Far from being a derisive or derogatory term, the phrase “Old Buzzard” is oft used as a term of fondness in the vintage radio community. Being an “Old Buzzard” has much more to do with a state of mind than chronological age, but often Old Buzzards are indeed the elder members of the amateur service fraternity.
My first introduction to real “Old Buzzards” was as a young JN at radio club meetings in Lancaster, NY. The real Old Buzzards were the grizzled old timers who stood around the coffee pot, not saying much, but watching everything. They were often intimidating to speak with, and did not suffer fools lightly, but under that crusty exterior beat a heart of gold.
It was the Old Buzzard who loaned a new minted JN a beat up old receiver to copy W1AW so the new comer could get his morse code skills.
Or gave away a old ARRL Handbook to a newcomer so he could build his first antenna.
Sketched out a schematic for the JN’s first antenna tuner.
Made that a first shaky contact on HF CW with said JN.
Was the first to give away parts to help the newcomer with his rig/antenna/receiver/project.
Answered countless and often seemingly nonsensical questions from the young JN about every radio topic under the sun.
The prototypical Old Buzzard also saw himself as the guardian of something very special, and though they were willing to impart knowledge, like the Oracle of Delphi, they demanded tribute. But rather than the Oracle’s gold, the Old Buzzard was satisfied with simple reverence for said knowledge from newcomers. After all, they were often sharing something which had been a part of their lives since adolescence.
At times, the Old Buzzards requested other tribute, as the young and agile JN was often able to climb a tree, or tower, and repair an antenna, or lift that old boatanchor onto the repair bench, activities which tired old bones could no longer do. Old Buzzards often turned into Elmers, and from Elmers into friends.
I’m sure that each of us can recall a special “Old Buzzard” who was part of our introduction to the amateur service. I had two Old Buzzards, W2UJR, whom I have written about before, and old Tom Watson K2SKJ. Tom gave me my first real CW key, a Nye Master Key, made code practice tapes for me to learn from, and produced a handwritten list of CW procedures, abbreviations and pro-signs. He was an interesting old timer, had his private pilots license, used to own a tail-dragger airplane, smoked like a chimney, was most buzzardly, but had a very good heart. He was an exceptional CW op, a stickler for proper procedure, and used an old Vibroplex bug, complete with corded “wedge” to insert in a hand key.
Bonus Question – Who was your first “Old Buzzard”, any what do you remember about him?
73 Bruce W1UJR