Reported in The Valley Times
December 23, 1998

Tri-Valley history buff shares her knowledge

Merilyn Calhoun has been touring Livermore for the last 10 years, showing her pictures, maps and artifacts to third-graders

By Jason Bullock

LIVERMORE - Ask Merilyn Calhoun anything about Tri-Valley history over the last, oh, say 200 years and chances are she'll know the answer. Look at some of the local artwork displayed around the city and there's a good chance it bears her name. And pick up a book chronicling how the city grew up and you'll likely find she wrote it.

Calhoun, known to most as "tilly" with a small T, has been learning area history and teaching it to others for two decades, collecting artifacts and squirreling them away in her home.

Many of those items are on display in her "History Mobile," a minimuseum driven to area schools each spring. Since it began touring Livermore nearly 10 years ago, about 8,000 third-graders have seen the pictures, maps and artifacts inside. Some of the drawings are Calhoun's own.

"I keep doing research all the time trying to find out a little bit more," Calhoun said.

The display, sponsored by the Livermore Heritage Guild, documents the growth of the Livermore Valley since the 1700s and follows it through its several incarnations as a cattle hub, farmlands and a scientific Mecca.




Included in her arsenal of memorabilia is a tombstone of Calhoun's great aunt, a World War I helmet and seashell fossils providing evidence that the area once was under water.

Children tend to learn such topics more easily when they can see and touch things for themselves, said Calhoun, who hated history as a child.

"When they're only visualizing what you're saying, you're not quite sure if they're getting what you're saying," she said.

Calhoun began teaching art, poetry and history to students at Marylin Avenue Elementary School in 1974 and continued for 15 years, instilling in them an appreciation for the culture of the area.

"Working with children all these years, I began to see that you had to excite the children before the fourth or fifth grade," Calhoun said. "If they're not interested in art and history and music before that age, then if it's offered (later) as an elective they won't take them."

Calhoun wrote a book based on her research called "Early Days in the Amador-Livennore Valley," which is displayed near her artwork at

Merilyn Calhoun
The Livermore historian has
an arsenal of memorabilia

the gallery Her paintings and other work is scattered throughout the building. She donates many of them to local nonprofit organizations.

Calhoun also shares her love of art at the Sonoma School, where she teaches drawing skills to adult education classes.

"She's a wonderful lady," said her friend Mary Lou Hodgson, who met Calhoun several years ago while taking the classes. "She is always willing to share her knowledge with people, She's a fountain of information."

One Tri-Valley Top 10 profile will, run each day through the end of the year. Other winners named so far. Racy Achelis of Alamo.

March 5, 2001
Update: March 25, 2001