Memory Lane: Road Construction ‘Cannonballs’

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Hey, remember these things? Actually, you’ve got to be a bit on the old side, to have seen them. They were declared a no-no around 1960, although some municipalities and private contractors kept on using them for some years afterward. But you won’t see them anymore–except as curious artifacts for sale here and there.

Not until yesterday did I learn they were called “road construction smudge pots.” As a boy, seeing them along Route 1 as we rode to Grammie’s house, I thought they must be cannonballs. Because, well, they looked like cannonballs. But that flame at the top–maybe they were bombs. There were bombs that looked like that in Farmer Grey cartoons. (Remember those?) They never went off, though, so I was pretty sure they must be cannonballs.

We are told by certain persons who collect these, nowadays, that you have to wear gloves to handle them because they’re just so terribly filthy. Probably leave a carbon footprint that even John Kerry would be proud of. Once upon a time they used to be set up along road construction areas as guides to help keep drivers on the road. Now they’re just collectibles.

Not that I miss the old cannonballs. But I do miss those visits to Grammie, and that’s what I think of when I see pictures of those things.

Sorry about the Disabled Comments! I forgot to take the extra step of disabling the disability.

10 comments on “Memory Lane: Road Construction ‘Cannonballs’

  1. This is unbelievable – I do remember these! And seeing them again makes me wonder what on earth they were thinking to use such things. They look rather dangerous. We didn’t have the internet or 24-hour cable news to alert us, but it does make me wonder how many injuries may have been caused by these incendiary-looking things. Funny how things seem so normal one day, and the next . . .

  2. These were still in use in Wisconsin in the late sixties when I was growing up. They never flamed out like those in the photo, though. I assume the fuel was different as I remember them having a small, flickering flame that stayed pretty much within the dome. I also remember that they were to heavy for us little kids to carry!

  3. We tried until Grandma saw us from the front porch and called us in for a good talking to about having some common sense!

  4. Well, we just wanted one…we thought it would make a cool addition to the fort we had made out of old concrete in the adjoining construction site.

  5. I saw these when I lived in Wichita, Kansas in 1966. They were near my Grandma’s house, because the men were repairing the street. I didn’t go near them because I thought that they were HOT!!

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