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Atlanta Sounds

Atlanta Sounds debuted on September 10, 2007 and is designed to show the texture of Atlanta. The stories are portraits, oral histories, anecdotes, memories and fragments of life overheard. All told by those who live, work, and visit metro Atlanta.


Stephannie Stokes / WABE


It can take some courage to exit the parking lot of McIntosh High School in Peachtree City just after the bell rings. Even after three years on her golf cart, senior Amelia Traylor isn’t always up for it.

“I hang out with my friends in the drama room for the traffic to clear because it’s terrifying.”

What’s terrifying? Picture several hundred golf carts, with teenagers in the driver’s seats, all headed in the direction of a single exit.

Retiree Jean El Guindi took to the Cobb County Senior Center stage to perform her comedy act.
Melissa Terry / WABE

What’s the one thing you always wanted to do but, for whatever reason, just never got around to doing?  Was it learn to play an instrument? Climb Stone Mountain? Learn a foreign language? However, as we get older, we recognize that at some point, it is now or never.

Well, for retiree Jean El Guindi, that thing was stand-up comedy.

Through the Cobb County Senior Center, she signed up for an acting class, and the rest is now a fun part of her storied history, as we hear in this Atlanta Sounds piece when she braved the stage for the very first time.   

Stephannie Stokes / WABE

If you haven't shopped at Underground Atlanta lately, you're not alone. The indoor mall has steadily declined over the years. And now the city, after struggling for years to revitalize it, is selling it off to a developer.

But that’s not to say all businesses in the subterranean shopping center have given up. One vendor named Jibril ​(That really is the name he goes by; we asked him three times.) still regularly operates the photo booth he started there 15 years ago.

Kodac Harrison has been the emcee of Java Monkey's weekly open mic poetry night for the past 15 years.
Mary Claire Kelly / WABE

There’s something about coffeehouses that brings people together besides the free wifi.  At Java Monkey in Decatur it seems to be the familiar faces and – on Sunday evenings at least – the amateur, uncensored poetry. 

In this Atlanta Sound we meet Kodac Harrison, the organizer of the coffeehouse's weekly open mic poetry night. He has been hosting the event since it began back in 2001.

Stephannie Stokes / WABE

We’re often cautioned not to talk to strangers. It’s something that’s engrained in us as kids. 

And yet, here in Atlanta, there is a man, now 70 years old, who goes out of his way to do just that.

Neil Shulman strikes up conversations with strangers at bus stops, in restaurants and at Emory University, where he’s been a professor of medicine for many years, all in an effort to get to know the world better.

Wildlife Rehabilitator, Marjan Ghadrdan with owls Ellis and Cricket
Dave Barasoian

For those of us with an injured or sick pet, we know the veterinarian's office is always an option, but what if you've found a wild animal in need of help? 

That is where AWARE, the Atlanta Wild Animal Rescue Effort, might be able to help.

The staff, interns and volunteers at this wildlife refuge care for orphaned and injured animals like opossums, turtles and owls.

Stephannie Stokes / WABE

There was a time when you could turn around in your seat at the movie theater and see someone working away up in the booth behind you.

That was the projectionist, a person trained in the art of film screening.

Today their jobs have largely been replaced by computers and digital technology. But here in Atlanta there is still at least one projectionist working to keep the cinematic tradition alive.

Stephannie Stokes / WABE

Just off Martin Luther King Jr. Drive in Atlanta’s Vine city neighborhood, there’s a home with a blue sign on the front that reads "Georgia Pool Checkers Association." 

For nearly 50 years, it has been a meeting place for African-American men around Atlanta who play a game called "pool checkers."

While the club doesn’t have as many members as it once did, you’ll still find a handful of men there just about every afternoon, battling it out over a checker board.

Ryan Nabulsi/WABE

With its tree canopy and winding trails, Kennesaw Mountain National Battlefield Park offers a quiet, serene escape from the city. That is, until the park's volunteer canon crew arrives.

A handful of days each year, the group of men, young and old, assembles on the mountain, dressed in wool uniforms. And they do what their name implies – shoot off cannons. 

Stephannie Stokes / WABE

If you’re ever around the Pryor Street post office in downtown Atlanta around the hours of 3 and 4 a.m., you’ll discover an unusual sight: a postman in the middle of a dark parking lot strumming along to smooth jazz on an electric guitar.

