This 1909 single family home off of NW23rd on the edge between Nob Hill & Slabtown is 2,472 square feet and rented for $65/month in the 1970s. Image on left appeared on the cover of a marketing newspaper in my St. Johns mailbox. I remain curious why of all the houses the real estate agent could have picked from in Portland that his team selected this particular house, and an unflattering image of the home to boot. Large homes like this with one or two bathrooms often rented to a dozen individuals 50 years ago. The rent figure was shared with me by Mike Ryerson rented this home house for many years starting at $65/month.
Mike Ryerson co-designed the tour route and often included buildings he had lived in to enrich tour content. Back in the 1970s hippies lived in many of the large homes many still struggled to pay the rent. The rent for 2247 Kearney was $65/month for the entire house; Mike sublet rooms in the home to nurses for $50/month which covered his share of the rent. Mike thought it a tragedy when his wife put an end to that income steam. $65 in 1970 is equivalent in purchasing power to about $496.40 today. Zillow estimates that if this house were for rent the cost would be $4,663/month. Because families had all migrated to the suburbs.
The Portland Police Were Displeased with Mike Ryerson’s Escort Service.
This “escort service” was organized by Mike Ryerson when he was a display manager for Montgomery Ward department store. Seven NW Portland women had reported being raped, and the serial rapist was attacking nurses and women employed in local bars.
The anti-rape escort services with six volunteers operated only one night Saturday November 22, 1975, escorting 25 women home. Upon returning home that night Mike was intimidated by police, who were more interested in catching the rapist than keeping women safe.
In addition to working at Montgomery Ward, Mike worked for the community paper, keeping it afloat with income from the “Expose Yourself to Art” poster. The Neighbor motto: “Know Your Neighborhood, Know Your Neighbor” publication was coined for Mike Ryerson by Bud Clark in 1977. The same year Mike settled his lawsuit against the City of Portland for intimidation mostly associated with Officer Larry Kanzler’s “vile, threatening, obscene, and abusive language”. The police officer had been reprimanded by then-police-sergeant, Tom Potter. The officer was one of six that showed up at Ryerson’s house in the wee hours of the morning, and searched Mike Ryerson’s truck. Before leaving they told Ryerson to stop being a do-gooder. The police also started appearing outside at bars and social events that Mike attended.
Bud Clark and Tom Potter went on to be mayors of Portland
In 1979 Larry Kanzel was one of three officers to start a Horse Patrol in Portland. He later retired in 2008 after serving as the Police Chief of Milwaukie,
Mike Ryerson died January 6th 2015. He was active in the local activist group Don’t Shoot PDX because of his experience in the 1970s.
The first headshop on NW 23rd
was at 1007 NW 23rd Avenue.
In the 1970s Portland was a very tolerant city, teeming with hippies, and in 1973 Oregon was the first state in the country to decriminalize marijuana. I have enjoyed reading Willamette Weeks’s coverage of oldest head shops, although its July 1st 2015 guide to vintage head shops only includes current operations. The longest continuously operated head shop seems to be Pype’s Place, opened by Patty and Don Collins at 4760 N. Lombard in 1976. On various occasions Mike Ryerson told me with pride that he had owned the first head shop on NW 23rd. I never asked him the name of the shop. There are no images in his photographic collection because it was only after he started volunteering/working at The Neighbor in late 1970s that he became a shutterbug.
The Polk City Directories and one Oregonian article are my only sources. In 1971 Mike Ryerson left his respectable job at Montgomery Ward and opened The Index and Shirt Bar at 1007 NW 23rd. The shop was listed under his name in city directories in 1971, 1972, 1973. (There is no listing for Mike in 1974 or 1975, but he reappears after his marriage to Shirley Mason on January 3, 1976 and in 1977 lists The Neighbor as his employer.)
“Mike Ryerson 31, married [Lee Dunaway] and father of four children, a lifelong Portland resident, owner of the Index at 1007 NW 23rd Ave., started with $12 and a rented storefront. He says he has since built the mainstay of his business, stenciled T-shirts, ‘into accounts receivable of over 10 grand and a shop inventory of about $3,000.’ He also sells smoking accessories, costume jewelry, candles, and leather vests.”
Mike told me that that the shop had no official hours and that it was a hangout for him and his friends. I am sure that it amused him to no end that our walking tours account is at US Bank—its NW 23rd Avenue branch is the former location of his head shop.