EATON — Kathy Hayes didn’t learn about Appalachian culture just through books.
It’s her birthright.
She grew up in the mountains of North Carolina and graduated from Berea College in Kentucky. Both of those are good credentials for her job teaching Appalachian Studies at Sinclair Community College in Dayton.
She’ll share some of what she teaches with an audience in Eaton on June 3.
Hayes first learned the subject at the foot of her mother, Mary Jane Queen, and lived the culture with her family and community. Queen was a banjo player, singer, gardener, and craftswoman who delighted in traditional culture.
Hayes and her six brothers and sisters were the prime recipients of their mother’s knowledge, with a strong focus on traditional music. They still perform occasionally as the Queen Family Band. Hayes sings and plays guitar.
She ended up in the Miami Valley when her husband started working at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base. She eventually found her way both to Sinclair and to Wright State University, where she earned an advanced degree.
The four classes Hayes teaches at Sinclair are:
Appalachian History & Culture
Folkways, she said, are just “the ways the folk lived.” In addition to music, they include traditional cooking (Hayes still can make a biscuit like her mother taught her), games, work techniques and almost any skill or story passed down by word of mouth.
Hayes said these folkways may seem familiar to people in rural area outside the mountains because “county people have a lot in common, in Appalachia or Ohio.”
She delights in teaching people of Appalachian heritage. “We should all be proud of our history,” she said. “We should all know our history and practice it.”
But she also loves Dayton’s diversity and is happy to teach people from other parts of America – and the world – as well as to learn from them.
“It makes us appreciate our culture if we know about others’ and can be aware of other cultures and be knowledgeable and respectful,” she said.
In addition to teaching her community college classes, she participates in outreach and in Sinclair’s College for Lifelong Learning.
Hayes is looking forward to sharing part of her Appalachian Studies knowledge with an audience in Preble County. She will be at the Eaton library Saturday June 3, from 2-4 p.m. for a talk sponsored by the Preble County Genealogical Society.
When Hayes shares the culture she grew up in and has studied, she’s putting her birthright into action.
“My mother’s wish was that the family carry on our traditions,” she said. “I’m honoring my family and my heritage by continuing to teach other people.”
Judi Hetrick, a retired journalism professor and a folklorist, would love to hear from people in Preble County about their family, neighborhood or community traditions. Please e-mail email@example.com, or leave a phone message with The Register-Herald.