both more apt to ask her advice or guidance than their father Joe. She was that wonderful mother and grandmother who made the perfect peach pie and ran a household so that it appeared effortless but she was also that suffragette who fought for the right to vote, to have her voice heard and even to drive. In fact, she was one of the first women in Maryland to receive a motor vehicle license partly due to her husband’s horrendous driving. She was Joe’s wife and played that part but she was never invisible or silent. When Joe and his brothers broke from Martin and formed the new Shop, she was the one who came up with the money. She loaned them the starter money and was always last in line to get paid when other things came along but she did get paid. That money she had saved was for her children and Johanna made sure it was paid back. She was never a wallflower and was very comfortable expressing her opinions. She was way ahead of her time and both lead and loved this family for years; but they will be fine. Her mark is left on all who knew her, her children and grandchildren most of all. Her love is carried on through them and passed on in the same fashion. To this writer who knows a thing or two about Joe Kavanagh’s, she was the best of them and certainly the kindest.



Dwight D. Eisenhower is elected to the Presidency. The bar code, roll-on deodorant, Mr. Potato Head and the hydrogen bomb are invented. The first Holiday Inn and the first Kentucky Fried Chicken open. The Today Show premiers on NBC. “The Diary of Anne Frank” and the first issue of “MAD” magazine are published. The films “Singin’ in the Rain” and “The Quiet Man” are released. The Korean War rages on with little or no progress on the armistice talks throughout the year. There are over 50,000 cases of polio reported in the US. Mr. T, Roseanne Barr, Paul Reubens, Alfre Woodard, and Douglas Adams are born.

There remain 48 states in the Union.

Johanna's Cameo
A cameo owned by Johanna Kavanagh that was passed down to great-granddaughter Betty Ann Kavanagh.

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

Table of Contents

1951 Polio and Politics

January 3

Betty Kavanagh sits on the steps in front of a store on Monument Street. She’s taking a brief break from shopping for a dress for the Governor’s Ball that will be held at the end of the month. Her husband Jack is a newly elected State Delegate. She wants the right dress and will find it but she needs a moment to sit. Betty has polio and she walks with crutches and she has her newborn, her one year old and her two year old with her. Her mother-in-law, Annie is there as well to push the little ones in a stroller. It’s a cold day but not too bad for January so Betty braved the weather to find that right dress. Suddenly, she hears a voice calling her. A group of finely dressed men are passing by and one, sure enough is Governor-elect Theodore McKeldin, and he greets Betty Kavanagh by sight. Calling her Miss Kavanagh, he asks about her crutch and she says she has polio but is fine. She feels a bit embarrassed as he speaks to her. She informs the governor she’s shopping for a gown for the ball today and looks forward to the big event. He bids her farewell and tells her he will see her and her husband at the ball. That night she vows to Jack that she will NOT be using her crutch at the Governor’s Ball. She doesn’t care if she has to lean on her husband all night, she will walk without a crutch and also dance. She has chosen a long white dress with violets on it to cover her brace.

Mom 1947 color
Betty Kavanagh. 1947.

January 13

Today is the first day of Jack Kavanagh’s first legislative session in the House of Delegates. Jack will need to spend a lot of time in Annapolis but he commutes back to Baltimore every night. He must attend whenever the House is in session but will also work as much as he can at the Shop. The regular session runs from early January to mid April but there are sometimes emergency sessions later in the summer to resolve certain issues. He is a fast learner even as a freshman in the House of Delegates. Jack follows the lead of those more experienced in governance but will always stay true to his own nature. Jack is a smart young man with a great deal of common sense and an uncommon heart. He has compassion but more than that he understands the life of a working man and is quick to support legislation that helps them. He believed in man’s good nature. To Jack, a man given a fair chance to work and support his family will do just that.

Delegate Jack Kavanagh. Democrat. 2nd District.

January 27

The Governor’s Ball is held on a cold Saturday night in Annapolis. Jack and Betty attend along with all elected state legislators Betty doesn’t take her crutches. Betty is determined to stand on her own or at least with Jack’s help. She loves the white dress she wears and it does conceal her brace. She leans on Jack as they enter this very fancy ball. Jack holds her when they walk and even as they dance. He basically carries her through the dances but they dance them all.

In the receiving line for Governor-Elect McKeldin, the governor recognizes Betty and quickly says, “Miss Kavanagh, you were on crutches when I saw you last. Where is the crutch?”

Betty answers proudly, “My husband is my crutch. He is here to lean on whenever I need it. We’re both fine and enjoying this lovely ball, Governor.”

“Thank you and what a beautiful gown that is. Congratulations to you both,” Governor McKeldin finishes, shaking Jack’s hand as the receiving line passes.

Jack and Betty have a wonderful night and Betty is very proud of her husband and herself for making it through the night without a crutch and to have had such a special celebration. This is a night they will never forget.

February 9

Leo and Eddie’s Shop on Central Avenue finishes a set of custom bends for A. Overholt and Company, one of their distilling customers. The bends are of 5” Type L Copper tube which is very thin and difficult to work. The only option is to fill them. They must be annealed first, which is an easy task for a coppersmith. Using a torch, the tube is heated to an orange color and is now malleable. The tube must be cooled. Copper is a metal you can quench with water to cool unlike brass or steel. Next, a plug is hammered into one end of the tube and is stood up and wired to a post. Rosin is heated and liquified until it looks like black tar then it is poured very carefully into the tube. It’s a slow process and the rosin is hot, and handling it can be dangerous but it will keep the tube very round during the bending process. Once filled, the tube must sit a few hours then it will be topped off before the end of the day. The next morning, the rosin is hard and the tube is bendable but also supported well enough to hold its shape. A good bit of work for six bends but the Shop makes a profit on this one.

The Shop’s Job book entry. A. Overholt and Co. job. February 9, 1951.

February 16

Jack introduces his first piece of legislation, a bill to limit liquor licenses in Baltimore City co-sponsored by his fellow 2nd district delegates, Rudy Behounek, Joseph Mach and James Welsh Jr. The bill will bring an end to alcohol package goods sales in grocery stores, pharmacies and candy shops. Liquor establishments with a valid license will remain in effect but will be subject to renewal. The motion does pass. Jack feels some pride though he is just a junior member of the 2nd district team.

March 16

Jack is balancing the House of Delegates and the Shop. Betty is still in a wheelchair at home but is determined to not let it stop her taking care of her house and family. She cooks and cleans from her wheelchair, running a house of three small girls on her own. Betty has an inner strength that becomes apparent as she manages to keep a houseful going while her husband is working his regular job at the Shop and another in Annapolis. Jack marvels at how Betty does it. She rolls along in a wheelchair through the row house on Lakewood Avenue but meals are always hot, the kids are always having fun and they are are all happy, despite the challenges they face.

April 7

Eddie has purchased a new television with a 14” screen. It’s a little bigger but the picture is incredible to Eddie and Annie. They pass their old TV on to Jack who is happy to have it. He carries it over to the corner of Lakewood and Jefferson. The young girls are very excited to have a set in their house. Betty has received some news for Jack. Her doctor has given her a list of exercises to help strengthen her legs. The virus seems to have abated and he is convinced over time she can give up the wheelchair and crutch for good, though it will take time and hard work. Betty is determined to get her legs back and as soon as she can. She begins to fit her exercising into her busy day of caring, cleaning, cooking and mothering.

Eddie and Annie Kavanagh. Patterson Park. Early 1950s.

April 30

A rainy spring Monday is spent appropriately enough on a fountain. Several lengths of copper tubes were purchased and today it is annealed and rolled into a circle. The ends are trimmed and soldered shut. Holes are drilled to allow the water to pass through and after some final cleaning the tube is a perfect ring and ready to be installed. A fountain is something the Shop has been making almost from its beginning over eighty-five years ago. The process is similar but has changed over time. The tube was made in the past from perforated sheet that was drilled first but now, it is cheaper to buy the tube pre-made then anneal, bend and drill. It is still very similar to the way it was done in the 1870s by the original Joseph Kavanagh.

May 16

Jack watches the late news before going to bed. The news is of the fighting in Korea. It’s been a back and forth war or conflict. This year alone the capital of South Korea has fallen and then been retaken. Jack feels for those young men in the middle of it. It wasn’t so long he was on the USS Strickland during World War 2. He hopes this one ends soon. He gets ready for bed and says a prayer for the boys in Korea. As he lays down, he goes over in his head meetings he has had with several leaders of the Baltimore Democratic party. Jack is finding his niche in the House and in the party. His personality and honesty make him a compelling legislator and candidate. That being said, Jack is happy the first legislative session is over. He has been covering a lot of ground in his Chrysler Windsor between Baltimore and Annapolis but he has made it work mostly due to his wife. Betty tends to everything and keeps the home for Jack and the girls no matter the hours her husband is working.

June 17

Betty learns she is pregnant and her husband is thrilled again. They love children and they seem to have a natural ability as parents. The young couple are as excited with the new baby as they have been for all of the girls. Betty can continue with her exercises for now but must be careful to not overtax herself. They will have baby number four around Christmas

The Shop’s Job book entry. Renneburg Job. June 26, 1951.

June 26

The Shop’s work load remains high and the crew are busy. Today, they make their usual litany of brewery and distillery parts and also a brass job. Renneburg, a customer who the Shop uses as a vendor occasionally needs some brass bars rolled into circles. Rolling or curving metal is one of Renneburg’s primary skills though it is usually in steel. Brass is unusual for them. They call Eddie and soon the boys at Kavanagh’s are rolling some brass flat bars “the Easyway” into circles. The Easyway is rolling a piece across the thinnest side of the bar. The Hardway is the opposite. These rings will be used for decorative bands around furniture after they are cleaned and highly polished. Rolling metal, steel, brass or otherwise, has been a standard process at the Joseph Kavanagh Company for years and will grow in importance over time.

