A New Westminster residential block during the 1940s, 50s and 60s, it seems to us, would be a relatively stable community. We think it would be one where, because most people tended to stay put for years and years, a community would have formed. Such communities, even when their members with the passage of time disperse, continue to have a sort of “neighbourhood memory” of events that were, by their nature, unusual or surprising. In our research into the MacLauchlan Murders, we are hoping to access what remains of that “neighbourhood memory.”
In 1966 the residents of the 900 Block of Fifth Street in New Westminster would be such a community and we believe there is a neighbourhood memory remaining. All the residents of the 900 Block, having been closer or more distant neighbours of Dr Robert Henry and Margaret Anne “Nan” MacLauchlan who had lived at 912 Fifth Street before they had been killed, were representative of New Westminster as it was then – a compact, rather heterogeneous city so far as occupations were concerned.
Of the 21 occupied residences listed in the 1966 City Directory, 14 were headed by what might be described as the managerial or professional class. These residents included J W Burns (a manager at the BC Distillery, who with his wife Margaret, resided at 901), G D Grant (a manager at Allan Knight Mfg and his wife Helen living at 902), Dr Derek Watson (a UBC professor with his wife Gladys at 905), M A Renton (a psych nurse at 916), Dave Mercer (a police officer and his wife Doris at 919), Peter Meehan (Deputy Chief of Police at 921), K O Macgowan (a Vice President and Director at W M Mercer Ltd, with his wife Audrey at 922), Dr E F Weir (a physician and his wife Juanita at 923), J E Hanna (a teacher and his wife Cathy at 930), R G D Hawes (another teacher and his wife Claire at 931), W H Main (proprietor of the Click Shop and his wife Lucy at 932), H D L Mercer (Burnaby’s Deputy Assessor and his wife Margaret at 933), J A Rines (President of Rines Agencies and his wife Shirley at 937), and L F McQuarrie (a master mariner and his wife at 939).
The remaining seven occupied residences in the 900 Block were the homes of people working as clerks or trades people, and included John Reid (a CPR pipefitter and his wife Nancy at 906), D A T Cooper (a projectionist and his wife Violet at 907), Ken Vogt (a parcel clerk at Woodwards and his wife Donna at 910), Gottleib Lippert (a mechanic and his wife Daisy at 915), R L Guppy (occupation unlisted, however his daughter Rosiland topped the RCH nursing class in 1968; at 917), R N Lee (occupation unlisted, at 920), and Angus MacLean (likely retired, at 936)
Two residences were vacant – 912 and 925. The first, of course, had been where the MacLauchlans lived; the second has no information attached to it.
To a degree we have already accessed some parts of the “neighbourhood memory,” mentioned above. From a descendant of one of the very close neighbours of the MacLauchlans, we have already received information about the couple. The source’s parents lived right next door and had a ringside view of the events of December 22, 1965 when the couple’s home was raided by a swarm of police, and the MacLauchlans were charged with trafficking. This informant went on to write us a letter in which she described how previously her father had watched for at least several weeks how the doctor would take a daily stroll down the street, circle the block and, in the alley, meet a man. A package would be exchanged and each person would continue on his way.
We believe that are other people out there, former residents of the 900 Block of Fifth Street or their descendants, who may have similar or corroborating tales. We would very much like to hear from you. Feel free to make use of our contact information provided on the home page of this website.