Meet Leroy Glover, a postman for Atlanta's Grant Park neighborhood. Each morning he wakes up extra early so that he can practice guitar before his 5:30 a.m. shift. 

Atlanta Sounds: A Worldy Education In Chocolate

Jun 15, 2015
Eric Durban / WABE

Life's passions and interests can strike us when we least expect it. 

For Afsaneh Ferdowsi Milani, it was as a graduate student in Florence, Italy. She needed a job and found one at a nearby gelato shop. It was there that she began to appreciate the depth and richness of chocolate. Milani found herself seeking out information in order to become better-versed in the dark stuff. 

Stephannie Stokes / WABE

There are plenty of collectors out there ─ people who fixate on or fall in love with an object of some kind.  For kids, it could be a rock collection. Adults might be more into vinyl records or maybe stamps.

But Marietta resident Jay Williams is different. OK, he is a collector, but his fascination is with typewriters.  

It's a fascination that started when he took his first typing class.  That's when Williams, who has been blind since birth, says he learned that typewriters could be his way to communicate with the sighted world. 

Bob Jamerson, also known as Baton Bob, in Buckhead.
Alison Guillory / WABE

You’ll know Bob Jamerson when you see him. He can sometimes be seen twirling a baton, whistling and marching through the streets of Atlanta in a pink tutu. He's also known as "Baton Bob."

But what you may not know is that Baton Bob was born out of a tragedy and debuted first in St. Louis, just after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11.

That's when he was furloughed from his job as a flight attendant and was looking for something to cheer himself up. He noticed his costumes and twirling routines were making others smile as well.

Stephannie Stokes / WABE

Buckhead resident Lisa Frank has lined the walls of her home with art. It’s art with a special meaning – it was all created by her late mother, Shirlee Frank.

Since Shirlee passed away, Lisa has become determined to share her mother’s vast body of work – including watercolors, etchings and, in particular, her intricately designed ceramic whistles.

It’s something Frank was unable to do while her mom was alive, as she tells us in this Atlanta Sounds. 

Vishal Vaid

Love is the predominant subject for a form of poetry known as ghazal. And it was the love of Vishal Vaid's musical parents that opened him up to this classical art form. 

With roots in ancient Arabia, ghazal is traditionally sang in languages that would prove foreign to many Americans, such as Farsi, Urdu or Hindi.

Atlanta area youth travel baseball coach Kenny James works on defensive plays with his team of 10-year-olds.
Mary Claire Kelly / WABE


For many American kids — and adults — nothing says spring like the sound of a bat connecting with a baseball.

Kenny James knows this sound well. He’s a former professional baseball player who played with the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim for two years. But for over a decade now, James has been a professional travel youth baseball coach.

In this Atlanta Sound, we walk onto the field with Coach James and his team, the K. J. Lions. 

Stephannie Stokes / WABE

Atlanta has had a sometimes contentious relationship with its parking enforcement agency, PARKAtlanta.

When the private company took over enforcement in Atlanta six years ago, many drivers complained of aggressive ticketing. And at one point, an Atlanta City Council member called on the city to cancel the contract.

While the city eventually restructured its deal with the agency to address the complaints, today you’ll still see the occasional bumper sticker that reads, “Nobody Likes PARKAtlanta.”

A completed pair of boots. Sarah Green says it takes her about 40 hours in a week to make three pairs.
Myke Johns / WABE

The work that goes into making a pair of leather shoes is exacting and difficult.

Few people make shoes on a small scale anymore, but there is a relative newcomer. Sarah Green makes boots, and, in this Atlanta Sound, we paid her a visit at her workshop in Atlanta to find out how it’s done.

And the 30-second version of this story:

Have an idea for Atlanta Sounds? Let us know!

Stephannie Stokes / WABE

Psychiatrists treat people of all walks of life for all kinds of issues. It could be anxiety, depression or other brain disorders like schizophrenia. But while the diagnoses and histories may vary, most psychiatrists see all their patients in one place ─ at their clinic or practice.

Calligraphy: A Quiet Art With Lots Of Flourish

Mar 29, 2015
Eric Durban / WABE

Putting ink to a page is far less common in today's highly technological age. Yet, the art of writing isn't lost on everyone.

