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Home / EXCLUSIVES / A soldier, a businessman and the Pickleball co-creator- Barney McCallum leaves this world with a rich Pickleball legacy

A soldier, a businessman and the Pickleball co-creator- Barney McCallum leaves this world with a rich Pickleball legacy

“We had no purpose; nobody said, lets sit down and make this a game; there was no conversation like that, it was strictly for our own pleasure.”

Barney McCallum clearly admitted this in an interview on Pickleball Channel when the channel members spoke to him to celebrate 50 years of Pickleball. Barney was then the only living founder of the sport who along with Joel Pritchard and William Bell developed Pickleball on a lazy summer afternoon of 1965 to involve their bored kids. Barney was then just 39 years old.

54 years later, on 18th November 2019, Barney McCallum passed away at his home in Seattle, happily and in peace. The father of Pickleball had witnessed the extensive growth of Pickleball from the Bainbridge court to Seattle and New York and later to almost 25 countries across Europe, Asia and Africa.   

Jennifer Lucore- multiple times US National Champion once wrote about Barney McCallum in one of her blogs on All Pickleball- “Barney absolutely loves this game and is always curious of what is happening, the growth of players and all the new venues. He truly never thought Pickleball would get as big as it is today and how it has made so many people happier or healthier. He feels so humbled when players go up to him and thank him for being a part of the sports creation and in some respect changed lives……..”.

Perhaps McCallum’s own life changed through Pickleball. As a young man he was like any other American who served his country during World War II. As a Deck Seaman in US Navy, he travelled mostly through Pacific Ocean, sometimes climbing the 70-foot-high mast to pull the boom up and securing it or sometimes sailing back and forth between Japan and the U.S. to bring soldiers home after the battle in Okinawa. His final voyage was through the Panama Canal (during a hurricane) and back to Norfolk where the ship was decommissioned. (Source: Pickleball Magazine).

After his naval days, Barney McCallum settled back at his home in Seattle and happily raised his family. He started his own business, the McCallum Envelope Company that provided packaging supplies and industrial items to many businesses. When everything was going on perfectly for the McCallum family, another beautiful phase started in their life.

The McCallums, Pritchards and Bells developed the game of Pickleball on the Badminton Court of the Pritchards. Later it was shifted to the McCallum house where they were joined by other families of Bainbridge Island. Pickleball gradually took its wings as it travelled out of Seattle.

“Pickleball was strictly for our family recreation. The fitness part of it later got in. I got telephone calls from different places. They wanted Pickleball paddles. So we were somewhat forced into the business.”

That was the start of commercialization of Pickleball. In 1972 McCallum launched the first Pickleball company, Pickle-ball Inc., and started manufacturing the first commercial paddles. During the initial days he made the paddles by hand. Remembering those early days in Pickle-ball Inc., David McCallum- son of Barney McCallum said- “We created this small little company because my dad needed to buy the raw materials and make the paddles. So we needed to have a kind of unity to handle the money……..I became the first employee of this Pickleball company that had been formed. We formalised the paddles, designed the boxes about how to put 6 paddles and ball in boxes etc.”(Source: Pickleball Channel)

Barney McCallam later sold this company to his son and kept himself away from the globalisation of the game. Much later, on Jennifer Lucore’s urging, Barney wanted to check out what Pickleball was up to. So in 2013, he attended the popular SeaTac indoor tournament held in Washington State. Later that year, Barney attended his first USAPA Nationals in Buckeye. It was a thrill for him to look at the game from the stands. He was overwhelmed. For the next several years, Barney McCallum kept himself regularly updated about Pickleball happenings.

This September, when McCallum celebrated his 93rd birthday, he received hundreds of messages from around the world. He spent many hours reading all the notes he received and how much he appreciated receiving them. He was overjoyed with the outpouring of love and the various uplifting and life-changing Pickleball stories people shared with him. (Source: All Pickleball).

Rest In Peace Barney McCallum. The world will forever be indebted to you for gifting the beautiful game of Pickleball.

About Poulomi Kundu

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