Johanna Kavanagh.

July 4

A big Independence Day party is held on Lakewood Avenue. Actually, a few parties are thrown by folks on the block. The Fourth is a celebration of the nation’s birthday and a summer tradition with cook outs, steamed crabs and fireworks. The Kavanagh’s are no different and a bushel of crabs are steamed while burgers and hot dogs are grilled. Platters of assorted salads and sides add to the holiday feast. At Eddie and Annie’s house, the party includes music as well. Eddie and Jack takes turns on the piano and the family sings and the small girls dance and twirl about to the bemusement of all. Johanna is there and she is doing well. She misses her husband, Joe who died last year but she was more prepared for it than the rest of the family. Johanna is focusing on her grandchildren and their children and is happy to spend the holiday with them. As evening comes on, Eddie and Jack take the older girls, Betty and Nancy to Patterson Park for a better view of the fireworks. Jack takes turns carry them both and the other walks along hand held by their grandfather Eddie. Betty, Annie and Johanna remain at the house. Betty would not be up to the walk on her crutches though she does feel she’s getting steadier and her doctor’s prescribed workout is helping. Johanna plays with baby Mary while Betty tries to help Annie clean up. Her mother-in-law shoos Betty to a seat while she quickly puts everything away. Then they enjoy a quiet cup of tea and they sit at the front window and chat about the family and Jack. Both Annie and Johanna have always been proud of Jack. He served in the Navy and now he’s in the House of Delegates. Annie smiles brightly as Betty speaks to her of what Jack has been doing in his new position.

“He sponsored a bill to limit liquor licenses,” Betty says to a very approving nod from Annie who was a Prohibitionist, “and he wants to find a way to limit the truck traffic on Orleans Street. It’s crazy some times down there.” Betty motions south to the end of the block.

“It is. They drive those trucks like madmen. Leave it to Jack to take care of it.” Annie beams.

Johanna, setting Mary gently down at her feet joins in, “Our Jack can do it. I’m not surprised at all he’s doing so well. Look how he was in the Navy and school and,” she raises an eyebrow in a knowing way, “the Shop.”

“Jack knows how to talk to regular folks. He will do the best for them. They trust him and he has a good way with people.” Betty answers, reaching an outstretched hand to the baby.

“He’s got a lot of Joe in him,” Annie grins and quickly glances at Johanna.

Johanna smiles back with a twinkle in her eye, “Well, let’s hope not too much…”

The room fills with the three women’s laughter at the thought of the old gent. Baby Mary’s not amused though and begins to cry until her mother gently scoops her up.

Joseph A. Kavanagh’s business card. Circa 1915. It references both his brothers Frank and James as partners.

July 26

A large job for United States Industrial Chemicals is finished after six weeks of work. A variety of copper sheet and tube was bent, tinned and brazed at the Shop. Eddie makes note that the labor hours on this one may have gone over. It is a busy summer and some jobs are run “free style” by the coppersmith in charge with hours being approximated as the focus is getting the job done. They are making money and things are good so it’s understandable to Leo and Eddie in a busy Shop.

The Shop’s Job book entry. US Industrial Chemical Inc. job. July, 26, 1951. First page.
The Shop’s Job book entry. US Industrial Chemicals Inc. job. July 26, 1952. Second page.

August 10

Jack and Ed Jr. work on a hot one this Friday. Seventeen inch diameter tube must be made then bent into elbows for National Distillers. It will be a torch day all day. The copper sheet is annealed then must be carefully turned around dies. Next it must be soldered closed to form a tube then this tube must be filled and bent tomorrow. It’s a challenge to get enough finished on day one to set yourself up to be able to bend on day two. The tubes are topped off with rosin a few minutes before closing and the brothers make it but just barely. First thing Saturday, they will bend them then melt the rosin out. Another hot day with torches blasting fire will be in order.

The Shop’s Job book entry. National Distillers job. August 13, 1951.

September 3

Betty Kavanagh is still in a wheelchair and pregnant but she does her exercises every day while watching just a little television. She has found a new television soap opera that begins today. It is called “Search for Tomorrow” and it premiers on CBS. Betty quickly becomes a fan and makes the time to watch the fifteen minute serial every day and will watch this program until it goes off the air in 1982. Her husband Jack is spending the day at National Brewery with three other workers on an installation. They will spend the better part of the next three days there and as good as three days at a brewery sound, they are never allowed to imbibe so it’s just work.

September 20

The Joseph Kavanagh Company continues strong through the year. A steady stream of brewing and distilling work keeps rolling through the place. There are always other jobs whether they be boiler work, fountains or ornamental items and today it is a railing. A long brass railing for a large residential garden. One of the homes outside of the City is being rehabbed and repaired. In addition to work on the home, the garden is redone as well including this brass rail. The brass is carefully heated then it sits to cool in the air. After an hour, the slow work of bending it around wooden wheels and dies begins. A template bent from steel bar is provided and the crew match it. The closer they are to the curve of the template, the easier the installation will be for the customer.

October 3

Eddie and Jack are driving home from the Shop when they hear the latest news from the world of baseball on the radio. Today, in game three of a playoff series, the New York Giants walked off with a win when Bobby Thompson homered off the Brooklyn Dodgers’ Ralph Branca in the 9th inning. This homer becomes known as the “Shot Heard ‘Round the World” and it sends the Giants into the World Series. The Giants had come back from 13 games behind in the standing to tie the Dodgers with 92 wins. The three game playoff was scheduled with the teams splitting the first two setting up what has become a seminal moment in baseball history when Thomson’s three run home run ended it in exciting fashion. They talk about the game and how it sets up another “Subway Series” against the Yanks until Jack drops Eddie off at 434 N. Lakewood. He then cruises to the corner, turns right and parks on the Jefferson Street side of his home, anxious to see his girls.

October 10

The Yankees win the World Series defeating the New York Giants in six games. This championship matchup was full of highlights with the Dodgers’ Monte Irvin stealing home in the first inning of game one and the Yankees’ Gil McDougal blasting a grand slam in game five. The Yankees prevail and win their third Word Series in a row. Yankee great Joe DiMaggio retires after this Series which included two young rookies, his eventual replacement in center field, Mickey Mantle and National League Rookie of the Year, Willie Mays. Eddie and Jack follow this one closely watching game three in its entirety, the only weekend game. The Yankees combination of strong pitching and power were too much for the young Giants.

October 15

I Love Lucy” premiers on CBS. The Kavanagh’s along with many Americans begin watching this one regularly. It is one of the first scripted comedies filmed in front of a live audience. The show is a smash hit and the Kavanagh family will watch it for years.

November 24

The Kavanagh’s visit Sister Mary Agnes at the Visitation Convent on this Saturday after Thanksgiving. Johanna is very happy to spend a day with her daughter accompanied by her sons and their families. Jack and Betty are there with the three girls. Anna holds baby Mary and gets many hugs from two year old Betty and one year old Nancy. She tells the family some stories from her classroom at the school at the Visitation. She loves teaching and working with children. The family visits Anna usually once a month and they all remain close to her. She also is a prolific letter writer and corresponds with most of them occasionally. The Kavanagh’s are a close lot.

Sister Mary Agnes - Visitation2
Sister Mary Agnes (Anna Kavanagh) Visitation Convent Grounds. 1930s.

December 7

Jack and Betty go to the movies to see “A Christmas Carol” starring British actor, Alistair Sim. They leave the three girls at Eddie and Annie’s and have a very rare night out alone. Jack drives them and helps his wife in and out of the car carefully. She has left her crutches at home and leans on Jack through the evening. They attend the movie and then drive to the New Canton on North Avenue for egg rolls. This was their favorite place when they dated. Instead of a quiet walk, they sit in the restaurant and talk of the movie which they both loved. They also talk of the coming baby and they are very excited. They drive back to 447 N. Lakewood Avenue and collect their girls ready to face the holidays and welcome a baby.

December 24

The Shop’s Christmas Eve party is held at Pratt and Central. Cleaning and decorating is done quickly as the annual conversion from work place to party place occurs. Customers, vendors, employees and friends join the family to eat, drink and be merry. They have another good year to celebrate with the Shop busy all year. Christmas carols and old Irish tunes are sung including “O Holy Night” in honor of Joe. The party is more festive than last year and Joe’s memory is more a pleasant reminder this year to celebrate as he would. They toast him, the holiday and another year of success at the Shop. Jack’s three young girls toddle and play among the party-goers. They are chased by their father this time as he keeps a careful eye on his wife. Betty did not bring her crutches and has remained seated as much as possible. She is enduring more than enjoying the party, after all she is nine months pregnant.

December 25

After spending Christmas day split between the Crew’s house on Guilford Avenue, Betty’s family and the Hartmann’s house, Jack’s mother’s family, the Kavanagh’s are exhausted. The girls received toys and clothes but they are thankfully tired as well. The parties are all done and they were festive and fun but Jack and Betty are glad to be home. After the girls are asleep, they head right to bed. Jack is sleeping next to his very pregnant wife just after midnight when she tries to wake him.

She nudges him and says, “Jack, I’m going to have a baby.”

Still dozing, Jack answers into his pillow sleepily, “I know hon, I can’t wait. I love you.”

“Jack! I mean I’m having a baby now!” Betty shakes her husband who bolts awake and sits up.

“Now? You mean now.” he asks, suddenly wide awake. She nods and smiles and Jack begins rushing around to get them ready. He calls Dr. Insley who has delivered all three of the older girls and they head to the hospital. Jane Frances Kavanagh is born about an hour or so after this phone call. Jack and Betty welcome baby # 4 with love and happiness.

Jane Frances Kavanagh. 1952.



