The Mayor of Fourth Avenue

Remembering the life of businessman, politician, Irishman and bohemian Mike Haggerty

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In 1994, Arizona garnered national headlines when the so-called "Tucson Six" went on trial in federal court. The men were accused of trying to buy a small arsenal, including nearly 3,000 mining detonators, for the Irish Republican Army. Five of them faced the possibility of decades behind bars. Jurors listened to more than 150 witnesses, heard some two-dozen wiretapped conversations, and saw 1,200 pieces of evidence.

There was a lot of speculation that Tucson had been picked as a trial venue to avoid massive crowds that might turn up in Irish-American population centers such as Boston or New York. But the feds may have underestimated the show of support in Tucson, Egan says.

"They thought, 'Tucson? Who gives a damn about Tucson? We'll put it out there.' And they were shocked to find out that a lot of people in Tucson were strong in their support" of the suspected IRA sympathizers.

Egan and Haggerty were among the first to see the prisoners. "I called the federal correctional institute out on Wilmot Road," Egan says, "as chief of staff for the vice mayor of Tucson, which Mike was at the time. I said, 'The vice mayor would like to see these six gentlemen you have in there.'

"The men had no idea why the hell the vice mayor wanted to meet with them. So when they came out, the first thing Mike said to them was, 'Tiocfaidh ár lá.'"

That's a Gaelic slogan meaning, "Our day will come."

"And they immediately knew they were friends," Egan says. "It was a very tense time. The feds were breathing down our necks. I had harassment from the FBI. Everybody who was in favor of peace in Ireland and (getting) the Brits out of the north were under a microscope.

"Mike and Mimi gave those guys 100 percent support. In fact, some of the guys, when we got them out on bail, they stayed at Mike and Mimi's place. Once again, Mike was a soft and fuzzy guy. But he was absolutely, 100 percent committed to protecting the rights of minorities in general, and the Tucson Six in this case."

In April of that year, the Tucson Six were acquitted on all charges. "Of course, that was a source of pride," Egan says.

Mimi Haggerty remembers an edgy stretch as well, though she says that only one of the Tucson Six bunked in the bus.

"We needed to be cautious. We went to so many court dates. But I was impressed by all of the people who were supportive. The authorities were really surprised by that, too.

"It was so exciting when they all got acquitted. We really celebrated."

As a kid, Mike Haggerty spent a year on his grandfather's ranch in High Valley, Ore. The ranch was called Piney Hollow. "Mike's memories of being in High Valley were so intense," Mimi says. "He and his sister rode a horse to the one-room school. That whole year was like a magic time in his life. It was very formative."

Later, he got a job in a pea-canning factory. That was formative, too: For the rest of his life, says Mimi, he hated canned peas. The next year, he worked on a salmon trap in eastern Alaska.

After graduating from college in 1954, Mike and Mimi moved to Stockton, Calif., where he taught school for a year. After that, he was hired as a field representative for the Oregon Historical Society. The family lived on two rural acres with an orchard and a vineyard. Mike loved to garden.

"They were growing babies and plants," Shannon says with a smile.

But life was not always smooth, especially when money was tight. "Mike chose his own path," Mimi says. "And there were times in Portland when it was kind of tough for us."

Later, Mike worked for the U.S. Census Bureau, canvassing downtown Portland, where all the hippie-gypsies mingled. His next stop was a gig as the Northwest representative for an advertising agency. He handled the accounts for Plymouth and Chrysler. Two years later, in the rush of the 1960s, he was transferred to San Francisco.

"It was culture shock," Mimi says. They built an oceanside house in the Bay Area community of Pacifica and settled down for nearly a decade.

Shannon remembers when her dad would take his kids on client calls. The lucky kid for that day would get a ride in Mike's black MG sports car. "Cruising down the highway in California in a sports car," she says. "That was great."

Mike and a friend started a business called Mind Reels. Their concept was to sell films from concert light shows that could be played in a continuous loop at home. They were on the verge of a solid investment when video technology suddenly emerged, single-handedly crushing their dreams.

"That was heartbreaking," Mimi says. "Right at the end of the negotiations, it fell apart."

In retrospect, perhaps, it was also a bit of providence.

"Mike and I were talking about selling the house," Mimi says. "And he said, 'You know what I'd love to do? I'd love to get a bus and travel.' So one day, he was driving down Gough Street in San Francisco, and tucked away between two buildings is this bus. He looks into it and finds out it had been used by a band called Sopwith Camel that did a cross-country thing in the bus. We paid about $2,500 for it. We had a friend who was a carpenter, and we pulled the bus in front of his house.

"I used to tell people that we moved from a six-bedroom home into a one-bedroom bus."

Says Shannon, "All of our friends were really jealous, because everybody was tired of the corporate life and their steady jobs, and there was this new awareness."

Says Mimi, "The trip to Mexico was the best thing we ever did. The first day of spring in Pacifica, we broke a bottle of champagne over the front of the bus."

Many years later, Shannon made a pilgrimage back to Pacifica. "And everybody wondered what had happened to that hippie family," she says.

They eventually returned from Mexico with jars of opals. After choosing to live in Tucson because they had friends here, they met people at Reid Park who made jewelry. "We traded off working for them," Shannon says. "My sister stole my opal out of the jewelry box, made me a piece for my birthday, and that was the first jewelry from Piney Hollow."

The family later worked for a man on Sixth Street who wanted to start a silversmithing operation. "He was looking for someone to teach him silversmithing," Mimi says. The man shelled out $500 for their equipment. "Within four months we had paid him back and bought him out. And Piney Hollow was born."

The bus is silent now, the windows empty, its driver summarily dispatched.

A new adventure beckons. And Mike Haggerty never could resist adventure.

We will miss him.

"I remember the wild grasses and flowers of the high plateaus, the harsh winter with bitter cold winds from the mountains, the Maze Dance and the gathering of the clans at the beginning of spring. I remember our summer wanderings, which followed the horses from the lower steppes to the valleys at the edge of the spirit forest ..."

—From Poseidon, by Mike Haggerty

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