Sound Effect | KNKX

Sound Effect

Steve Albertson


This story originally aired Dec. 1, 2018.  

Meet the two teams:  

Seattle NABA is the local branch of the National Adult Baseball Association. When they’re not suited up, they’re tech workers and bartenders and consultants. At least one is a retiree.

The San Quentin A’s, in their green-and-gold uniforms, are all inmates at San Quentin prison in California. And it was on their turf that the two teams met for a recent four-game series.

Adrian Florez / KNKX

Collections come in all shapes and sizes. Whatever it is, a collection can take on a life of its own. And it says something about the person behind it. That’s our latest theme — The Collector: why we’re drawn to collect stuff, and what we’re willing to do in pursuit of it.

First, the co-owner of a Tacoma bar shares how he came to acquire a small collection of glass art from Dale Chihuly. Then, we meet a woman who makes jewelry out of animal bones. A man shares how his obsession with a certain tree led him on an intense trip to Chile in pursuit of seeds. We meet a Seattle librarian who is helping catalogue more than 30,000 zines from across the country. Next, we learn about the man who collected — among many things — recordings of ferry horns. Finally, one of our own shares what he’s learned from a collection of letters from past girlfriends.

Dan Tucker


Dan Tucker has a thing for trees, going back to his upbringing here in the Northwest, surrounded by lush Douglas fir forest. 

He gradually began to tell the trees apart: a Douglas fir versus a Lodgepole pine versus a Western hemlock. But there was one type of tree that looked really different — like, freakishly different. 

Seattle librarian Abby Bass is one of the people in charge of the Seattle Public Library’s “Zine Archive & Publishing Project,” or ZAPP for short.
Parker Miles Blohm / KNKX


Before Facebook and Instagram, before blogs and before the internet, some creative people with something to say put time and effort into making their own magazines. They’re called zines.


“The way I describe zines is they are small, handmade magazines that made out of passion and they are not made for profit,” said Seattle librarian Abby Bass. “They are very idiosyncratic, individual publications that really reflect the passions and opinions of particular individuals.”


Courtesy of Jessica Spring / Pacific Lutheran University


In the first half of the 20th century, before Washington state took over most of the region’s ferry lines, there was a signature sound you would hear as ferry boats came in to dock. 


And it had a name. 


“A warp and two woofs, it’s a long and two shorts,” says Alan Stein, a historian at the online encyclopedia of Washington state history, Historylink. 


A small wooden box Sound Effect producer Kevin Kniestedt's grandfather made when he was young used to be filled with poker chips and cards. Now, it's filled with letters from Kevin's past girlfriends.
Parker Miles Blohm / KNKX

Everyone who has made a long-distance move in their life — when they decided to take with them only what they could fit in their car — has been tasked with deciding what is absolutely necessary. Clean underwear, maybe some dishes. But on my multiple cross-country moves, I made room in the mid-sized sedan for a sentimental item or two. 

That included a small wooden box my grandfather made when he was young. When he gifted it to me, it included some poker chips and a deck of cards. 

Max Wasserman


Amanda Joe spent a lot of time on farms when she was a kid, and having seen a lot of dead animals, she thought she was used to death. 


But then she passed a fallen bird's nest on her way to school one day. The small pink bodies lying on the ground never left her memory. 


“They looked like they were sleeping,” Joe said. “The stillness of it is what scared me as a kid, silence, stillness and something is just gone now.”


Adrian Florez / KNKX

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.

A tour bus, right, and a chartered passenger bus, left, remain on the Aurora Ave. Bridge, following a fatal crash on Sept. 24, 2015.
Ted S. Warren / The Associated Press

One Thursday morning in September 2015, Eric Bishop was behind the wheel of a full duck boat. He was playing Sinatra for his 36 passengers as they headed 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, and 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. 

Tom Otto rescues a cat named Picasso from a tree.
Courtesy of Otto's GoPro footage


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. They drive all over the Puget Sound region plucking cats from trees and bringing them back to the safety of solid ground. They carry out this service for free.

