Sound Effect | KNKX

Sound Effect

To say Joe Petosa Jr. and his family are into accordions would not be doing them justice. The Petosa Accordion company goes back almost 100 years, when Carlo Petosa started hand crafting accordions in his Seattle basement. That tradition was passed down to Carlos’s son, Joe Petosa, then to his grandson, Joe Jr., and now onto his great grandson, Joe the third. The custom instruments they make are sought after all over the world.

Agnes Bodor

 

As a kid, Agnes Bodor had a few unusual interests.

“I was really crazy about books about illnesses, you know, images of skin rashes and things like that,” Agnes said.

One day she spotted a small microscope in a store window, and longed to have it. That was unrealistic, considering that her family was poor and living under the Communist government in Hungary. But one day, a family friend with no children of his own stopped by Agnes’s house, and presented her with a small box.

Almin Zrno

 

This story originally aired Oct. 13, 2018.  

In the early 1990s, Gino Jevdjevic was living the typical life of a Yugoslavian popstar.

He signed autographs and posed for pictures with fans. He wore his hair in a ponytail and crooned schmaltzy melodies.

These days, Gino has a shaved head, a multitude of tattoos and a long, grey-streaked beard. He lives in Seattle, and his music is closer to metal or “Gypsy Punk” than it is to pop.

One of the Fort Casey disappearing guns overlooking the gateway to Puget Sound.
Parker Miles Blohm / KNKX

This week on Sound Effect, the theme is “Playing Defense” — stories of protecting our turf. First, we travel to Whidbey Island to learn about massive forts that were built in the 1890s to protect Puget Sound from invading ships. Then, we hear the story of a gifted Thurston County boxer with a magnetic personality — and a weakness. We learn what it takes for students of color to thrive at a mostly white university. An evolutionary biology researcher helps us understand that, sometimes, viruses are on our side. And we look back at one of the greatest middleweight boxers of a generation. 

Eloy Perez at the Washington coast.
Tony Overman / The Olympian

Eloy Perez was a professional boxer, and in the early 2000s, he was a rising star. He had a contract with Oscar De La Hoya's promotion company. He boxed at the Playboy Mansion and at the MGM Grand. He fought live on HBO. At one point, it looked like he would be a world champion.

But that didn't happen. In October 2019, Eloy was found dead in Tijuana. He'd been deported there a few years prior.

Tony Overman, a photojournalist for The Olympian who followed Eloy's career, can't make sense of it. "How does someone who seems to have everything going for him end up dead by the side of the road in Tijuana?"

This is that story. 

Lull Mengesha and Royce Kelly. Lull is the author of "The Only Black Student." Kelly is a recent high school graduate. Mengesha and Kelly talked about what it's like navigating white institutions, such as colleges and universities, as a person of color.
Jennifer Wing / KNKX

Going into his freshman year at the University of Washington back 2001, Lull Mengesha felt like he was prepared. Mengesha went to Rainier Beach High School in South Seattle. He was an honors student, he was on the cross country team and he was part of a student leadership group.

“I was really involved and ambitious,” Mengesha said.

Mengesha’s family is from Ethiopia. At Rainier Beach, there were a lot of students who looked like him. But his confidence took a huge hit after taking UW’s math placement test.

View through one of the look out towers at Fort Casey on Whidbey Island.
Parker Miles Blohm / KNKX

 

In the late 1800s, the U.S. government constructed three state-of-the-art defense systems: Fort Casey on Whidbey Island, Fort Flagler on Marrowstone Island and Fort Worden in nearby Port Townsend. They were built to thwart possible intruders from entering Puget Sound.

 

“The three of them in combination form this triangle, which has come to be called the triangle of fire,” said Sam Wotipka, who works for Washington State Parks.

 

Robert Hood / Fred Hutch News Service

 

Whether you know it or not, you’ve already gone viral — hundreds of thousands of times, in fact.

 

Viruses are part of who we are in a very concrete way. Fully 8 percent of our genetic code comes not from human ancestors, but from viruses, according to Harmit Malik. 

 

John Ochs poses in his memorabilia room. Ochs is a local boxing historian and author who has talked with Al Hostak over the years.
Parker Miles Blohm / KNKX

 

You did what you could to make money during the Depression, and for a Seattle teenager like Al Hostak, that meant fighting men with nicknames that didn’t point toward a happy ending.

 

Case in point, Al's first real boxing opponent: 

 

“Somebody called the Northwest Woodchopper, or something like that,” said John Ochs, a local boxing historian and author who has talked with Al over the years. 

