A Visit To Alcatraz a.k.a. The Rock

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I can remember as a boy visiting San Francisco in the late 50s and early 60s, and seeing Alcatraz. I felt then that just a mile away were some very bad people. People like Al Capone, George “Machine Gun” Kelly and  Alvin Karpis called this “home”

 

It was America’s maximum-security prison. It was said that “Break the rules, you go to prison. Break the prison’s rules, you go to Alcatraz.”

 

I went there 40 years ago, when the National Park Service would give guided tours. My nephew was visiting from the Midwest, and wanted to see Alcatraz

 

Thought you’d like to see it, too. If you go to SF you should buy your tickets ahead of time, through the NPS approved vendor. And the summer gets pretty crazy.  The way you take the tour this time is a bit different from 40 years ago. You are issued headphones and an audio player. I thought this was worse than the guided tours but soon changed my mind. It is a win-win for both the NPS and the tourists. The tourist sees it at his own pace – and they get more people through the island. Your “guides” on the audio are 4 retired correctional officers, and 4 ex-inmates. You can see it at your own pace

 

One thing that struck me – if the view from San Francisco to the Rock seemed foreboding, to the inmates viewing San Francisco it had to have been torture. As one inmate said on a cool still winter night, they could hear the noises of the city coming through the air.

 

With that let’s start your tour

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4 Comments

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4 responses to “A Visit To Alcatraz a.k.a. The Rock

  1. leachristina65

    I visited SF in 2007 and we made sure to go to Alcatraz. It was an experience I won’t soon forget. Thanks for the pictures.

    • Bill Brandt

      I should have put more comments with the pictures but after awhile, uploading those 1×1 was becoming like a marathon! Particularly after I uploaded 20 and hit screen refresh and my post just….disappeared!

      But that hole in the ceiling and the gouges in the concrete were from the Marines throwing grenades in to quell the 1946 riot.

      The shell of a building was the warden’s residence – which surprised me as they have only been vacant 51 years.

  2. Bill, interesting post. When I was little, me, my sister, and my mom were in San Francisco awaiting transport to Japan to join my dad, who was flying air ambulance out of Korea at the time. We stayed in a rental apartment in the marina district. I vividly remember going to the shore and looking at Alcatraz. My mother explained to me that Alcatraz was where you went if you were a bad person. This was in 1955 and I do remember thinking I didn’t want to be a bad person. Alcatraz was still a prison at that time.
    We departed for Japan from the very pier where you visited the submarine on a previous post. The ship we crossed the Pacific on was the troop carrier Billy Mitchell. Later on in life I flew over the ghost fleet in Suisun Bay many many times, wondering about all the ships down there rusting away and not realizing the Billy Mitchell was there.
    The connections to things and places in life never cease to amaze me.

    • Bill Brandt

      Thanks Busbob.

      Interesting thing about Suisun Bay – there was an article in – I think – the SF Chronicle years ago on visiting some of these ships – they showed pictures inside some of these liberty ships and it was as if time stopped – a Life magazine from 1966 for example.

      For years I can remember going over the Benicia Bridge and almost underneath was – to me – a very special ship – the Glomar Explorer

      I thought if that ship could only talk….It’s gone now as are most of the ghost fleet.

      As to Alcatraz. I remember how foreboding it looked when it was a prison.

      Forgot to mention in the post – of the only 3 known to escape – never to be found – one of the corrections officers felt that they went to South America – they were all intently studying Spanish in prison – and another thought they had drowned. I remember that article in the paper.

      My opinion is that they drowned – that water is cold and the currents ready to sweep you out the Golden Gate ….

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