Oral Histories

Mill Valley has a rich local history and the Mill Valley History Room’s collection of recorded oral histories reflects that. Listen to the voices and stories of Mill Valley residents, both past and present, famous and lesser known. The Mill Valley Oral History Project consists of interviews with Mill Valley Residents recorded on cassette tape. Tapes are available for listening in The Lucretia Little History Room. Paper copies of transcribed interviews may be borrowed.

George Leonard

Click Here to Listen to George Leonard’s Story

George Leonard was a renaissance man with a lifetime of fascinating stories. In his obituary the San Francisco Chronicle described George Leonard as a” charismatic, tireless journalist who foresaw – and then pioneered – the human potential movement.”

Leonard is credited with introducing the “free will” movement of the ’60s with a special issue of LOOK Magazine entitled “Youth of the Sixties: The Explosive Generation.” He predicted the end to the sexual revolution and the collapse of the Soviet Union.

He became active at the Esalen Institute, a countercultural retreat at Big Sur, and wrote a dozen books intended to help readers expand their consciousness and achieve their potentials. Among his books are the best-sellers “Education and Ecstasy,” “The Transformation,” “The Ultimate Athlete,” “Mastery” and “The Life We Are Given.”

Leonard was married three times and had four children. He died at his Mill Valley home January 6, 2010 at the age of 86.

Ray Strong

Click Here to Listen to Ray Strong’s Story

California artist Ray Strong was born January 3, 1905 in Corvallis, Oregon, and was a resident of Mill Valley from 1948 to 1965, when he moved to Santa Barbara. His family donated his work  “Fog Over the Golden Gate, from Tamalpais.” to the Library.  It now hangs over the fireplace in the Main Reading Room and joins the Library’s other Ray Strong painting, a view of Mount Tamalpais from Strawberry Lagoon, which hangs in the History Room over the Map Case.

Strong, who died in 2006 at age 101, was a noted California landscape painter. He loved Marin County, the setting of many of his works, and called it “one of the most paintable bits of landscape in the world.” He visited his in-laws frequently at their cabin in Inverness, and with the help of his father, Strong built a home at 383 Lovell Avenue, where he lived with his wife and two children.

In this recording, Strong talks about his experiences in and around the various art colonies of Mill Valley in the 40’s and 50’s, and his meetings with such luminaries as Frank Lloyd Wright, Ansel Adams and Marin County legend Vera Schultz.


Russ Kiernan

Click Here to Listen to Russ Kiernan’s Story 

Russ Kiernan is a well-known Mill Valley resident.  He is most recognized for his long list of Dipsea race records, the 7.4-mile footrace from Mill Valley to Stinson Beach. He finished among the top three 15 times, captured 26 team trophies and 29 black shirts for finishing in the top 35. He holds 13 Dipsea single-age records and won the Double Dipsea an absurdly high 11 times. His story was recorded at his home in 2013.

Kiernan, a native San Franciscan, has lived in Mill Valley more than 40 years. He followed his brother Don into the Dipsea race in 1967.


Rita Abrams

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Two-time Emmy Award winner Rita Abrams and her Strawberry Point School kids captured hearts and airwaves worldwide with their chartbuster hit song, “Mill Valley.” She recorded an oral history for the Mill Valley Public Library’s Lucretia Little History Room in 1970.  But the story didn’t stop there.

As a composer, lyricist and writer, Rita continues to garner honors for her stage musicals, children’s music and videos, pop and novelty songs, humor books, greeting cards, and custom shows.