Most anyone close to the Urban Appalachian Community Coalition and its predecessor, the Urban Appalachian Council, and certainly anyone with an interest in and love of Appalachian music will remember the late Taylor Farley. Taylor was a singular force on the banjo, known for his startling command of bluegrass and his unique way of blasting rock and roll from a banjo. His version of “Wipeout” is legendary. He even beat the drum line on the banjo drum to fill out the famous beat of this surf guitar classic. Taylor Farley and his family were also deeply involved with UAC as artists, advocates and educators. His wife Vickie was a teacher at the East End Heritage School, among other schools serving her Appalachian community. His son, Taylor (Spud) has not only carried on the music tradition with his band, Blue Rock, but is also now a family law attorney. The youngest of Taylor and Vickie’s clan, Katie, is a photographer. This singular spirit is carried through with Taylor’s elder daughter, Johanna Farley-Krumer, as well, who is making masks to protect against the spread of Covid-19.
Johanna has established Krumer Family Masks and is working with her entire family making protective masks in her home. These are hand-sewn masks complete with non-woven interfacing that works to protect the wearer and others from the spread of the Covid-19 virus. So effective are the masks made by Johanna and family that they have been officially adopted by first responders including the Independence Kentucky Police.
Johanna told me that her oldest daughter “maintains quality control, the 16 year-old helps out with the sewing and is the social media genius behind their Facebook and order forms, the 10 year-old twins sort out the masks once they are finished, and other members of the family pick up everything from handling orders to legal advice.” These kinds of family-oriented actions help drive the operation and extend to the community beyond.
The project began after Johanna’s children told her that bus drivers and others needed protective masks. She decided to make a few and give them away. The sewing skills were already in place. Johanna explained, “As a little girl I would get taken along to UAC meetings where some members held a quilting group. Watching the quilters sparked my interest in sewing. About five years ago I finally got my own sewing machine. I have been at it in earnest ever since.”
All these years later, in the midst of our current crisis, it seemed only natural to put those skills to work to help people through this scary time. Johanna started by making masks for the family. After the initial prompt from her daughter, the idea just caught on. At this stage Johanna and family have made over 3000 masks. They have donated most of them, and the masks they sell serve only to keep making masks. They do not take in any profits from this project. Krumer Family Masks donated 2000 masks to Kenton County, Lower Price Hill, and elsewhere. They even mobilized an entire shipment to an elderly community to make certain all residents had protective masks.
Johanna said the experience has been “amazing and wild. We are making about 250 masks a day and shipping them out as fast as we make them.” They have gone through over 300 yards of material and 2100 ear bands in one week. I should mention that Johanna did some serious research in order to make these masks correctly. The specifications for the non-woven interface on the inside of the mask come directly from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention with additional guidelines from the State of Kentucky official documents. The masks made by Krumer Family Masks are legitimate protective gear against the spread of Covid-19.
Krumer Family Masks maintains a Facebook account where you can get more information and details on how to order masks: https://www.facebook.com/Krumer-Family-Masks-115908993431166/. You can also contact them via email at [email protected]. Johanna, her family, and the friends who have joined her to make these masks make it possible for anyone who needs a mask to get one.
The virtues of the urban Appalachian communities include the drive to take care of each other and the larger community in which we are embedded. Making do with what we have and using these resources to help others is one of the reasons the thread of Appalachia still extends from the mountains to the cities and remains strong through generations. Johanna Taylor-Krumer and her family embody these virtues and ideals. These are the ideals the Urban Appalachian Community Coalition foster in everything we do, and we are genuinely proud to see one of our own have such a positive impact during the crisis that has come with the Covid-19 pandemic.
Mike Templeton is a writer, independent scholar, barista, cook, guitar player, and accidental jack-of-all-trades. He lives in downtown Cincinnati with his wife who is a talented photographer. They spend their free time walking around the city snapping photos. She looks up at that the grandeur of the city, while Mike always seems to be staring at the ground.