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Wrong Place, Wrong Time: Sound Effect, Episode 188

Adrian Florez

This week’s theme for Sound Effect is “Wrong Place, Wrong Time,” stories of people stuck in circumstances they can’t control and what’s revealed by the choices they make.

First, we learn about how the eruption of Mount St. Helens turned one man into a folk hero. Then, we hear about an effort to honor the work of a pioneering black chemist who was erased from history. The driver in a fatal duck boat crash opens up about the painful memories he still copes with years later. We meet a social worker who is trying to keep seniors from becoming homeless. Finally, we tag along with an animal-lover who rescues cats from trees. And, in the full broadcast version of the show, we get some unsettling information about why your hotel room might be keeping you up at night. 


Sound Effect host Gabriel Spitzer found the record — “Your Spirit Lives On: The Musical Legend of Harry Truman” — in a thrift shop not long ago. “I think the 1970s-style cover art is what caught my eye: the painted likeness of an old man in a flannel shirt and a ballcap, staring into the distance while a cloud of smoke rises behind him.” 

That man is Truman: folk hero, contrarian and human country song. 

This Truman, not to be confused with the U.S. president, was the owner of a lodge on Spirit Lake, near the foot of Mount St. Helens. Learn more about this antihero of the American West.


As a young scientist, Alice Ball was brilliant and ambitious, and would go on to bring hope to a category of people condemned to a life of suffering and isolation. 

But today our hero is barely remembered — maybe because she was a “she,” and African-American, and the year was 1916. Learn more about this pioneering black chemist from Seattle, and the people who are working to un-erase her legacy. 


On Sept. 24, 2015, Eric Bishop was behind the wheel of a full duck boat, carrying 36 passengers north on the Aurora Bridge. Then, he heard "a clunk clunk."

That was the sound of the duck's axle failing. Bishop remembers losing control of the vehicle, then watching helplessly as a "black and white wall" appeared before him. It was a southbound motorcoach, carrying college students to new student orientation. The duck crashed into its side, killing five. Sound Effect producer Posey Gruener talked with Bishop about coping with the painful memories years later.  


Being able to afford housing in the Seattle area is an ongoing problem for many people. A new group of individuals is starting to come onto the radar of social workers: senior citizens.

Denise Malm at the Wallingford Senior Center in North Seattle, like many social workers, has noticed an increase in the number of seniors she is trying to help find stable housing. Sound Effect’s Jennifer Wing spent some time with Malm, who is working to keep her elderly clients from becoming homeless. 


Richard Hagar travels a lot for business. He also doesn't usually have a tough time falling asleep in the hotels he stays at when he is on the road. But a while back, he found himself on a business trip in Southern Oregon, teaching a series of classes on real estate and mortgage appraisal fraud for real estate professionals and law enforcement officers. And after checking into his upscale chain hotel, he could not get to sleep. Hagar told Sound Effect producer Kevin Kniestedt about the likely (unsavory) reason for his inability to sleep: remnants of drugs.  


Cats can do a lot of things that dogs can’t do. They usually are able to sleep on any household furniture they want. They are way more independent and they can climb trees! But, sometimes they can get stuck. Like, seriously stuck. Not just for hours, but for days and days.

Enter Tom Otto and his brother-in-law, Shawn Sears. These two animal lovers operate Canopy Cat Rescue. Sound Effect tagged along with Otto on a recent rescue. Listen to learn more about this labor of love.

Listen to the full broadcast version

Kari Plog is a former KNKX reporter who covered the people and systems in Pierce, Thurston and Kitsap counties, with an emphasis on police accountability.