Six Years Of City Cafe | WABE 90.1 FM

Six Years Of City Cafe

Jan 9, 2015

City Cafe began on Feb. 2, 2009 with a few jaunty notes and host John Lemley welcoming listeners to the noon hour for a mix of classical music and stories and interviews which took a look at the artistic and cultural life of Atlanta. 

The Cafe is closing for good on Jan. 9, and we are taking this week to look back at our favorite stories. All of us on the City Cafe staff would like to thank you for listening.

Read more about the changes coming to WABE here.

Death Cafe Atlanta: A Coffee Klatch for Grim Matters

Cake AND Death! Cake at Death Cafe Atlanta
Credit Kate Sweeney / WABE

It felt fitting that our last story have to do with death...and life, and renewal.

We're talking about Death Café Atlanta—a meet-up group whose subject matter is all things grim, and which just might be one of most lively clubs in the city.

As WABE’s Kate Sweeney reported in 2013, the group’s popularity might signal a larger trend.

For more on Death Café Atlanta, click here. For info on Georgia’s advance directive, a document which combines aspects of a living will and power of attorney, click here.

StoryCorps Atlanta: Melissa and Myke Johns

Melissa, Alexander and Myke Johns at StoryCorps Atlanta
Credit Storycorps

You may be familiar with the work of radio producer Myke Johns here on WABE.

However, he and his wife, Melissa, also visited StoryCorps in 2013 to record a story about their infant son, Alex. During her pregnancy, Melissa was diagnosed with preeclampsia, a potentially life-threatening illness that causes dangerously high blood pressure.

A note: The acronym "NICU" refers to the hospital’s neonatal intensive care unit.


Atlanta Family Finds Richness in Giving

Kevin & Hannah Salwen

Up until the mid-2000s, the Salwens were a typical well-off Atlanta family.  Successful careers allowed parents Kevin and Joan to buy a grand and beautiful home, and their children Hannah and Joe got to enjoy all the luxuries and all the stuff that came along with their parents’ success. 

While they were all living a contented and comfortable life, the Salwens found that having such a large house and so many belongings was causing them to drift apart.  One fateful night, a chance encounter changed things forever.

Here are Kevin and Hannah Salwen telling their story, upon which they based their book, The Power of Half.


Writing and Listening Behind Bars

Bill Taft works with a student inmate at Phillips State Prison.
Credit Georgia Department of Corrections

Prison reform has made news across Georgia in recent years, including a plan by Governor Nathan Deal to emphasize classroom education for nonviolent offenders.

In 2012, WABE’s Kate Sweeney paid a visit to the state’s only creative writing class taking place behind bars, and brought back this story.  A note: Rules regarding the program make it necessary to use pseudonyms for the inmates featured in this story.

Since this piece first aired, Bill Taft and Sarah Higinbotham have expanded their program into a nonprofit called Common Good Atlanta. Today, faculty from Georgia State, Georgia Tech, and Emory teach three full-semester courses at Phillips State in a variety of subjects, and their undergraduate students participate in combined discussions with the inmate students there.

Jim Burress: Game Show Champion

Jim Burress on The Price is Right in 2001
Credit CBS

You may know Jim Burress as a calm and collected reporter from the WABE Newsroom, and local host of Weekend Edition.  Fair enough, but in October of 2012, we found a great excuse to tell about another side to Jim. That’s when a traveling version of the television game-show The Price is Right came to the Fox Theater, and Jim visited City Cafe to tell his own story of game show dreams that came true.

Since then, Jim took a chance on another game show—Let’s Make a Deal.

And now, what you've really been waiting for: You can view a video of  Jim's 2001 Price is Right victory here, and his December 2012 appearance on Let's Make a Deal here.

Recycling History at Ponce City Market

A portion of the electrical panel that powered the building for years. In its new life, this may serve as the backdrop at a bar or in a lobby.
Credit Kate Sweeney / WABE

Some of our very favorite stories took us to places we might not otherwise have gone. Like this one, which took us for a hard-hat tour through the dark of the old City Hall East Building in the days before its remodeling into Ponce City Market. WABE’s Kate Sweeney brought us this story in 2012.

Elements of Ponce City Market are now open for business, such as Dancing Goats Coffee, housed where that old auto garage was. The rest of its 300-thousand square feet of retail, restaurants and office space see their grand opening in May of 2015. 

John Lemley: The Newest Silverback

City Cafe host John Lemley, dressed out and ready to train with the Atlanta Silverbacks
Credit Kate Sweeney / WABE

What happens when a classical and public radio host who once ran from dodgeball is sent to train with Atlanta's pro soccer team? It was a bit nerve-wracking when the Atlanta Silverbacks, invited host John Lemley out to spend a day in training with them. We dressed out and headed to Silverbacks Stadium, where we met with team director Rodrigo Rios.