Harry S. Truman is the President of the United States. The Twenty-second Amendment is ratified which limits the President to two terms. Ethel and Julius Rosenberg are convicted of espionage and sentenced to death. In Kansas, the Great Flood of 1951 causes more damage and destruction than any flood ever in the Midwest. Rogers and Hammerstein’s “The King and I” premiers on Broadway. J.D. Salinger’s “The Catcher in the Rye” is published. The films “A Streetcar Named Desire” and “The African Queen” are released. The phrase “Rock N Roll” is used for the first time by Disc Jockey Alan Freed. Charles S. Dutton, Sally Ride, Robin Williams, Mark Hamill, and Chrissie Hynde are born.

There are 48 states in the Union.

Jack and Betty Kavanagh with baby Jane Frances. Early 1952.

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

Table of Contents


1950 The Song Is Over

January 16

Leo and Eddie Kavanagh lead their crew into another year of working copper as has been done for over eighty years at the Joseph Kavanagh Company. Old Uncle Joe started in a stall on Falls Avenue which was destroyed in the Black Friday Flood of 1868. They spent thirty-five years on Lombard Street until it was burned down in the Great Baltimore Fire. A few years at Gough and Seventh then on to Central Avenue. It’s been a lot of years and long history to get to 201 S. Central Ave. Now it is clearly their home and they work as they have, making distillery parts, general copper parts and still confectionery cookers. Today some 1 1/4” water tube and a few elbows, couplings and adapters are tinned. This is old school coppersmith work and one of their regular services. Most copper used by distillers and brewers needs to be tinned to avoid contamination in what spirits they are making. Jack Kavanagh, in addition to his Shop duties, is working hard on the house at the corner of Lakewood and Jefferson. He eats dinner at his parents’ house with his family, then spends two or three hours each night transforming the beauty parlor basement into a residential one and the first floor into the perfect home for his wife and two baby girls.

The Shop’s job book entry. January 15, 1950.

January 20

Leo and Eddie eat lunch in their small corner office and discuss a story in the newspaper. It seems some fan of Edgar Allan Poe has begun a tradition of visiting his grave and bringing roses and wine. He toasts the esteemed author and Baltimorean then disappears into the night. Both have never heard of this and find it rather strange but interesting. Baltimore is very proud of its poetic son and the brothers wonder how long such a tradition will continue.

February 16

A boiler has gone up and is out of service, which means some building is without heat. EJ Codd Co. calls the Shop and has an emergency boiler repair job they are sending in. Copper liners, brass fittings, valves and couplings are made in a rush status job. Jack and Ed Jr. stay late tonight and will start early tomorrow to get this one finished. Some long hours for the younger Kavanagh generation but both Leo and Eddie are glad to see it, not out of spitefulness, but the younger men need to get accustomed to the life. These things happen and when emergencies occur, the Shop has to find a way to get them done. That usually means a Kavanagh is working on it.

Eddie Kavanagh and his son Ed Jr. Early 1950s.

March 18

On this Saturday, Jack, Betty and their two little girls move to 447 N. Lakewood Avenue. Jack and his brother Ed carry their furniture and possessions across the street to the corner house. It is all done in a matter of hours, and Jack and Betty have their home. It will take some time to get it just right but Betty looks forward to the challenge; she will make this not just a home but a very special one. Jack, Betty and daughters Betty Ann and Nancy celebrate by going to the movies to see the new animated film from Walt Disney, Cinderella.

Baby Nan 2
Nancy and Betty Ann Kavanagh. 1950.

March 25

Jack receives some incredible news from Betty. She is pregnant with her third child and the family is very excited as the Kavanagh’s next generation continues to grow. A new baby is always such a joy to a family and certainly to the Kavanagh’s. It’s that sense of hope and wonder that comes with a baby: their future and all the things they might do in their lives. Jack loves being a father and he can’t wait for number three to arrive and is particularly happy that they are living on their own now. They will have plenty of room at the house at the corner of Lakewood and Jefferson.

April 19

Eddie speaks to Jack on the drive home from the Shop about running for the House of Delegates. Jack thinks it’s a bit crazy but he’s also a little curious at the thought. His father believes having someone in Annapolis might help the Shop. Jack will consider it and talk to his wife about it while Eddie speaks to some of his friends in the local Democratic Party. He has been a support of William Curran and George Mahoney both of whom have strong influence in the party. Eddie will make some calls and Jack will speak to Betty about it.

May 2

Jack has decided to run for the House of Delegates representing the second district of Baltimore City. He has met with the leadership of the party and plans are made to put him on the ballot in the Fall. Jack will have to go out in the community and meet people and ask for their vote. Jack has always been a very likable fellow and this will make it easier for him, though it will be strange at first. Betty is supportive and proud that Jack will go for it. She’s sure he’ll win.

May 20

Leo Kavanagh’s daughter Mary weds Albert Donnelly. The entire family gathers to celebrate with them. Four generations assemble, pray for their happiness and enjoy their party. Joe and Johanna are happy to see their granddaughter get married and even more happy are Leo and Maymie. Eddie, Annie and their children and grandchildren are all there along with many friends. It’s a fine party with music, laughter and much dancing. Everyone is very entertained by the three great-granddaughters of Joe and Johanna, Patsy, Betty Ann and Nancy.

May 30

Joe Kavanagh has a stroke at home on Thirty-third Street and is taken to the hospital. He survives but is partially paralyzed on the right side. The family is relieved but worried for him. He is 83 years of age. They are also concerned for Johanna. She is a strong woman but is clearly shaken by Joe’s stroke. He will stay in the hospital for a while to recover and rehabilitate his arm which he has little strength in right now. 

The Shop’s job book entry. National Distillers Products job. June 8, 1950.

June 8

The Shop’s work keeps rolling in and out of the building at Pratt and Central. The crew remains at fourteen, not including Leo and Eddie who do less and less work in the Shop these days. They both have taken a step back from the actual coppersmith work because Eddie’s boys are there now and they are progressing in their skill and learning how to manage and run jobs. Today, several jobs for National Distillers Products Corporation are finished. Jack and three other fellows finish tinning several lengths of tube while another job is farmed off to another shop. A condenser repair that requires some drilling, and there is no time to fit it in so Leo and Eddie sub it out to Renneburg and Sons, a local fabricator. Ed Jr. loads some copper sheet onto the truck and delivers it to Renneburg and will pick it up in two days. The Kavanagh’s rarely use sub-contractors. They prefer to handle it themselves or stay way from it if they don’t have the capabilities for the job. When subbing work out, it is very easy to get caught between an angry customer and a busy vendor. That’s never a good thing.

The Shop’s job book entry. National Distillers job. June 9, 1950.

June 26

The US is suddenly involved in another military conflict. North Korea invades South Korea, pouring across the 38th parallel. The Korean War has begun as President Truman orders American troops into action to support and fight alongside our South Korean allies. The Kavanagh’s and Americans, in general, are stunned and after the bitter and long war that was just fought around the globe, they pray this is a quick one: a short war, if there is such a thing.

June 29

Jack visits his grandfather at the hospital and Joe has recovered enough to speak, though his right arm is very weak. Jack has brought along a rubber ball and tells Joe to squeeze this ball to regain his strength. He can’t squeeze it at all, so Jack takes Joe’s hand in his and presses the ball with Joe’s hand.

Joe smiles and tells Jack, “You will be my arm from now on until I get my strength back.” His voice is a bit raspy but he keeps squeezing the ball with Jack’s help.

“That’s it Joe. You’ll get there,” his grandson answers.

As they press the ball over and over, Joe suddenly speaks again, “Who’s in first place by the way?”

“The Yanks. They look really good this year. Probably gonna win it all.” Jack says.

“Well, your father will be happy. He always loved that team because of Ruth.” Joe says, rolling slightly to the right to get more comfortable. Still squeezing the ball, “You would have loved it years ago, Jack. We had our own team. The Baltimore Orioles. Willie Keeler and the great John McGraw. That was a helluva team and they were champs. The best.” He settles back in bed now, clearly a little tired, and Jack releases his hand and takes the ball from it.

“I know Joe. You told me all about it. My father did too. I sure wish we had a major league team here, but it’s still fun to watch the games. Baseball is baseball.” Jack smiles as Joe’s grin broadens. They both love the game.

“Hey, Jack. Maybe one day another team will come to play here. Who knows?” Jack nods as his grandfather speaks, then gathers his things to get ready to leave. He pats Joe on the shoulder and tells him he’ll see him in a couple of days. Jack begins visiting several days a week, and always they squeeze the ball and Joe regains a little use of his hand each day.

Joseph A. Kavanagh. Late 1940s.

July 21

Joe is discharged and released from the hospital. He has recovered some, but the reason he is sent home is for being belligerent to staff. He called a few folks “heathens” and worse, it seems. Joe can be a tough curmudgeon, and apparently he had enough of the hospital and its care. Jack and Eddie drive him home, and move into Thirty-third Street temporarily to help Johanna with Joe. Jack does discuss it with his wife who, besides having two small girls, is expecting another baby. Betty assures Jack she will be fine, and his mother Annie is right across the street. Betty knows that Jack is close to Joe and he must do whatever he can to help.

August 22

The heat is very tough in Baltimore in August and Betty’s baby is almost due. She has been feeling ill today, developing a fever, and is concerned enough to go to the doctor. She is shocked when the doctor diagnoses her with polio. Polio was spreading rapidly through the world and in cities like Baltimore families would be extra cautious in late summer to avoid unnecessary contact or exposure to strangers. Polio almost always strikes children, so Betty contracting it is a bit of a mystery. She must have been exposed to a carrier and did not have the immunity that most adults seem to have. Betty is immediately concerned for her baby but the doctor is certain the baby will be fine. They must be very careful though. Jack is very worried for both his wife and baby. She is raising two very little ones as well and they don’t know what to expect. Her mobility will certainly be affected, but no one knows to what degree. They will take it day-by-day and see what happens.

