Western Waterproofing Co. occupies a low brick building at 2500 Allen Road South, but in the late 1970s, the property was home to the Outlaw motorcycle gang’s fortified clubhouse.
Neighbors remember what happened there on July 4, 1979, when five people were murdered in their sleep at the clubhouse just off North Graham Street, 10 minutes north of uptown.
Sylvia Cannon is a grandmother now, and she still lives a few blocks away from Western Waterproofing. In 1979, she and her husband lived nearby – close enough that gunfire woke them up early in the morning on July 4.
Her husband went outside to make sure the shots weren’t too close to the Cannons’ house. They went back to sleep and didn’t realize what had happened until the next morning, when the road was blocked by police vehicles.
The Outlaws had been good neighbors, Cannon said. She and her neighbors knew they were gang members and heard they “raised Cain in other neighborhoods,” but not on Allen Road South. She didn’t think their eight-foot privacy fence was strange – “you don’t leave motorcycles sitting outside.”
The bikers were friendly when she ran into them at the grocery store.
“You be nice to me, I’m going to be nice to you,” she said. “I’m not going to judge you for what you are, and so we just accepted them as the group of people that lived there.”
Cannon said she and her neighbors had heard what the gang members were involved with and “knew something was going to happen sooner or later” at the clubhouse, so they were only surprised by the scale of the violence on July 4.
Cannon knew Charlotte had motorcycle gangs at that time from media coverage. But activity like that, she said, happened in other parts of town.
Observer articles from the time reported biker activity around Wilkinson Boulevard, home to the Teddy Bear Lounge and other motorcycle bars.
About a month after the murders, Cannon heard the house was abandoned and the doors were unlocked, so she went in and looked around. The house was “trashed,” and it burned down the next summer. She said a police officer told her the case was arson.
But on Allen Road South, she said, life was back to normal in just a few months.
“Nobody got upset. Nobody created a big thing.”