Mark Habgood recalls a steep learning curve when he transitioned from working at Neptune’s Table, a seafood restaurant at Seventh Avenue and Camelback Road in Phoenix, to the construction field. At one point, while he was falling behind on the job at RoBil, his stepfather, Bill Sudbrack, told him, “If you can’t keep up, you better find another line of work!”
Habgood says that Sudbrack, the "Bil” in RoBil Contracting Co., was hard but fair and always wanted his crews to do good and take pride in their work. That leadership style impacted Habgood, who went on to have a 30-year career with RoBil, which he subsequently purchased and renamed Sharp Creek Contracting, Inc. After seven more years in the industry, Habgood finally retired, although he continued dabbling for a few years, running a blade for the company. He revealed to the magazine some of his favorite memories of almost four-decades in construction in Arizona.
Habgood’s story begins in 1955 at Camp Pendleton, a Marine Corps base in California. In the early 1960s, his family moved to Mesa, Arizona. They soon bought a home in a new subdivision called Scottsdale Acres. “It cost $19,000 and was built by Butler Homes,” Habgood says. “On weekends, we’d go to Round Up Drive-In Theatre to see movies like Jaws, or to the Kachina Theater where I saw, It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World, Around the World in 80 Days, and The Good, The Bad and The Ugly.”
At the time, his stepfather, Bill Sudbrack, would come home from work filthy from the hot plant at Nesbitt Contracting. “He’d pull into the driveway in his brand new, teal 1968 Grand Prix with Charlie Pride blaring on the radio,” Hadbood recalls.
He attended Saguaro High School and worked cleaning horse stalls at the Applegate, Buckman & Carson, or ABC Ranch, located at 96th Street and Cactus Road. Habgood commuted from 82nd Street and Highland Road on his Honda-50 mini-bike. He later hitchhiked to his job at Neptune’s Table. “Most hitchhiking experiences were fine, but on a few occasions, I luckily avoided danger,” he says.
After his high school graduation in 1973, Habgood and a friend took a six-week adventure visiting 35 states in his 1969 Plymouth Roadrunner. He returned to work for $1.80 per hour at the restaurant when Sudbrack offered $2.25 per hour to be a laborer and stake chaser for RoBil.
Habgood learned the construction trade from the bottom up, starting with Tatum Canyon, a new subdivision by Dave Hansen Construction. “Pulice Construction did all the curb and gutter work, and I chased stakes for RoBil’s blade operator, Steve Johnson, who was the very first employee RoBil hired,” he says. “RoBil was a smaller construction outfit, and once the grading was complete, the same crew would then pave the job.” And that’s when Sudbrack told him to up his game.
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This article originally appeared in the bimonthly Arizona Contractor & Community magazine, Jan/Feb 2022 issue, Vol. 11, No. 1.