From Smudge Pots to Blinking Barricade Warning Lights

We were talking about smudge pots a while back. It got me to thinking about these old things and how when I was a kid in the 50s and 60s I would go with my dad out on jobs, many times at night. I would go stand next to one of the diesel burning things on a cold night, to stay warm. In typical kid fashion I wasn’t afraid of getting dirty, so the black smoke and soot would be all over me, but it made me feel like a “working man”.

Well used one

This is my recollection of how we started transitioning away from the smudge pots shortly after I became a real working man on those construction sites, in the early 1970s.

Bright and shiny new one

Now the story of RB Campbell Barricade Company.

A gentleman in Austin, Mr. RB Campbell was the first (that I remember anyway) to bring full service rental barricades with battery operated flashing lights to Austin in the Early 1970s. Prior to that contractors would often make their own wooden barricades and use smudge pots as warning lights lining the trenches and curb lines on construction sites.

RB Campbell Barricade Company was painted on every barricade.
They had a shop up on Georgian Drive in far North Austin near Braker Lane. (That was really far north Austin in the early 1970s).

It was truly a family run business, with Mr. Campbell being very active in the daily operation. He was such a kind and likable gentleman. We did a lot of business with Mr. Campbell.

The blinking flashers that replaced the old smudge pots had to have the batteries changed out about every 30 days.
It was a few years before an “eye” was put on them to turn them off during the daytime.

Prior to putting the “eyes” on them one of the rental agreements was that contractor renting the barricades was required to manually turn them off each morning and reactivate them at the end of the day before we left for the night.

It was another few years before solar charging was added to the flashers.

By that point in time, several other companies had started competing for business. However, we remained with the Campbell Barricade Company as long as they were in business, due to the great service they had always provided.

In the early 90s my oldest son Matthew married Carrie and they moved to Austin, (Carrie’s family has roots in the Glen Rose area of Texas).

Carrie mentioned that she was related to the RB Campbell family that owned a barricade company in Austin. At that time I had a more than 20 year relationship with Campbell Barricade.

Small World, huh. Well unless you had to line it with smudge pots.

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