September 7

The Kavanagh’s spend an evening at 434 N. Lakewood watching a new program that quickly becomes one of their favorites, Truth Or Consequences. It’s a game show and becomes a model for much of what becomes American standard TV fare. Betty is having issues walking but she is determined to join the rest of the family and Jack helps her walk over to his parents’ house. The Kavanagh’s love this show, even Joe and Johanna both enjoy it despite their preference for radio. Jack drove them here from Thirty-third Street and will take them home afterward. Joe is showing his age and moves very slowly now and even his famous wit is not the same.

September 10

Betty goes into labor and Jack rushes her to Kernan hospital. The doctors are worried about her condition and delivering the baby early. They stop Betty’s labor and hope she can carry the new baby to term. Jack and Betty are both a mess of emotions, but they believe the doctors are doing the right thing. They are scared for their baby and can’t believe this is happening. They hope and pray that Betty can carry this new child to term and the baby can be delivered safely.

September 18

The Democratic Primary is held in Baltimore and Jack Kavanagh wins one of the nominations to run for the House of Delegates, representing the second district. Jack is considered a Curran/Mahoney man as he has their support, and there are several groups vying for power and influence within the party. Mostly opposed to the Curran/Mahoney faction is the Lane/D’Alesandro/Pollack group who all do work together as Democrats but have slightly different philosophies. Jack’s family and friends are very proud of him and all look forward to the General Election confident that Jack will win. Betty, in particular nine months pregnant and fighting polio, is absolutely positive that Jack will win and do a terrific job.

September 19

The day after the primary is another day at the Shop and a long running job is completed when a beer still installation is finished at Overholt & Company Distillers. The still was made at the Shop but needed to be integrated into their existing system. Located in western Pennsylvania, the job required several workers to spend a few days each there over a period of three weeks. It was a lot of work but the expenses were covered and they made some money on this one. These rare overnight stays hearken back to the old days of the Shop when Uncle Joe’s crew installed stills up and down the East Coast.

The Shop’s job book entry. A. Overholt & Co job. September 19, 1950.

September 23

Mary Agnes Kavanagh is born to Jack and Betty, their third daughter. She is named for Aunt Anna who chose Sister Mary Agnes as her name in the Church. It is a difficult delivery for Betty and she is placed in an iron long to recover. Her muscles are very weak and the iron lung will help her to breath normally. Jack is very worried for his wife, almost frantic despite the doctor telling him Betty is strong and will be okay. He holds his new daughter close and waits and waits. Betty is fine and in her own room the next day. The new parents are so happy to have their healthy beautiful baby after such a rough time.

Betty Kavanagh and baby Mary. 1950.

September 30

Joe is acting strangely and seems to have lost some of his mental capabilities. His mind and his awareness seem not nearly as sharp as either were before. Always unpredictable, he is even more so now. He has an episode early on a Saturday when he walks out of the house late in the morning before his son or grandson who are both staying there, can stop him.

Eddie calls to Joe who is at the door, “What are you doing Joe? Did you get the mail?” Eddie leans forward in the vestibule to see his father struggling to get down the marble steps.

“No.” Joe replies, “but I got this.” He turns around brandishing the pistol he has had for years, the very same pistol used by his brother Martin in the Clarence Keene shooting on Christmas Eve 1910. Eddie calls Jack to the door and they take a step outside toward Joe.

“Give me that Joe and you need to get into the house.” Eddie says as father and son coax Joe back into his home with Eddie grabbing the gun and Jack assisting his grandfather into the house. They get him into a chair and convince him to relax. His behavior has gotten more and more erratic. Later that morning as Joe naps, Eddie and Jack have lunch with Johanna. She has made a pot of crab soup from the last steamed crabs of the year for them. Johanna adds vegetables to the crab claws and bodies and cooks it slowly all morning. They sit at the small kitchen table enjoying the warm soup, and talking.

“Mother, I’m getting more and more worried about Joe. He’s really acting strange and I don’t know that the hospital will even take him back with his attitude. Also, I don’t think we can talk him into going.” Eddie says as he blows on a spoonful of hot soup.

His mother says quietly, “He won’t go. He won’t go back there. He wants to be home with us. And his piano.” She gestures toward the parlor. Joe spent hours playing but now his hands especially his right can’t make the music. He can fiddle about but not truly play.

“I know it hurts him not to be able to play, Grandmom. I can see how frustrated he gets.” Jack says, thinking to himself how tough it might be to get too old to play the piano which both he and Joe love so much.

Eddie lights a cigarette, then shakes the match out, “I know he misses the piano and I feel for him. I do, but I am trying to figure out what is going on with him. What’s wrong with him?”

“He’s dying.” his mother answers him. “He’s lived a long full life and it’s coming to an end.” She looks from son to grandson as neither says anything. “We all only have so much time and Joe knows his is almost over. I know your father was tough on you, Eddie. Well, tough on almost everybody. I know this better than anyone.” She smiles softly with a tear in the crinkle of her eye.

“He was never tough with you, Mother.” Eddie grins back at her.

Johanna chuckles for a second, “Of course not. Joe is a good man but he always carried some disappointment with him. He wanted to be a performer and he was. He did well but then he had to work for real. For our family. He never begrudged it. Believe me, but he had a lot of bitterness because of giving up his dream. So he was tough on people and not always the nicest, but he loves me. We love each other and have made each other happy. All things end.” Tears well in her eyes, then slowly trickle down her cheek. “He loves me and all of us. He’s just… dying.” She pauses for a moment, then quickly stands, wipes her eyes and walks into the parlor where she sits at the piano in Joe’s usual spot.

Eddie sighs, crushing a cigarette into the ashtray then says to Jack, “I have to call your Mother. I’ll check on Betty.” He stands and walks into the living room, leaving Jack alone. Jack sits in silence, thinking of his grandfather. All the times playing music together and talking baseball together. He feels certain his grandmother is right about Joe. She always is.

Joe Kavanagh’s pistol. Used by his brother Martin in the Clarence Keen shooting. Christmas Eve 1910.

October 7

The New York Yankees defeat the Philadelphia Phillies in the World Series winning all four games. The Kavanagh’s watch the final game on this Saturday. Eddie and Jack drive Joe to 434 N. Lakewood since Joe does not own a television and they sit in front of the small 10” screen and root for the Yankees, Eddie’s team. New York is led by star Joe DiMaggio and this year’s American League MVP, Phil Rizzuto. The Phillies clinched their pennant on the last day of the season with ace pitcher Robin Roberts taking the win. Despite New York winning all four games, the Series is closer than it appears with the first three games all being decided by one run.

October 21

The Kavanagh’s are doing their best to adjust to the corner of Lakewood and Jefferson but they are challenged by Betty’s polio. She uses a wheelchair at home now, but never outside. She uses crutches when she goes to the store or walks in the neighborhood Jack had been working on the second floor but closes it off completely now with Betty unable to climb steps. Jack and Betty live on the first floor and in the basement with a baby, a one year old and a two year old. They are happy.

November 7

Jack wins election to the House of Delegates and a large party is held to celebrate at Eddie and Annie’s house. The Kavanagh’s and many friends visit to congratulate Jack and wish him luck on this new venture. The Shop has a man in Annapolis now as Eddie wanted. Jack is excited but knows he has a great deal to learn about this new job of legislating. He will work hard and do all he can for the second district.

Eddie Kavanagh and two of his granddaughters. Patsy and Betty. 1949.

November 27

It is a very cold week in Baltimore but the City gets off easy. Much of the Northeast including Maryland west of the mountains is buried in snow in addition to the frigid temperatures. Thirty inches or more of the stuff in some places. It is a bone-chilling cold but the snow only amounts to an inch or so and is of little consequence. A cold Monday at the Shop goes on as it always does and those wielding a torch today are the lucky ones at Pratt and Central.

December 9

Joseph Anthony “Crazy Joe” Kavanagh dies. The family is not surprised as Joe was clearly near the end but it is a sorrowful farewell. The family gathers to honor him and to support his wife, Johanna. She is a tough woman and even more than the rest of them, knew that Joe’s death was near at hand. He is buried at New Cathedral Cemetery with so very many Kavanagh’s who preceded him, including Joseph Michael Kavanagh, his uncle. Along with his obituary, a short letter from columnist Carroll Dulaney is printed in the Baltimore News Post mentioning Joe’s days in the Primrose Quartet and his tradition of singing on the Lombard Street Bridge on Christmas Eve. This was years ago at the beginning of the century when singing was all the rage and Joe was a man about town.

Joseph A. Kavanagh’s obituary and a letter to columnist Carroll Dulaney of the Baltimore News Post. December 1950. Part 1. Courtesy of the Maryland Archives.
Letter to columnist Carroll Dulaney of the Baltimore News Post. December 1950 Part 2.

