Saturday, August 20, 2011

We will, we will "Rock" you: Greetings from Alcatraz

This is the cell where an escape was perpetrated in 1962. Note the big hole in the wall.

This is the view of San Francisco from The Rock.



...and many others have been to The Rock.

All aboard.

Say "clink!"

Every so often, it's nice to visit a place that makes you appreciate your lot in life a little bit more. Take Alcatraz, for instance. That notorious island a mile and a half off the shore of San Francisco gets this job done because, no matter how hard things might seem, they must have been much worse for the "guests" of this harshest of federal prisons from 1868 until it closed in 1963. The roster of convicts reads like a who's who of the worst of the worst of yesteryear: Machine Gun Kelly, Creepy Karpis, Doc Barker, Robert "Birdman of Alcatraz" Stroud. Even the au courant Whitey Bulger did time on The Rock. But Alcatraz's most notorious detainee was "Scarface" Al Capone, who served four years before being transferred to another prison due to his tertiary syphilis. Ouch.

Several escapes were attempted, and three prisoners actually made their way out in 1962 through an ingenious use of dummies, tunneling, air vents and accordion music. It's likely they drowned in San Francisco Bay, but their bodies were never found, so who knows? The 1979 movie starring Clint Eastwood leads you to believe they made it, and what Clint says goes. A few years after the government shut down the prison in 1963 (it was deemed too expensive to maintain), the island was seized by a group of Native Americans to protest U.S policies regarding Indian affairs. After 19 months of occupation, a new policy of self-determination was negotiated with the U.S. government. Now the island is run by the National Parks Service and tours are of the prison and island are given daily. We were there on an appropriately miserable, rainy day last spring and the boat was absolutely mobbed with tourists eager to see how bad bad can be. All in all, it's a nice place to visit, but I wouldn't want to live there.


Amber Von Felts said...

I have only seen the Rock from the City, but I have always wanted to go explore it. I saw a cool episode of Myth Busters where the guys recreated that famous jail break and actually made it out and across the bay using all the same type of materials available to the escapees. Heck, I think they actually did escape!

Gunnar and Sherry said...

Amber, It's worth the trip if you like cold miserable places!

Bill said...

"Scarface" Al Capone? .... "Say Hello to my little friend....?"

The island was seized by a group of Native Americans as a protest, and held for 19 months? That's a long sit down strike! Maybe the first 13 months was because..... you are holding an empty island in the middle of the bay and no one knows about it?

Gunnar and Sherry said...

Good point, Bill. They should have put a casino on it!

Tom Hoffman said...

I've got a picture somewhere of me sitting in one of those cells.

Ron Davison said...


I have placed a link to "ECCENTRIC ROADSIDE" on my two blogs. I placed the link on the front page along the left side border. I used the image of your logo. If you do not wish for me to use the logo, please let me know.

If possible, I would appreciate it if you could exchange links with my blogs.

The urls for my blogs:

1) SENTIMENTAL JOURNEYS (pop culture memories from 1940 - 2010) This blog has been running since Jan, 2010. It has over 550 postings.

2) I SAW AN EYESORE BILLBOARD (my musings on my love/hate feelings over billboards - love the ads, and hate the blighted landscape) I only started this blog on Aug 21. I plan on posting 1 or 2 posts per week. It currently has 4 posts

The SENTIMENTAL JOURNEYS blog has my opinions on pop culture advertising (print & TV commercial), classic TV shows, TV stars, politics & toys. Anything that could vaguely be classified as POP CULTURE, from the 1940s to the early 2000s, might be seen on my blog. I usually tie an old TV commercial or magazine ad in with my commentary (usually sarcastic.)

The I SAW AN EYESORE BILLBOARD is a photo blog, which has a few sentences/paragraphs of my commentary on each of the photographs.

Thank you very much for your time.

Gunnar and Sherry said...

Thanks for your interest and linking me on your blog, Ron. I added a link to yours under where it says "Check out these other cool sites". I love/hate billboards, too!