On a family vacation to Ireland as a child, Emily Canter-Amthor saw the "Book of Kells" for the first time. It's an intricately written manuscript dating back to around 800 A.D., and she was fascinated by the stylistic lettering.

Using an array of writing tools, including quill pens made from the flight feathers of birds, calligraphy is still practiced today by artists such as Canter-Amthor.

Stephannie Stokes / WABE

For thousands of years, people have used a craft called "spinning" to turn fibers, such as silk, cotton and wool, into thread and yarn.

While today most thread is spun on machines, there is a growing community of handspinners – people who prefer to create it themselves. To learn what's behind this movement, WABE's Stephannie Stokes talked with Paula Vester, Deborah Held and Alyssa Gulledge at the Peachtree Handspinners Guild.

  Here is the 30-second version of this story:

Eric Durban / WABE

Bob Ruby is an avid volunteer and has been an outdoorsman his entire life. So when he retired from the corporate world, it seemed like a natural fit to volunteer outdoors.

Stephannie Stokes / WABE

Many might take reading for granted. But for those who are blind, it can be a real challenge to access everything that’s written on paper and online. That’s why many who are blind tune into the Georgia Radio Reading Service.

The service broadcasts the written word to visually impaired people all around Georgia. Volunteers read hundreds of materials over the airwaves each month, including everything from grocery coupons and newspapers to full-length books.

Local Artist Designs A World Of Balloons

Mar 1, 2015
Eric Durban / WABE

You’re probably familiar with the shiny "Get Well" and "Congratulations" balloons you find floating at the grocery or dollar store. There is however a higher world of balloons that supplies everything from ballroom displays and corporate events to bar mitzvahs and graduations.

In this Atlanta Sound, we meet certified balloon artist Gayle Rubenstein.

Stephannie Stokes / WABE

Neon signs are all over the streets of American cities, from the simple red ones that let you know a business is “open” to the more elaborate lights that adorn old theaters and hotels.

But what you probably don’t know about those familiar, bright-colored signs is that, whether they're words or pictures, they’re all shaped by hand. By people known as “neon tube benders.”  

Dakota Lobban/Druid Hills High School

A few years ago, it seems like the big argument in photography was film versus digital.

Fast forward to today, and most people probably just pick up their phone when they want to snap a quick picture. While digital photography makes capturing a moment very convenient, there’s still something special about black and white film photography to teacher Noelle Petersen. 

We visited her photography class at Druid Hills High School to find out how her students have taken to shooting and developing film in this Atlanta Sound.

Finding A Home On The Felt Table

Feb 8, 2015
Eric Durban / WABE

On the face of it, the game of pool is quite straight forward: knock balls into pockets on a table.

But the skill and intrigue of the game was enough for Hollywood to take notice, casting critically acclaimed actor Paul Newman as a pool player in "The Hustler" (1961) and "The Color of Money" (1986). 

Far from the glitz and high stakes games though, there are still regular people meeting up to socialize and enjoy competition on the felt table.

Stephannie Stokes / WABE

Just north of Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport, College Park might have one of the world's noisiest neighbors. Thousands of planes take off and land each year on the runways just down the road from the city center. 

But despite all the noise, College Park resident John Duke thinks the airport is an important part of his city’s identity, and even what makes it great.

 Below you can hear the 30-second version of this Atlanta Sounds story.

Have an idea for Atlanta Sounds? Let us know here!

Stephannie Stokes/WABE

At the Martin Luther King Jr. National Historic Site, you'll find the original Ebenezer Baptist Church. It’s where Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. delivered his first sermon and where he would serve as co-pastor until his assassination in 1968.

Today, it’s no longer a place of worship, but a place where people can learn about the legacy of Dr. King. Sometimes it’s also where visitors can experience what it might have been like to hear the civil rights leader while he was alive. 

In Business With Man's Best Friend

Jan 18, 2015
Eric Durban / WABE

Perhaps you love animals and you’d gladly just hang with your dog all day if it was possible. For some people that’s a reality, because it’s their business. Increasingly, people are turning to others to help them out with their animals. 

In this Atlanta Sound, we profile Terie Hansen, who left the daily grind of advertising to care for other people’s pets. 

And the 30-second version of this story:

Have an idea for Atlanta Sounds? Let us know!