December 23

The Shop’s Christmas Party is held on this Saturday and it is festive but somber. The old building is decorated and prepped for the yearly party and guests begin to arrive. Customers, vendors, employees and friends parade into the Shop and celebrate with the Kavanagh’s. Another baby has been born and Mary Kavanagh has married. The business continues to excel but the family is grieving. Joseph Anthony Kavanagh was very much the patriarch of the family and his passing brings them great sorrow. He was born the year the Shop opened and for all intents and purposed, he WAS the Joseph Kavanagh Company for many years. After he and his brothers James and Frank split from Martin, Joe became the face of the company. He was adept at sales and handling customers. He used a combination of his knowledge of people, his entertaining skills from his vaudeville days and his very large boisterous personality to lead the company to success. He was a complicated man with a strange bitterness about him. Joe never truly got over giving up his musical career. He was an entertainer at heart and despite his success at and with the Shop, he never could get past giving up his musical dreams. He was someone that most people liked and he was fun to be around, but if you were a family member particularly a son, his expectations of you were high. A taskmaster to work for, he kept a certain distance between himself and everyone else including his family. To work for him was a demanding and difficult thing to do. He expected the best and didn’t hesitate to inform you if you weren’t giving it. He had true talent as a singer and was an incredible piano player. A most unusual character, he was someone whom no one who met him ever forgot. Joe was the last of his eight siblings to pass, having outlived them all. He was a reminder of old times at the Shop and the last man alive to have worked for the Original Joseph Kavanagh, his uncle. Tough to satisfy but always willing to help or contribute to the Church and other charities. He liked to entertain people by music or by making them laugh. He loved his wife dearly and Johanna was the only one who seemed able to contain this sometimes maddening contradiction of a man. His children and grandchildren loved him dearly even if they never quite understood him. My father, Jack Kavanagh was perhaps the closest to him apart from Johanna. They bonded over the piano when Joe started teaching Jack to play. Joe liked being the center of attention and thus his regrets about leaving vaudeville were salved by the Shop and his bombastic way of running the place. His sons, Leo and Eddie know the Shop will never be the same. Even after his retirement, he was still the “Joe Kavanagh” that people would ask for when they called the Shop or they would at the least ask about him, curious at how the old character was doing. Now there is no Joseph Kavanagh apart from Jack, who is technically Joseph John due to an error in filling out his birth certificate. This won’t be discovered for almost forty years when Jack applies for Social Security. To everyone’s mind, there is no Joe at the Shop nor in the family. It’s a strange and uncomfortable feeling for them. Eddie and Joe rarely got along unless playing music or talking baseball. Leo had better luck with Joe but perhaps that is because Leo was more like his mother. Eddie was very much like Joe in demeanor and style. That seemed to cause tension between them. The Joseph Kavanagh Company will go on, of course. Another generation is working there now and the Shop will continue. This party has a little less singing and the absence of the little man with the big voice is keenly felt. Central Avenue will never be the same. After the party, Eddie asks Jack to drive Annie back to Lakewood Avenue; he has a stop he needs to make. Eddie drives up Central Avenue to Lombard Street and turns left and drives toward downtown. With a bit of Christmas Eve traffic, he reaches the Lombard Street Bridge in a few minutes and crosses. He listens closely as he slows his car a bit but hears nothing but the sounds of the automobiles around him and one shout from a passerby. He reaches the other side of the bridge and makes a u-turn as soon as he can and returns over it, again listening intently. Listening for a verse of “O Holy Night” or a baritone voice in the wind but he hears no music as he crosses and drives home in silence, because the song is over. Joe is dead. Long live Joe.



Harry S. Truman is the President of the United States. The Great Brinks Robbery occurs when an armored truck is robbed of over two million dollars. The hydrogen bomb is developed. The comic strips Beetle Bailey and Peanuts appear in newspapers for the first time. The Korean War begins. Military advisers and personnel are sent by President Truman to Vietnam to assist the French against communist revolutionaries. The Warsaw Pact is formed to counter NATO. The television remote control is invented. The movies “Sunset Boulevard” and “Annie Get Your Gun” are released. Stevie Wonder, Tom Petty, Bill Murray, Nora Roberts and Gary Larson are born. Al Jolson and Grover Cleveland Alexander die.

There are 48 states in the Union.

Mary Agnes Kavanagh. 1950. Lakewood Avenue.

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

Table of Contents

1949 447 N. Lakewood Avenue

January 18

Today the crew of the Joseph Kavanagh Company are working through a chilly January Tuesday. With most of the men working on a handful of orders for the United States Industrial Co. or U.S.I. Two 500 gallon copper stills are fabricated along with condensers with new headers to attach to the distilling system and a range of fittings, couplings and valves to match. The toughest part of this job is making the domes for the stills. Copper sheet is suspended with chains then hammered from above by two men with brass hammers. A third man stands under the sheet with a large wooden mallet. His job is to match the others’ hammer hits by using the mallet as a brace to keep the copper from being pierced and helping them achieve the curved dome shape they need. The year has started well for Leo and Eddie Kavanagh’s Shop on Central Avenue. Even in the throes of winter, they are carrying nearly a month of backlog. Old Uncle Joe only saw this in the heyday of the business in the 1890s.

The Shop’s job book entry. January 18, 1949. U.S.I. job.
The Shop’s job book entry. January 18, 1949. U.S.I. job.

February 19

On this Saturday, after a half-day of work, Eddie buys his first television: a General Electric with a 10” screen. Eddie and Jack carry the thing into 434 N. Lakewood Avenue. Annie lets them know that dinner is ready and that thing can wait until after they eat. The family has a meal of meatloaf, potatoes and vegetables, all quite delicious. Eddie and Jack eat rather quickly tonight, anxious to get to this new-fangled contraption. They plug it in, start fiddling with the dial and soon a picture becomes clear. It is the local news on Channel 13, an ABC affiliate. Father and son back into chairs not wanting to take their eyes off the small screen. They watch the local coverage, then a national program called News and Views which follows. These men are fascinated to watch, though the news is just as available on the radio; however, at 7:30 pm, there is entertainment. A talent show type program called “Hollywood Screen Test” airs and now Annie, Betty and baby Betty Ann join the men around the TV. Young unknown actors are given their chance to get that big break by reading scenes and dialogue with established thespians. The family loves this and it will be the first show that the Kavanagh’s watch weekly. Television changes the way Americans are entertained and it changes their home life though not all are thrilled about it. When Eddie tells his father Joe about the TV, Joe scoffs and assures him it’s just a fly by night thing. It will never replace radio Joe says.

1949 General Electric. 810 Television.

February 28

Winter holds on at Pratt and Central on this brisk Monday. Leo and Eddie have their sons and crew working hard with heat and hammers. A large yeast tank is completed today for the James Distillery Company. The tank will hold nearly 1000 gallons when installed and is made entirely of 12 gauge coppers sheet. There are inlet and outlet valves attached and man-holes installed to allow access to the tank for service and quality checks. This has been a long job, taking over two hundred man hours to finish and, as the truck is being loaded, Eddie does his version of the Joe Dance to laughs and claps from the workers. His son, Ed Jr. slips into his own dance in an attempt to show his father how it should be done. Ed was a jitterbug champion and he had moves. His father is not bothered at all but rather joins in the crew’s laughter then sets them back to work. The tank is loaded, delivered and billed and the beat goes on for the Kavanagh’s.

The Shop’s job book entry. February 28, 1949. James Distillery job.

March 3

The Kavanagh’s and crew spend a cloudy Spring day working busily at Pratt and Central. Jack spends the day on a job for Sherwood Distilling, replacing some parts: twenty-two 1 1/2” Lock bonnets are to be made. Bonnets are lids or covers for small manholes in stills. They take a lot of wear and tear and often need replacement. These aren’t stock parts but they are regular work. Copper sheet is annealed, then hammered around a disc to form the shape. Once annealed, the sheet is very soft and the bonnets can be made quickly. It takes some time to pick through the discs and clamps available. Jack sorts through it all and the first bonnet takes five hours. The rest are finished in seventeen. The first one is always the hardest, but Jack is soon able to develop a system and complete the rest quickly. For the Shop it is a time and labor job. Leo and Eddie love those because there is no quoting. You just send them a bill.

The Shop’s job book entry. March 3, 1949. Sherwood Distilling job.

March 26

Joe and Johanna Kavanagh spend a Saturday evening at 434 N. Lakewood Avenue. Despite Joe’s dubiousness about television, Eddie and Annie have invited them over to watch Verdi’s opera, Aida, conducted by world renowned conductor Arturo Toscanini which is being broadcast on NBC. This week is part one and the second is next week. Joe is a piano player, singer and great lover of music and Johanna is no less a music fan than he. Jack, Betty and the baby are there as well and they gather around the small 10” screen and they feel like they are right there in the studio at Rockefeller Center. They have listened to music on the radio but to see this stunning performance live is incredible for them all. They truly feel like they are part of the audience for the show. This is television.

Dad & Betty
Jack and Betty Ann Kavanagh. Easter 1949.

April 17

Easter is spent at the Visitation Convent visiting Aunt Anna, Sister Mary Agnes. Four generations of Kavanagh’s are there. Joe and Johanna spend the day with their daughter Anna, along with Eddie, Annie, Jack, Betty and the baby, Betty Ann. They celebrate mass at the chapel and then spend some time on the grounds. Betty takes some pictures of Jack with the baby. Betty prefers snapping the pictures than being in them. It’s a breezy day and an even mix of clouds and sun that make for a typical spring day. Aunt Anna holds the baby as much as she can as they talk through the day and enjoy a very fine Easter and one they will remember for some time.

Betty & Dad Visitation
Jack and Betty Ann Kavanagh. Easter 1949. Visitation Convent.

May 13

The Shop stays strong as they continue to have approximately a month’s backlog consistently through the year. Today the crew are toiling away on three tanks for Calvert Distillers. These three will not be installed locally though, but shipped to Puerto Rico and used to make rum by the Christopher Columbus Rum Distillers who are a subsidiary of Calvert. These are large heavy tanks and once finished, they are driven in the Shop’s truck one at a time to the docks in Baltimore harbor. They will be shipped by boat down South to Puerto Rico. The job is another big bill for the Kavanagh brothers, Leo and Eddie. Their confidence remains high as the work keeps rolling in and out of 201 S. Central Avenue.

The Shop’s job book entry. May 13, 1949. Calvert Distillers job.

May 27

Jack finishes his studies at the Maryland Institute College of Art. He receives a certification in drafting and mechanics but knows he can go no further with school. He has learned a lot and needs to focus on working full time. This is even truer now because Betty is pregnant with their second child and Jack could not be happier. He loves being a father and Betty is the most natural mother he has ever seen. She’s in complete joy when she holds Betty Ann and she can’t wait for baby# 2.