Braves Organist Takes Us Out to the Ballgame

Matt Kaminski, organist for the Atlanta Braves
Credit Myke Johns / WABE

The Atlanta Braves’ home of Turner Field may be a state-of-the-art park, with giant LED screens and an enormous sound system, but as you’re watching a game, the sound of the traditional organ can still be heard pumping up the crowd as players make their way to the batter’s box.  We paid a visit to Turner Field to meet Matthew Kaminski, the man behind the keys.


On the Face of Stone Mountain With the Carving's Caretaker

Stone Mountain carving caretaker Mark Lassiter on the face of the mountain
Credit David Barasoain / WABE

Our reporting has taken us to all manner of unusual spots around town—a small cemetery on top of Vinings Mountain, overlooking I-85 from the 400 flyover, beneath Central Ave. to see the city's very first mile marker, and many more. And this particular story brought us to a highly visible spot where none of us have ever been: the Confederate Memorial Carving on the face of Stone Mountain. WABE’s David Barasoain introduced us to Mark Lassiter, the man whose job it is to clean the carving. 

A Visit to Ms. Ann's Snack Bar

The Ghetto Burger at Ms. Ann's Snack Shop
Credit Kate Sweeney / WABE

Hamburgers have become haute cuisine in recent years, and of course Atlanta offers up its fair share of gourmet takes on the burger. But in 2010, WABE’s Kate Sweeney paid a visit to one place on Memorial Drive that’s been serving up its own abundant version for years. 

This story received a 2010 Edward R. Murrow Award for Best Feature.

Illuminating the BeltLine with the Lantern Parade

Credit Myke Johns / WABE

In our six years of covering the artistic and cultural life of Atlanta, it has been interesting to see small events grow into fully-fledged traditions, as has been the case with this story.

In September of 2014, East Atlanta and the Old 4th Ward were lit up with a nighttime spectacle: a lantern parade along the BeltLine which drew a record crowd of over 20,000 spectators and participants. WABE’s Myke Johns was there for the second-ever parade in October of 2010 and followed the few hundred lantern-bearing folks from Reynoldstown to North Avenue.

An Operatic Cooking Lesson

Susan Nicely as Julia Child in Atlanta Opera's production of Bon Appetit at Cook's Warehouse
Credit WABE

City Cafe has always been keen on both the culinary and the musical, and this story combines the two. Julia Child was a folk hero of French cuisine, and in 2009, we visited Cook’s Warehouse in Ansley Mall to catch a performance that paid tribute to her. It was a show of sung recipes put on by the Atlanta Opera. We spoke to the star of Bon Appetit, Susan Nicely.

Hollis Gillespie: Master Cupcake Baker

Author Hollis Gillespie in the WABE studios
Credit Nick Nesmith / WABE

Hollis Gillespie is a perennial Atlanta figure—her columns have appeared in Creative Loafing, Atlanta Magazine, and her first novel, “Unaccompanied Minor,” came out last year.

In March of 2009, we paid her a visit at her home to bake cupcakes…and to talk about the very serious cause behind the deliciousness. 

Making Biscuits with Scott Peacock

Scott Peacock preparing biscuits in Watershed's kitchen, Decatur, in 2009.
Credit Myke Johns / WABE

This has always been a lunchtime show and we’ve had a passion for the culinary—whether it’s baking cupcakes, frying latkes, taste-testing ballpark hot dogs,  or, as in this segment, making biscuits with an award-winning chef.

We're referring to none other than Scott Peacock, James Beard Award winner and former head chef at Watershed. You may have seen his writing and recipes in Better Homes and Gardens Magazine, and Peacock is also coauthor of The Gift of Southern Cooking, which collects the “recipes and revelations” of his work with Edna Lewis, widely regarded as the South’s answer to Julia Child.

In September of 2009, we visited Peacock in his kitchen at Watershed in Decatur.

Literary Death Match at Decatur Book Festival

Michael Muhammad Knight
Credit Michael Muhammad Knight

Over Labor Day weekend of 2009, the Decatur Book Festival saw some interesting events that you wouldn’t normally associate with literature and books—none were more far out there than the Literary Death Match. This was a wrestling match between author Michael Muhammad Knight and Abdullah the Butcher. Knight’s work fuses the rebellion of punk rock with serious musings on the Muslim faith. Abdullah the Butcher is a semi-retired pro wrestler. And WABE’s Myke Johns was ringside when things went wrong.

We bring you the following story with the disclaimer that it does contain some graphic imagery which may be upsetting to some listeners.

Books with Daren Wang

Credit Bob AuBuchon /

Since City Cafe first debuted, host John Lemley has spent just about every Monday talking with the AJC-Decatur Book Festival’s Daren Wang about the literary events happening around metro Atlanta.

John and Daren discuss how Atlanta's literary scene has grown over the years and also discuss a new book that Daren thinks captures that growth, "A Cozy Infinity: 25 (Mostly) Atlanta Writers on the Never-Ending Allure of Books and Bookstores."