Ever since I was a kid, this is what I heard about my father’s nickname, “The Buzzard.” Growing up in Mechanicsville, VA in the 40’s and 50’s…instead of “Hey buddy,” “Hey man,” or “Hey dude,” people would say, “Hey Buzzard.” Over time that habit went away, replaced with any number of different greetings. Well, it went away for everyone other than our founder, my father, Gary Thomas.
For as long as I can remember, he fondly referred to any male as “Buzzard.” He’d say, “Hey Buzzard,” to just about any male that walked into his office, that he met at the store, or that he passed on the street. It was just his version of hello. Over time, people started calling him “Buzzard,” and that became his nickname for most everyone that knew him well. He often received oddball buzzard related gifts that friends picked up when traveling. You can see several of them on display in the store cabinet by our front door where his portrait hangs today.
After his passing an old friend of my father’s came into the store to share a story with me about him. He asked if I knew how my father got his nickname, “The Buzzard.” I told him the above story. He chuckled and said, that’s good…but that’s not exactly how it happened.
He told me that when he and my father were in the Air National Guard together in the 60’s, my father was a mechanic, which I knew. He said they were training near Savannah and everyone had gone to the beach except my father. He wasn’t interested that day and stayed behind. After a couple of hours he showed up. The guys were horsing around on the beach, drinking beer and blowing off steam. One of the guys was being buried in the sand by his buddies and having a hard time getting out.
My father was a big man, as most know. In his 20’s, he was a beast of a man…big and strong to say the least. He told the group there was no way they could bury him that he couldn’t get himself out of the sand. The man telling me the story said he’d take that bet, and they shook on it. Then he dug a hole straight down so that my father had to stand in the hold. They buried him up to his neck. The whole time Dad was teasing them and bragging about it not working on him.
If you know anything about the beach and wet sand, you know that once buried, it causes a vacuum that you can barely pull a foot out of, much less your whole body. Once buried, he was laughing and still taunting them. Eventually, he realized he couldn’t get out. But, because he had talked so much trash and given the other guys so much grief, they told him, “We should just leave you here for the buzzards to eat.” And they, they say, was how he got that nickname.
I don’t know which is actually true. But, I can totally see the second one happening to my father. He was a brilliant man…a genius, even. But, he was not one to admit defeat or give up on anything.
After his passing, I changed the company name to Governor’s Architectural Antiques, and added “Home of the Buzzard since 1970.” While we’ve changed quite a bit over the last few years, and transitioned from a more traditional antiques business to one focusing on architectural salvage, his legacy lives on.
When you visit, you can now see a larger than life sized buzzard, crafted from pieces and parts of salvage, greeting you as you enter the complex he spent his life building.
Say hello, take a picture, and give it a wink. Now you know the story of “The Buzzard.”