June 4

Eddie and Jack attend a union meeting on a warm Saturday night. What was Coppersmith Local# 80 has officially become part of the Sheet Metal Workers Union. Slowly over the last few years, smaller unions have joined with the Sheet Metal Workers, for there is strength in numbers. The old coppersmith brethren are all members of the larger union now, and most of the procedures will remain the same. Eddie’s tenure as General Secretary will come to an end this year with a younger leadership moving in. Eddie is happy to step aside at this point; he’s older and the Shop is still very busy. Eddie has held this position for thirty years and helped to establish the union and certainly to grow it. He’s very proud of his efforts on behalf of his union brothers and on this night, his thoughts go back to how his involvement started. He had to actually quit working at the Joseph Kavanagh Company in order to force his father’s hand, to make him unionize the Shop. It worked and has been a great benefit to the business and its employees. Eddie will remain a loyal member of the Sheet Metalworkers Union for the rest of his life. His son, Jack is a member and the thought did occur to Jack to throw his hat in the ring for one of the leadership roles, but he has a new growing family and a demanding job. He will stay in the union and take part but he knows he won’t have the time for more than that.

July 11

Jack has drawn the short straw at the Shop today as he is assigned the unenviable task of annealing and filling a brass pipe for bending. A hot summer day is a bad day to anneal and certainly to melt rosin for filling tubes. Brass is much more difficult to anneal than copper. It is a compound and less stable so the process is slower and you must leave it to cool in the air. No quenching or moving it until it is completely cool or the piece will crack or break. After annealing, it must be filled with rosin to keep it from collapsing and wrinkling when bent. Again, a torch is used. This time a large cauldron is filled with chunks of the tree rosin and heated until they are a liquid. The rosin has several industrial applications but it most notably used on violin strings and pitcher’s mounds. The heat is nearly unbearable but once the rosin is a black murky liquid, it is carefully spooned out and poured into the tube which has been plugged at one end with a round piece of wood. The process is messy and hot but necessary. Without all the preparation, the bending would be a failure. After filling, the pipe is bent easily around blocks until it is the 90 degree elbow the customer requires. At this point, the piece is hung up on chains and slowly, gradually heated again to get the rosin out of there. The rosin melts on the outside first and slowly the large block of the stuff begins to move. After a bit of prodding, the large, now tube shaped slab of rosin slides out where it is caught in a pail for re-use. A blast of heat through the tube burns the inside clean and the job is finished. All that, for one bent tube.

The Shop’s job book entry. July 11, 1949. F. L. Anderson Co. job.

July 24

Eddie and Jack Kavanagh spend a Sunday at Bugle Field on Edison Highway to watch a couple of ballgames. The E-lite Giants of the Negro National League are hosting the Newark Eagles and come away with a hard fought victory. Jack has grown up as an E-lite Giants fan attending games for over ten years. The baseball is good with talented young players though there is some concern among fans that the talent will be depleted with the Major Leagues finally integrated. Jack knows good baseball and this team never disappoints. Of course, this could mean MLB teams might come calling and that does happen with players being poached one by one. After the Negro League game, two local Baltimore club teams square off in a much more lopsided matchup. Father and son stay for the whole game, splitting their usual soda and bag of peanuts. They have done this since Jack was a boy. They have a great day and discuss the games in detail as Jack drives them back to Lakewood Avenue in his Chrysler Windsor.

August 20

Jack and Betty may have found a home. They are interested in a house on Lakewood across the street from Eddie and Annie’s home at the intersection of Lakewood Avenue and Jefferson Street. There was a beauty parlor in the basement which has closed and the upstairs has been empty for several months. The house is owned by a Walter Karwacki and Jack and Betty are thinking hard of making an offer on the place.

The Shop’s job book entry. August – September 12, 1949. Calvert Distillery job.

September 7

On a sunny Wednesday, Betty Kavanagh gives birth to a second daughter, Nancy Jean. Jack is working on a condenser repair for Calvert Distillery when his father gives him the news. He was in the middle of pulling expanded tubes from the header of the condenser. They must be pried, hammered or driven out so the head can be resurfaced and re-used. Jack smiles wide as his father claps him on the back, soon followed by his brother. Jack works through the rest of the day in a daze, anxious to meet his new little girl. He rushes to Betty and Nancy as soon as he can leave the Shop. Mother and newborn are doing well and Nancy is named for one of Jack’s Hartmann cousins, Nancy Lee. Nancy Lee and Jack spent a lot of time together as kids growing up and have remained close. The parents are so happy. They feel so fortunate, so blessed. They are in love and they have two beautiful little girls in their family. Jack and Betty’s family continues to grow.

Baby Nan
Baby Nancy Jean Kavanagh.

October 6

Jack and Betty’s offer has been accepted by Mr. Karwacki and they buy 447 N. Lakewood Avenue. They are so thrilled to have their own place, especially Betty. However, there is a lot of work to be done inside and Jack must sort out how to do all of it. The beauty parlor in the basement must be converted into a residential basement and this will take a long time before Jack can even start on the rest of the house. He, Betty and the girls will stay at 434 with his parents through the winter. Jack will work every chance he has on the house to get it ready and perfect for his family to move in by the Spring at the latest.

Baltimore City record of real estate purchases form 1949 including the Kavanagh’s buying 447 N. Lakewood Avenue. October 6, 1949.

October 9

On this Sunday, the Kavanagh’s watch the deciding game in the World Series on television for the first of many times. Joe and Johanna spend the afternoon at Lakewood Avenue, Joe seems to be warming up to TV though he has no plans to purchase one. The game starts at 2 pm with the Brooklyn Dodgers hosting the New York Yankees at Ebbets Field. The Yanks are up three games to one and this one turns their way fast as the Dodgers’ starter Rex Barney gives up five runs in less than three innings. The defending champion Yankees cruise to a 10-6 victory and take the series. The Kavanagh’s sit glued to the television screen watching the grainy black and white ballplayers with rapt attention. They have seen ballgames in person. They have seen a few games on TV already but this was the first World Series Championship they saw live.

October 20

Today Mr. Funke is finally attending to something that Eddie has been clamoring about for some time. The Shop keeps a supply of “whiskey thiefs” or “barrel thiefs” to use at distilleries and breweries. The “thief” is a long tube with holes at each end and is used to draw out a drought of whiskey or beer to be taste tested. The tube is lowered into the alcohol while the hole at the top is covered with your thumb. A vacuum draws some of the liquid in and it is then released into a mug for tasting. They need to taste for flavor, impurities and of course, potency. Eddie has known for some time that they only have two left and they prefer to keep at least five in stock. Sometimes, they don’t make the trip back from an installation. Customers like keeping them on hand as they use them for the same purpose. The Kavanagh’s don’t mind if a customer asks for one at the end of a job but they prefer not to give them away and they certainly can not afford to run out of them. It will take Funke two days to make six and they are set in the rotation for use whenever needed.

The Shop’s job book entry. October 20, 1949. “Whiskey thiefs” made for stock.

November 24

Jack, Betty and their two baby girls celebrate Thanksgiving twice as they do every year. First a lunch time turkey feast on Guilford Avenue with Betty’s mother and family. The usual meal of turkey, potatoes, stuffing and parsnips is shared around the table while Betty and her mother take turns holding and feeding the babes. The family all want a turn holding the girls but soon they must pack up the Chrysler and head back to Lakewood Ave. When they get back home, another dinner, and the Kavanagh’s are particularly happy this year. The two new babies bring so much joy to the family and there is some other news. Leo’s daughter Mary is engaged to be married to her beau, Albert Donnelly. Albert is a member of the Sheet Metal Workers Union and Mary met him through Leo and Eddie’s involvement in the union. They have dated for about a year and they will be wed next year.

December 12

Leo and Eddie’s Shop is finishing another strong year with the work rolling in and out. This Monday starts another week and Ed Jr. is at Gunther’s Brewery and there is an accident. He was repairing some tanks when he smelled some strong fumes. He opened a man-hole to look in the tank. He lit a match to see better and there was a sudden small explosion and Ed was badly burned. He was rushed to the hospital with burns over his torso and arms. Gunther’s called the Shop and soon his father is on the way to the hospital. The younger Ed will be fine and his father is relieved but also livid with his son for lighting a match near any kind of brewing or distilling equipment.

“What were you thinking?” Eddie asks his son as a doctor and nursed tend to Ed Junior’s burns. “You should know better. Lighting a match in a brewing vat with all that alcohol and you said you smelled fumes?”

“Yes, I did but I didn’t think it was anything serious, Eddie. I did what I did and that’s that. Sorry, but I made a mistake. I wanted to see what was going on in there. I guess I wasn’t thinking, ” the younger Ed answers his father with more than a little anger in his voice.

“You bet you weren’t thinking. You need to get your head into your job more, son. This could have been much worse. The whole place could have blown up,” His father retorts with just as much disdain in his speech.

“Well, I made a mistake and the place didn’t blow up. I learned a lesson okay. By the way, I’m fine.” Ed counters with his eyes narrowing at his father as the doctor and nurse exit the room.

Eddie took a small breath then responds, “Yes, that’s the most important thing. You seem no worse for the wear.”

“They say I need a few days to heal. I’m supposed to get checked on Friday to see if I can get back to work next week.” Junior tells Senior as he hops off the hospital bed, buttoning his shirt.

“Good good. Well, I’ll see you at the Shop on Monday.” His father tosses Ed his coat and ushers him out of the room, then drives him home to Lakewood Avenue. The drive is a quiet one with both men’s thoughts their own. The two Eds seem to often find a way to butt heads and this is just an extreme example of that. Their relationship is very much like the elder Eddie and his father Joe. Ed Jr. does recover quickly, though he bears scars on his chest for years.