Denise Malm is a social worker at the Wallingford Senior Center.  Over the past two years, Malm has seen a significant increase in the number of seniors needing affordable housing.
Jennifer Wing / KNKX


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.


Crystal meth
Creative Commons/Radspunk

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.

"Your Spirit Lives On," released in 1981, contains a dozen songs about folk hero Harry R. Truman.
Gabriel Spitzer / KNKX


I found the record 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 folk hero, contrarian and human country song Harry R. Truman. 

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. 

Courtesy of Sarah Guthrie / UW


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. 


Adrian Florez / KNKX

Tacoma is a pretty special place. We don’t want to romanticize it — it’s complicated, like anywhere. But it does have this quality of openness, a willingness to let people in.

That’s exactly what the Sound Effect team did on Saturday. Gabriel Spitzer hosted a special, live show from KNKX Public Radio’s new downtown Tacoma station, while strangers wandered around on self-guided tours of the space.

And the doors will stay open long past Saturday's grand opening. The new station offers a place to convene community conversations, share culture and just meet up. 

In honor of our debut at 930 Broadway, the latest episode of Sound Effect is all about Tacoma. 

First, a KNKX colleague takes us inside Tacoma's most romantic hidden gem. Then, we meet the Northwest's friendliest raccoons and the park ranger tasked with teaching Tacomans to love them from a distance. We hear from a Tacoma earthquake survivor who remains grateful to a boy who died saving his life decades ago. We discover the family affair that is Tacoma’s alcohol service industry. Tacoma’s first African-American mayor discusses the heartbreak of racism. Finally, we’ll learn about a Tacoma-based newspaper that was part of the GI underground movement.

Allie Ferguson / knkx

This story originally aired Dec. 31, 2016. 

Tacoma arborist Mik Miazio loves trees. He has loved them since he was a kid growing up in New Jersey.

"I remember climbing my first tree when I was a kid. As soon as I was able to, I would jump right in there and disappear. I’m in my own world right there," Miazio said.

It was this love that led Miazio to discover the tallest tree in Tacoma's Point Defiance Park. He noticed the giant Douglas Fir poking out of the canopy when he moved to Tacoma three years ago.

Credit Parker Miles Blohm

 This story originally aired on May 6, 2017.

Ben Union basically grew up in a church, and for him there was little question as to what he wanted to be when he grew up. He was going to be a preacher.

But in religion, just like in politics, or relationships, challenging or even traumatic experiences can make you change your feelings about a path you were once entirely certain about.

This was the case for Ben Union. He didn’t become a preacher, but instead, a professional musician in Tacoma.

U.S. Air Force, via Wikimedia Commons

This story originally aired on Nov. 4, 2017.   

On Nov. 28, 1952, a chance occurrence – a clerical error – resulted in Bob Hofferber not catching his scheduled flight from Fort Ladd, Alaska to McChord Field in south Tacoma. It was an error that likely saved his life. The U.S. Air Force C-54G Skymaster crashed on its approach, resulting in the deaths of all but two of the people on board.

Gabriel Spitzer / KNKX


This story originally aired Jan. 12, 2019.   

Nathalie Bajinya grew up in the Democratic Republic of Congo with her twin sister, her younger sister and brother, and her parents, a teacher and a school principal. In the early 2000s, the long-raging civil war in Congo was officially winding down, but all over the country, pockets of fighting continued.

Ashley Gross / KNKX

This story originally aired Feb. 25, 2017.   

To live in the Northwest is, to some extent, to roll the dice. If you lived through the 1965 Seattle earthquake, or the Nisqually quake in 2001, or if you just read the New Yorker article about the “really big one” destined to hit our region, you know this well: There are forces under our feet that could just shrug our cities off into the abyss.

