LINCOLNTON, N.C. (QUEEN CITY NEWS) – It’s ordinarily unwelcome, unwanted, and a pain to deal with.
“We’d come down here, they’d go back out to their car and leave, and there’d be a ticket on their windshield,” said Lincolnton football coach Scott Cloninger.
Pointing out parking problems and other various violations,
“I got a ticket for hunting opossums out of season; I wasn’t even hunting opossums; I was looking at a squirrel one day,” said Tony Jenkins, who retired from the Lincolnton Fire Department.
But in Lincolnton, a ticket means something else entirely.
“If I borrowed his pen in the car to use it for something, his hand was out for me to give it right back because he had to write his tickets,” laughed Karen Gibson.
The writer and enforcer along Main Street and all over town, none other than Kenneth Hambright, better known as ‘Kojak,’ gave out nicknames as often as he did tickets.
“I don’t know why; I got Mitch Mitch,” laughed Mitch Burgin, a retired Chief of the Lincolnton Fire Department.
“He came in and said, be quiet, ‘Mick Jagger!’ You can’t sing,” said Tony. “Ever since, I was ‘Mick Jagger.’ That’s just what he called me.”
“He just called me Scott Cloninger! I had no nickname,” laughed Scott.
“Baby doll. He called me baby doll, but I did find out I wasn’t his first baby doll,” said Karen.
Kojak was a constant presence at the fire station, downtown at band practice, and football.
“In his mind, he was a helper,” said Mitch.
He had challenges, but Kojak gave his love to Lincolnton for decades.
The town loved him back.
“That was tough. And uh, excuse me just a moment,” said Tony.
“He just, he was with me all the time,” said Scott.
“For life, it was like blood, like blood,” said Mitch.
“It’s just his love; it was unconditional,” said Karen.
In July, Kojak passed away.
“I don’t think Kojak realized who all he touched,” said Mitch.
Kojak gave out thousands of tickets throughout his life. Many still have them and still cherish them.
His tickets were just scribbles on a piece of paper. But what makes them a treasure is who wrote them and why.
“He just showed you that everything’s okay,” said Tony.
“When he’d look at you and say, I love you, baby doll. He meant it; when he said those words, you felt it in your soul,” said Karen.
Kojak had a way of showing everyone that one of the easiest and most important things to share is love.
Since he passed away, the Lincolnton football team has been raising money for a plaque in his honor.
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They plan to put it on the football field since Kojak rarely missed a game.
They’re just under $2,000 short.
Donations can be made via the school or the booster club.