December 24

The Christmas Eve Party is a joyous one this year with another new baby in the family, a wedding set for next year and the Shop’s run of success continuing. After a Saturday’s half-day of work, the place is cleaned, decorated and tables are laid out with food and drink. The Kavanagh’s welcome and celebrate with their customers, employees and friends. Betty Ann toddles around, her eyes wide open to take in the place, always pursued by her mother with an outstretched hand ready to catch her if she falls. Baby Nancy is held by all who can get a chance. She coos and smiles brightly to all, seeming to enjoy her first visit to the Shop. The menfolk offer several toasts to the family, the Shop and the holiday. Another year is in the books and it has been another good one. This annual gathering is a special day or at least a special few hours. 201 S. Central Avenue is a place of work, a place of labor. These few hours are the very rare time when the building is occupied but no work is being done. For this one afternoon and evening, it is not about heat, hammers and making money but about food, drink and song. Seasonal carols and old Irish favorites are sung and by tradition, the high point of the party is when Joe Kavanagh sings and leads them all in “O Holy Night.” His baritone voice filling the old dirty Shop that he spent so many days in since 1911. It will be the last time that Joe sings at the Shop.


Harry S. Truman is the President of the United States. Arthur Miller’s play Death of a Salesman opens on Broadway. The first Emmy awards are held and televised. NATO and the NBA are founded. The Goldbergs and Hopalong Cassidy premier on TV. An airplane flies around the world non-stop for the first time. The Geneva Convention is ratified. The first 45 rpm records and the first VW Beetles are sold in the US. George Foreman, Meryl Streep, Bruce Springsteen, John Belushi, and Adrian Belew are born.

There are 48 states in the Union.

Nancy and Betty Ann Kavanagh. 1950.

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

Table of Contents

1948 The Joe Dance

January 10

There is plenty of work on the floor as the Kavanagh’s set back to it at the Shop on Pratt and Central. Leo and Eddie lead their crew as they tackle their assorted coppersmith jobs. Distillery and beer brewery work is a constant and is augmented with confectionery or cooking apparatus, railings, ornamental work and shipyard work. Today an installation is completed at United Distillers of America. It was a time and labor job which is always good. No quote necessary, UDA needed a repair and two men were dispatched for three days. A yeast coil of copper tube was replaced and some brass feet made to stabilize the coil. The brothers love a job where the order is placed and there is little concern for cost. They quote all day, every day so a straight order of time and work is always welcome. Leo and Eddie have both worked here for thirty plus years and they are confident that things will continue to go well. The Shop is certainly cemented into the alcohol production industry as both distillers and brewers call regularly. The crew are skilled hard workers and Eddie’s sons are both at the Shop. Honing and perfecting their skills, they are the next generation and some day the Joseph Kavanagh Company will fall to them one way or another.

The Shop’s Job book entry. United Distillers of America job. January 10, 1948.

February 9

Jack continues his studies at the Maryland Institute College of Art attending a drafting class and a mechanics class once a week while still working at the Shop. He is happy to continue his schooling, anything to keep him distracted from his worries about his wife’s pregnancy. He is so anxious to be a father but still concerned. He can hardly contain his excitement and anything to take his mind away from the approaching baby’s arrival helps.

March 16

A cold and windy March Tuesday is a busy one at the Shop. A boiler repair for E. J. Codd is the large job being finished today. Mr. Funke, Mr. Votta, Ed Jr. and Jack are putting the finishing touches on the copper liner that will complete this order. This liner is about six foot in diameter and ten feet long. Heat has to be evenly distributed onto the copper sheet before it is rolled slowly then soldered shut. The four men use their torches to temper the copper and when the seams are ready to close, they trim off any excess before soldering it. Along with some valves, fittings and straight copper tube necessary for the boiler, this makes for a good job. The rest of the boys are working on some commercial cooking vessels and a few other replacement parts for the Shop’s distillery customers.

April 21

Betty Kavanagh gives birth to a baby girl and Jack is bouncing with joy to be a father. The family is thrilled and very happy that Jack and Betty’s family has begun to grow. The baby is named Elizabeth Ann, she is named for her mother’s maternal Aunt Betty and for Elizabeth Ann Seton. The new mom is a recent graduate of Seton High School and wanted to honor her. Elizabeth Ann Seton will eventually be the first American canonized as a saint by the Roman Catholic Church. The couple are as excited as any new parents have ever been. They have this beautiful baby and they are no longer a couple but a family. Baby Betty Ann is passed around and held over and over at 434 N. Lakewood Avenue when she comes home from the hospital. Despite loving the closeness of family and the family’s happiness at the new baby’s arrival, Betty and Jack continue to plan to find their own place. They can only live with Eddie and Annie for so long. They need their own home.

Betty & Dad 2
Jack Kavanagh and his first daughter, Betty Ann. 1949.

May 12

The Joseph Kavanagh Company has passed through another winter and into spring without missing a beat. They stay busy with a constant flow of repair, replacement and maintenance work for the alcohol industry. Nearly every day, a brewery customer or a distiller calls for an inquiry or work. The Kavanagh’s and their crew are coppersmiths and they also make kettles and form copper and brass into shapes for any need. Today a brass railing is made to match an irregular curve around a garden outside a house owned by someone of great means; it has several radii and must be made in six pieces. Brass work is braziers work but a coppersmith can handle it too. The rail will be finished, trimmed to match a wooden template provided and then installed by the customer. The year has been strong so far and there are no signs of a slowdown.

Mom and Betty Augut 1948 Uncle Joe's House
Betty Kavanagh with her first daughter, Betty Ann. June 1948.

June 2

The Shop’s year continues well but today Eddie misses one. It happens. He bids a job for a copper trough for American Brewery but doesn’t get an order. He expected this order to be placed within a day but the crew at the brewery found a way to fix the old trough and make it work. Eddie chides himself, assuming his price was too high. He always held the philosophy that if the Shop got the job, the price was too low and if it didn’t, the price was too high. A tough way to look at things but Eddie felt sure he was right.

The Shop’s Job book entry. American Brewery bid for work that was not accepted. “No Order” written by Eddie Kavanagh. June 2, 1948.
The Shop’s Job book entry. Parks and Tilford job. June 23, 1948.

June 24

The Kavanagh Shop on Central Avenue has received several orders from Parks and Tilford Distillers. They have worked for this customer since the end of Prohibition and Eddie has landed a good bit of work. Eddie received a call from a Mr. Springer at Parks and Tilford. They needed an emergency repair of a beer heater. An emergency fix that needs to be attended to quickly because it will take a week at least for two men to complete. Mr. Springer has told Eddie the distillery is doing a major overhaul and they will need more work and a fair bit of copper tube to stock for replacements. The tube will have to be tinned for safety and Eddie knows this is a coppersmith’s forte. Eddie arranges to set his son, Ed Jr. and Mr. Owens, a coppersmith with fifteen years experience, to work on the beer heater as quickly as they can drive to Owings Mills where Parks and Tilford is located. Young Ed and Owens find they have to replace some tubes and rivets, and perform some other repairs to the unit. They get started and it does take a week but the beer heater will be returned to full operation. It is billed on the 23rd and the first order for tinned copper tube is received by the Joseph Kavanagh Company today. Mr. Springer has assured Eddie that they will need more tube through the summer and maybe into the Fall. Recurring jobs and repeat orders are the things that can really make a profit for the company.

The Shop’s Job book entry. Parks and Tilford job. June 24, 1948.

July 27

The crew sit on a few chairs and buckets as they take their afternoon break at 2 pm. The Shop’s office door opens and Leo and Eddie step out to smoke and chat with the boys.

“Well, fellows,” Eddie begins, “We will definitely have some overtime coming up for everybody. We got a nice one coming in. National Distillery just ordered three tanks and one is about nine foot in diameter and six feet high.” Eddie grins as he finishes, the crew answering with a few “yeah’s” and “good’s.” These men are all union workers and overtime is always coveted.

Leo speaks up, “This one comes when we already have plenty of work, boys, so be prepared to work all day Saturday and ten hours next Monday and Tuesday.” The workers to a man nod approvingly at the prospect of the extra hours.

Eddie lights a cigarette and after a slow draw, “Gents, times are good. We need to keep at this work and bang it out while we can but this is good for all of us. We gotta take it while it’s there but we can celebrate.” His mouth widens into an exaggerated grin and Eddie breaks into a quick but not sloppy little jig as the men begin to chuckle. Eddie begins clapping as he dances and the boys join in with a mix of laughs and applause. The older fellows remember Leo and Eddie’s father, Joe and his occasional dances. As Eddie finishes, the men, led by his brother Leo, clap soundly with a few comical boos tossed in, especially from Ed Jr., the jitterbug champion, but it was all in good fun. Eddie’s other son Jack laughs raucously throughout he whole scene staring with disbelief at his father.

“All right. All right. That’s enough celebrating.” Eddie says still grinning, “Back to work gents. We have things to do.” He walks back to the office door and opens it and is followed by Leo.

“That was some fine footwork, brother. Joe would be proud.” Leo chuckles to Eddie as they step inside.

“Joe’s not here,” Eddie answers. “Somebody’s gotta do the dance.”

The Shop’s Job book entry. National Distillery job. July 27, 1948.

August 8

Jack and his father drive out to Bugle Field for a Sunday spent watching some ballgames. Before the war, they would do this every week but now it is two or three times a summer. Jack is married and a father himself now so weekly games are out for now. The Baltimore E-Lite Giants host the Newark Eagles in a close contest, with the home losing 3-2, a nail biter of a pitching duel but a great game. A second game is played by two barnstorming Negro League teams and this one is a rout. There is no mercy rule in baseball and the game is a one-sided 17-5 affair. Eddie and his son head back to Lakewood Avenue chatting the whole way. When they reach the house, Jack is quick to scoop up baby Betty and smile at her thinking of when he might be able to take her out to her fist ballgame.

