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Industry Pioneer Passes: RIP Mackey Barron of HB Communications
THE AV industry's pioneer passed away at age 95 yesterday. I say THE in all caps, intentionally. There is no one in AV who knew Mackey Barron, founder of HB Motion Picture Service (now known as HB Communications), that would disagree. His history of "firsts" in audiovisual are legendary -- in addition to his unwavering support of the AV industry and, specifically, InfoComm. He literally started in AV almost 80 years ago when in 1937 where he helped his Boston-based high school hand-winding film reels. That, eventually, led him to a job curating film strips for a film service company that focused on distribution of educational movies to Catholic schools in the Boston area. That job required him to be the "keeper" of the films so he would also repair broken strips and splice in other materials.
In 1942, he enlisted in the Air Force -- at the height of World War II where he served as lieutenant colonel and an Air Force pilot. But in 1944 he became a prisoner of war for nearly a year after his aircraft was shot down over Denmark, which he later described as a "horrific existence." He was with more than 10,000 other POWs and tried to make the best of a bad situation by reading to his fellow prisoners, convincing the camp to show movies every once in a while (he ran that projector too!) and making ice cream for everyone in camp. He was freed at the end of the war in 1945, weighing only 112 pounds.
Immediately after the war, he went back to work for the same Catholic film company (by then called Cinema Incorporated) and became a film projector salesperson. Then 1946, after getting a loan from a relative (of about $5,000) he started HB Motion Picture Service, which eventually became HB Communications.
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