 

Adrian Florez / KNKX

This week on Sound Effect, it is our yearly Thanksgiving week tradition of sharing our favorite music stories from the past year. 

Courtesy of Mark Rose

This story originally aired on Sept. 8, 2018.
 

Growing up on Mercer Island, Mark Rose was captivated by rock n’ roll. And like most kids, he wanted to be a part of it. But unlike most kids, Mark did end up in the music business. He didn’t make it as a musician, but instead worked on the business side of things.

Courtesy of Alex Hubbard

This story originally aired on Nov. 14, 2018.  

    

If you’ve spent any time walking around Seattle neighborhoods, you’ve probably spotted a “Fantasy A” poster bearing the name and image of a young African-American man.

 

His handmade fliers promote performances at local clubs and bars where he shares details about his life through rap music. He spends about six hours each day putting up posters.

 

“I’m a musician with autism and I write songs about my personal struggles,” Fantasy A said.

 

Parker Miles Blohm / KNKX

This story originally aired on March 30, 2019.

Xolie Morra Cogley is a musician in Seattle, and leader of the band Xolie Morra and the Strange Kind.

“I’ve always been into music since I was very little," Cogley says. "And so music, I think, really helped to move me in a more social direction, because I didn’t really do a lot of talking when I was little. But I developed a communication skill using music that helped me fit into certain groups. So I didn’t have to have conversations. I was just playing music.”

Penny Reagan shares a photo of her and her late husband Ricky.
Bethany Denton

This story originally aired on June 22, 2019. 

Jon McCollum (AKA Jon Boy) and Penny Reagan (AKA Momma Penny) have the kind of unlikely friendship that only a hectic kitchen job could foster. They worked together for food services at the University of Washington, and they hit it off right away.

Adrian Florez / KNKX

The theme for this week’s Sound Effect is “Hidden Talents.” First, we hear how a summer job at a theme park launched one woman’s career at NASA and Microsoft. Then, a young man leaves his Mormon faith for a new religion: stand-up comedy. A country star shares how being bullied motivated him to excel on stage and in sports. We meet a man who fled El Salvador’s civil war — and may have changed the course of the country. Finally, how one performance of “I’m a Little Teapot” changed the summer, and maybe even the lives, of a bunch of Boy Scouts.   

Al Martinez, second from left, stands with members of Nuevas Ideas Seattle, a group he started to support a presidential candidate in El Salvador who promised to rid the country of long-standing crime and corruption.
Courtesy of Al Martinez

 

Al Saade was in middle school when El Salvador’s civil war came knocking on his classroom door. It was the military. They suspected Al’s teacher was sympathetic to the guerrilla forces, which more or less amounted to a death sentence.

 

“The first thing that they did was shoot my teacher,” Saade said. “The kids they were screaming. There were guns shooting. I believe 12 kids were killed in my classroom that day.”

 

 Comedian Bengt Washburn. When he’s not performing stand up, he’s he’s hosting the Rule of Three podcast.
Parker Miles Blohm / KNKX

 

As a child, Bengt Washburn had two passions: art and comedy. Everything he drew made it to a child’s first art gallery — the refrigerator. His early comedic taste was formed by the records his dad brought home.

 

Washburn’s dad got Steve Martin’s "A Wild and Crazy Guy" record.

 

“My parents had a really good sense of humor," Washburn said. "They were funny people."

 

Courtesy of Cindy Healy

 

Growing up in Southern California, Cindy Healy wasn’t thinking much about her career. 

 

“The expectations for me, a girl growing up in the 1970s, they were really low,” she said. “The career advice I got was you’d better get in that kitchen and learn how to cook, 'cause you’re going to be someone’s wife someday.” 

 

The summer after she graduated high school, she did what a lot of Orange County teens did: she got a summer job at a theme park. In this case, Knott’s Berry Farm. 

Wolfe Maykut shares his story at Sound Effect's June storytelling event in Seattle.
Adrian Florez / KNKX

 

Once upon a time, there was a kid who discovered he had a flair for the stage. And that kid gave a performance (in his best Axl Rose mode) that would change the summer, and maybe even the lives, of a bunch of Boy Scouts.  

 

That kid was not Wolfe Maykut. But Wolfe was profoundly affected by the events in this story. It began for him when his parents, hoping to link him up with some of the good kids, enrolled him in Scout Troop 120. 

 

At first glance, “hidden” is not the word you’d use for Chance McKinney’s talents. As an athlete in high school and college, he got plenty of recognition. 