The push and pull of continental plates is so huge compared with a puny little human. And yet, for a man named Kelcy Allen, the act of a child shielded him from the seismic forces. He’s spent decades feeling grateful to the boy who died saving his life.

Paula Wissel / KNKX

This story originally aired Feb. 25, 2017.

In the late 1960s and early '70s, all sorts of underground newspapers had emerged from the counterculture and antiwar movements. Most of them weren’t actually all that underground, since there wasn’t much risk involved in publishing or distributing them.

But if you were in the military and you wanted to publish stories that strayed from the company line, you could get in serious trouble. That led in part to something called the GI underground movement.

Wikipedia Commons

This story originally aired on Feb. 11, 2017.   

In 1950s Tacoma, Harold Moss and his wife Willibelle faced racism in the search for a home.

“You learned that when you called a white realtor, you had to use your white voice, and if you sounded black, you weren’t going to get anywhere,” said Moss.

The couple owned a plot of land on which they intended to build a house, but banks refused to give him a mortgage and contractors refused to build. They decided to keep the land and buy a house instead.

Raccoons at Point Defiance Park in Tacoma, Washington.
Parker Miles Blohm / KNKX

This story originally aired on Feb. 17, 2018.

If you visit Tacoma's Point Defiance Park most any afternoon, you'll see raccoons lounging about the trails by day, often next to signs warning visitors to not feed them. 

If you drive slowly enough through the park's roads, they might rush out of the misty old-growth forest to greet you, tiny paws outstretched for food. If you're on a bike, they might scurry after you for a stretch.

Kevin Kniestedt / knkx

This story originally aired on Sept. 24, 2016

There are some things you might only be able to notice if you happen to be an insider. If you have lived in Tacoma for any extended period of time, there is a pretty good chance that you feel a bit territorial about it. It is a city that gets told that it can't measure up to Seattle. It is often associated with a certain aroma, while residents know that the smell doesn't really exist anymore, or at least doesn't compare to how it did decades ago.

Courtesy of Cheri Spitzer

  Host Gabriel Spitzer celebrates some of his favorite stories from past shows on today’s episode. We’ll meet a punter who thought he was a linebacker for a minute, a composer working in an empty 2 million gallon water tank, a cowboy who “met” Bigfoot and a Balkan rock star who staged an antiwar musical in a war zone. 

Centrum Foundation

This story originally aired June 25, 2016.  

When Stuart Dempster learned about the empty 2-million-gallon water tank on the Olympic Peninsula, he had one thought: he had to make music there. Dempster is a well-known composer and trombonist, an emeritus professor at the University of Washington with a longstanding interest in recording music out in unusual spaces.

Stephen Brashear / AP

This story originally aired April 2, 2016.  

Last December, St. Louis (now Los Angeles) Rams punter Johnny Hekker, an Edmonds resident who grew up in Bothell,  did not make many new friends in the Pacific Northwest. He punted the ball to the Seahawks, and after the play was over, he came up behind Seattle defensive end Cliff Avril and drilled him to the ground.

Gabriel Spitzer / KNKX

This story originally aired on April 28, 2018.  

If you close your eyes and picture Sasquatch, there’s a good chance you’ll conjure up a very specific image: a big, hairy humanoid, mid-stride, arms swinging, head turned to glance back over its right shoulder.

In that iconic picture, the thing Bigfoot was turning back to look at was Bob Gimlin.

This week on Sound Effect, producer Posey Gruener shares a few favorites from the stories she's produced this year. You'll hear a love story, visit a graveyard, and meet a rapping rabbi. You'll also hear a personal story.

Grave No. 2695 gets a new headstone, with a name: Ruby Violet Knight.
Posey Gruener / KNKX

This story originally aired on April 20, 2019.

At most cemeteries, the graves tell a little story. The name of the person buried there, the day they were born, and the day they died.

But at a historic cemetery outside Western State Hospital, an inpatient psychiatric hospital in Lakewood, Washington, the graves only have numbers.