Kojak The Fireman


The last two nights I’ve had dreams from my years as a school principal. I always wonder why I still dream of events of nearly twenty years ago. (In one dream I had an office full of students in trouble as well as angry parents waiting outside; Last night’s dream had something to do with driving a school bus full of teachers and students while pulling a log truck behind it. Go figure.)

Maybe those dreams were why I thought about “Kojak” Williams today.
(The real reason was that I sat in a Sunday School class taught by his older brother.)

Kojak and his brother “Buckwheat” were real characters who fit well into the rural character of East Beauregard High. They were country, fun, friendly, and never dull.

Especially Kojak.

One of my major battles was with students smoking. It was an ongoing skirmish that never ended.

I have many stories I could tell, and students could definitely tell stories on me. (The most popular urban legend was that I once climbed a tree, while wearing camo, near the student parking entrance and caught students smoking as they drove in.)

Gabi Guillott Perry commented on your wall post:

“I remember you ‘climbing the tree.’ Everybody fully believed you did that!” – from Gabi 10 19 09

That story is not true. I stood under the tree and I was dressed in my coat and tie. I’d warned students repeatedly to “put out their smokes” before crossing the cattleguard where school property began. (East Beauregard was probably the last school in America to have cattleguards at its entrance. They were needed when stock still roamed “open range.”)

Anyway, my battle with the smokers was always interesting.

One day, two of my favorite smokers came in to the office. They were covered in white powder and very upset. I asked what’d happened and got their answer, “We were in the stalls in the boys bathroom and someone sprayed us with a fire extinguisher.”

As I realized what’d happened (and made sure they were OK) I wanted to laugh. They explained that evidently someone had climbed up on the sink and “sprayed over the partition down on us.”

I sent them on the way promising to investigate. Before leaving the office, I sat down and had a fine laugh, already figuring out what’d happened.

In the restroom the evidence was all there: an empty fire extinguisher, white powder in the stall area, and two cigarette butts in the commode.

It didn’t take too long for the grapevine to lead me to my major suspect: “Kojak” Williams.

Calling him in, I shut the door to my office. “Kojak, did you spray those boys?”

“I sure did, Mr. Iles. We guys were tired of them smoking up the bathroom for all the rest of us.” He grinned, “I just decided to put out their fire.” * See below for what we was singing as he went into the rest room.

Handling discipline at a high school calls for all kinds of decisions. This day was no different”
I made a decision not to make a decision.

I just told Kojak, “Don’t do it again. Let me be in charge of dousing the cigarettes.”

If I remember, Kojak cleaned up the mess. It seems as if the custodians did it for him. They’d heard the story too and were proud of him for taking care of the problem.

I’m not sure if it was my legend of being up in the tree,
or Kojak’s fireman duty that day,
or when we shortly thereafter put teachers patrolling the restrooms during break time,
but smoking was never quite the problem again that it’d been.

I’ll always believe the improvement against “smoking in the boy’s room” was due to Kojak and his fire extinguisher.

The statute of limitations has run out on Kojak’s offense.
They can’t fire me (bad pun) for not taking strong action against Kojak. I left the school system in 1992.

But I still laugh when I think of Kojak’s story.

Today at Friendship Church, I should have asked his brother what Kojak is doing now. I thought I’d heard he might be working for a fire department somewhere.

Naw, that couldn’t be true, but I’d sure write him a good recommendation letter if he wanted to apply.

“Teacher, don’t you tell you none of your rules.
‘Cause everyone knows that smoking ain’t allowed in school.”
-“Smoking in the Boys Room” Brownsville Station.

Cough, cough.

A Postscript from Kojak’s classmate, Michele Simmons Chapman:

*Oh, Mr. Curt I remember the day that happened and how funny it was!! I have even told my kids that story and how he went in singing the song “They Call Me The Fireman”. Kojak was and still is a character!!”


  1. anixous to see the finished book, I can imagine the scenes mentioned here, as I grew up in DeRidder and remember the Camp Polk days and all.

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