“I got a track scholarship to throw (javelin), and went to a Pac-12 school...I mean I kept qualifying for the Olympic trials,” said McKinney.

But this very capable guy has a whole other set of gifts that weren’t so obvious. They emerged years later, when he was teaching high school math in Mukilteo. 

Adrian Florez / KNKX

This week on Sound Effect, “Getting There” — stories of what happens along the way. First, we hear a serendipitous story about a veteran and a training map of a small Washington town. Then, we learn about a legendary punk rock riot on a ferry in 1987. We meet a doctor facing death who wants to teach other doctors how to deliver bad news. A young person happens upon an obscure printing press in Olympia, and develops an unexpected friendship with the woman who runs it. Finally, we hear an indie-rock essay about aging. 

Steve Cifka

Up a narrow wooded driveway on Olympia Westside, a small cottage sits beneath a canopy of trees. Inside, light from the south pours in through a large window as Jami Heinricher operates a Heidelberg printing press. It looks like something from Rube Goldberg’s imagination.

We’re at The Sherwood Press. How Jami came to own this business is a story that she’s told many times, but it can still move her to tears.

Monica Martinez

 

 

The sheer physicality of aging and dying are things we try not to think about, so it’s especially striking when these subjects turn up in unexpected places — say, your indie rock playlist. 

Carrie Goodwin plays bass for the Seattle-based band Great Grandpa, and she also happens to be a nursing student. In her song “Rosalie,” Goodwin introduces us to someone losing her grip on life — and maybe gets us a little closer to wrapping our brains around our common fate. 

Posey Gruener / KNKX

 

For decades, soldiers in the U.S. Army learned military navigation using a very specific map. Today, that map is burned in the memories of generations of service members. And it happens to be a map of a tiny town in Washington called Tenino. 

“It’s a topographical map, its scale is 1:50,000 … and up until about 2012, everybody in the army knew the Tenino Map Sheet,” said John Millard, a military veteran who used the map in training in the 1980s. 

Gabriel Spitzer / KNKX

 

Every year, in the Fall, Dr. Ron Naito makes a trip to Still Creek. The Portland, Ore. primary care doctor visits the creek, in the shadow of Mount Hood, to watch the salmon come back. 

 

“They always return to within 100 yards of where they were born, and it’s quite sort of a spiritual kind of thing, because that’s where they die and also where new life is coming in the coming months,” said Dr. Naito, from his hillside home in Portland, Oregon.

 

Illustration by Tom Niemeyer, for Chris Looney

There really was a punk rock riot on the Kitsap Ferry. There are contemporary media reports and court records to corroborate it. So it's a true story. But the story has also become legend -- part of local lore.

Over the past 30 years, people in Seattle’s punk scene have told it over and over. So have people who work for Washington State Ferries. Over time, the details have gotten a little murky.

Adrian Florez / KNKX

First, we learn about a map that shows the vast web of connections among Seattle bands. Then, we meet the chief of equity for Seattle Public Schools, whose  work is informed by her own past experience as a black student in the district. We meet a performance artist who explores how expectations of beauty killed her mother. We travel to a ridgetop observatory where young adults are working out who they’re going to be. And we learn how a Tacoma woman went from “cult” to college

Courtesy Seattle Band Map

Rachel Ratner is in a band called Wimps. She’s also a software engineer and a brand new mother — and the creator of the Seattle Band Map

“I was in a band called Partman Parthorse, and that’s where the idea started," Rachel says. "I remember I was talking to one of my friends about the band and how I was able to, through other people I played music with, connect my band to my friends’ bands, and we started to diagram them out, like a six degrees of Kevin Bacon, just to see how we were all connected.”

Courtesy of Grace Sullivan

 

If you went back in time and told 14-year-old Grace Sullivan that she’d grow up to study biology, she probably wouldn’t know what you were talking about. 

 

That’s because 14-year-old Grace didn’t know about cells, or atoms, or what a negative number was. Instead, her schooling covered what her parents considered relevant: quilting, knitting, grinding wheat, canning — and most of all, bible study. 

 

“You’re preparing for a life of motherhood and service,” she said. 

Parker Miles Blohm / KNKX

Back in 1988, the Seattle school district had a problem on its hands. Black third graders were underperforming their white classmates in reading by 29 percentage points. It was a glaring disparity, and it was getting attention. 

That’s the year that Keisha Scarlett started at Garfield High School in Seattle. Today Keisha is still at Seattle Public Schools, and so is the disparity — in fact, the gap has gotten even bigger. 

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