Dad & Eddie (Father)1946
Eddie Kavanagh and his son, Jack. Late 1940s.

August 18

It’s a sticky humid Wednesday in Baltimore and 201 S. Central is a hot box but work needs to be done and the crew are busy with a handful of distillery jobs and a fountain that is being finished today. As the workers break for lunch, Joe stops in to see his sons Leo and Eddie. He settles into his old office and takes a seat in his very familiar surroundings. He has brought a bag of thick cut ham sandwiches from his wife, Johanna. They tuck into the sandwiches and Joe is quick to bring up Babe Ruth’s passing. Ruth died on Monday in New York of cancer and the funeral is today at Yankee Stadium.

“It’s a real shame about Ruth. I think it’s awful. He was such a young man.” Joe opened with a careful look at Eddie.

“Yes, Joe. He was still young and I still really can’t believe it.” Eddie replied with a shake of his head. Eddie was always a Babe Ruth fan. He was a local boy and Eddie saw him play in Club games before he was signed by Boston and long before the fame he achieved as a Yankee. The Baltimore connection and Ruth’s feats kept Eddie a fan throughout the Babe’s career. His father Joe was a constant proponent of Ty Cobb and felt sure Cobb was the greatest baseball player of all time. They sparred over the two ball players almost daily through the 20s and this was one of many things they disagreed over but seemed to enjoy the disagreement on some level.

“The Babe sure had a way. I mean besides belting the homers, he had style and loved the fans. He was always with the kids in pictures. He cared about his fans. A damn shame.” Leo opined as he picked up the second half of his sandwich.

Joe answered quickly, “Ruth did a lot for the game. That’s for certain. He brought in some fans and was a big character. And yeah he could hit that ball a long, long way. I know that. He was a good ball player.”

“But not the best, right Joe?” Eddie seemed to finish Joe’s sentence. “He was no Cobb. Different kind of players but the thing about the Babe was,” Eddie paused taking a sip of coffee, “he was our guy. He was Baltimore. He was from here and he was that good. If not the best, right up there with the best, Joe. He made Baltimore proud.” Eddie broke into a small smile.

“That he did, Eddie.” Joe agreed. “He did.”

August 24

The dog days of a coppersmith’s summer are upon Pratt and Central. As luck would have it, in the heat and humidity, the last of another batch of copper tubes are being tinned for Parks and Tilford. They range from 3/4” tubes to 3” tubes. Large vats of lead are bubbling away and making the Shop that much hotter. The Kavanagh brothers love any kind of recurring job. Something that will be ordered every month for any period of time is a great thing for the Shop. It’s work and billing you can count on and once it’s out the door you anticipate getting it back in again. Five of the older smiths handle this job then this shipment of tubes are loaded onto the Shop’s truck, with the help of young Jack Kavanagh. An order is sent out and another will come in to replace it. “It’s a thing of beauty,” is what Joe would say.

September 6

Jack Kavanagh returns to the Maryland Institute to study Mechanics. He has learned a great deal about drawings and drafting and now wants to focus on mechanics and basic engineering. He has classes two days a week, is working full time and has a wife and new baby at home. Jack is running a very tough schedule but he wants to learn what he can at MICA while he can still attend. He can manage it still while he and Betty are living with his parents as his wife does have his mother, Annie to help with the baby. Jack knows when they find a house of their own and if they have more kids, the studies will most likely have to end.

Patsy and Betty Ann
Annie (Mimi) Kavanagh with granddaughters, Patsy and Betty Ann. Backyard of 434 N. Lakewood Avenue. Summer 1948.

September 13

The last of the tinned copper tubes for Park and Tilford are delivered today. Twenty pieces of 3/4” tube are driven in the Shop’s old Mack Truck by Ed Jr. to Owings Mills and a job that started in the beginning of the summer comes to a close. That was a nice run of work for the Kavanagh’s. The crew remain busy on another set of distillery parts to be fabricated and a large order of copper fittings for Gunther’s Brewery. They are replacement stock items for Gunther’s and make for another day’s work for the Joseph Kavanagh Company

The Shop’s Job book entry. Parks and Tilford job. September 13, 1948.

October 6

A large portion of the Shop’s work is small jobs, sometimes an order of just two or three replacement parts. Some are from the stock they keep of valves, fittings and couplings but they also make custom parts as needed for different distilling, brewing or even cooking systems. Today a set of unions are made, both on the larger side as these are usually two inches or smaller. This order calls for a four inch and a six inch union to connect sections of an old distilling system. Even though these are custom made, they only take a few hours and are just another small job in the pile of many that help sustain the Shop.

The Shop’s Job book entry. United Distillery job. October 6, 1948.

October 11

The Cleveland Indians win the World Series defeating the Boston Braves in six games. The series was nearly an all Boston affair as the Red Sox finished the season in a tie with the Indians for first place in the American League. Cleveland spoiled that Massachusetts match up by winning a one game playoff. This is the first World Series to be broadcast on network television. There was some limited TV coverage for the ’47 series but each game is broadcast this year. The Kavanagh’s still do not have a television set but the series is discussed game by game at the Shop as it always has been. If anything, it is more so now with Jack at Central Avenue. He, like his father and grandfather, is a passionate lover of the game. The crew and the rest of the family are fans but Jack and Eddie put the “fan” in fanatic and they examine each game and each box score, discussing and debating as each game is played. It is very similar to Eddie and his father, Joe. They spoke of baseball a lot whether at work or not. It was a neutral subject that they both shared and felt comfortable discussing. Coffee breaks and lunches are spent recounting hits, pitches and catches that make up each contest. It passes the day and makes work not just more tolerable but pleasant. They might not look forward to getting to work to do their job but they do look forward to talking about baseball.

November 2

Harry Truman wins re-election to the Presidency, defeating Republican New York Governor Thomas Dewey and Dixiecrat South Carolina Governor Strom Thurmond. This one was a close race with many calling the election early in favor of Dewey. Truman is famously pictured the next day holding a newspaper with the headline “Dewey Elected.” The Kavanagh’s voted for Truman. They are well ensconced within the Democratic Party at this time and more to the point, they credit Truman with winning the war and bringing Jack home from the Pacific. If the Japanese had not surrendered, the crew of the USS Strickland including Jack would have been right in the middle of any invasion of Japan. This is something the family will never forget.

November 27

The Kavanagh’s spend the Saturday after Thanksgiving at the Visitation Convent on Roland Avenue visiting with Sister Mary Agnes, Eddie’s sister. She is very excited to spend some time holding baby Betty Ann and catching up with her brother and his family. Her parents, Joe and Johanna, are there as well and they reminisce with their daughter, whose given name is Anna, about the first time they held Ed Jr. and Jack. Now Joe and Johanna are great-grandparents and Aunt Anna, as they call her is a Great Aunt holding a baby from another generation. The Kavanagh clan continues to grow and this Thanksgiving Saturday annual visit is always a wonderful day. The family visits Aunt Anna regularly and celebrates Mass with her at the convent when they can, but these November visits are always special. Perhaps it is the approaching end of the year or simply Thanksgiving, but the Kavanagh’s, all the generations, feel a strong sense of family on this day.

December 7

The busy year continues at the corner of Pratt and Central as winter comes on. Among the jobs spread throughout the Shop today, one of their experienced coppersmiths, Mr. Votta is making some strainers for Gunther’s Brewery. The strainers catch the hops during the beer brewing process. Copper sheet is laid out and drilled. It is a very straight forward job but Eddie can’t help but think he could have done it faster. Eddie was a real coppersmith at heart. Now in his later years, he enjoys the role he shares with his brother of bringing the work in and making the deals but he often misses swinging a hammer or drilling holes. Eddie still works in the Shop occasionally but less and less as he is getting older. Votta is a good man and skilled and it’s another small job that keeps money coming into the Shop. The best mix of work is both big jobs that might take a week or two and small ones that are finished in a matter of hours. It keeps the money coming in regularly and occasionally a big bill is paid.

The Shop’s Job book entry. Gunther’s Brewery job. December 7, 1948.

December 24

This Friday finds the Shop in celebration of the Christmas holiday. The annual party is on after a half day of work, the floors are swept, tables are moved and a tree is stood and decorated. The Kavanagh’s gather with customers and employees for their yearly party to celebrate not just the Yule but also the end of another year of work. Platters are piled high with sandwiches, sides and desserts. There is a keg of beer tapped and several bottles of rye to be sampled and like every year they will sing together led by Joe Kavanagh. The family and friends have a wonderful time at Leo and Eddie’s Shop on Central Avenue. The brothers are feeling great with so much work on the books and such a good run of success. The family is growing with Jack and Betty welcoming their first child in April and the family is content and happy after such a long span of uncertainty. The Shop and the Kavanagh’s passed through Prohibition, Depression and a war and finally things have returned to some sense of normalcy. There is peace and the work of the Shop is again their main focus. Another generation is working at the Joseph Kavanagh Company and the transition from one to another has slowly begun. Just as in the past, it takes time, trust and faith to pass from one generation to another. As has happened twice before, some day the younger Kavanagh’s will replace the older. They will do the same job, in the same place and with the same tradition of quality and hard work and oddly enough they will do the same dance.



Harry S. Truman is the President of the United States. NASCAR and the Hell’s Angels are founded. The first animal, a monkey, is launched into space. The first Kinsey report on human sexuality is published. The game of Scrabble is marketed and sold by James Brunot. “South Pacific” premiers on Broadway. Alice Cooper, Donna Summer, Garry Trudeau, Gary Thorne and Kweisi Mfume are born. Orville Wright, D. W. Griffith and Babe Ruth die.

There are still 48 states in the Union.

Betty 1948
Betty Ann Kavanagh. 1948.

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

Table of Contents