4 ½ Years on, Al Capone would have been proud...!
Trip Start Jun 29, 2010
650Trip End Apr 07, 2012
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Breakfast in the hostel was free, but as we had experienced such varying breakfast offerings, we headed down to see what the craic was! We arrived in the kitchen to find oodles of pancake mix, pans and toppings. Chris jumped in and started to cook some lovely pancakes which were then topped by Annabelle with a huge dollop of Strawberry Jam, we washed these down with huge pots of coffee, lovely start to the day!!
We headed down to catch the cable cars to Pier 33 to catch the ferry to Alcatraz, unfortunately the cable cars are a tourist favourite, so after one look at the queue we decided we would have no chance getting there on time. Needless to say we took a cab down to the ferry! Oops...
We arrived and collected our tickets, had our photo taken and then jumped on the ferry. The crossing itself only takes 15 minutes to travel the 1 ¼ mile over to the island. Alcatraz was a former Military Base, Military Prison then in 1934 the High Security Federal Penitentiary we all know and love. When we arrived we had a 5 minute talk from the ranger and then started exploring. Included in the price was an award winning audio tour where 4 Correctional officers and 4 previous inmates spoke about the Prison and directed us where to go, but before we did this we had a walk around the grounds, saw the officers club and where the Officers families used to live.
We picked up the audio tour through the shower room, as this was the way prisoners were brought in. The prisoners would come in cuffed and shackled and have their first search for contraband such as weapons and narcotics. They would then have a shower -the first of their 2 a week allowance, before collecting their prison issue clothing – the Alcatraz blues. In each of the cells on arrival was a book of rules and regulations that each inmate had to follow. Regulation #5 was, 'You are entitled to food, clothing, shelter and medical attention. Anything else that you get is a privilege.' This meant that everyone started at the same level with no preferences. This meant any jobs within the prison were greatly sought after, as it was the only opportunity for the inmates to get out of their cells during the day
The tour took us round the cells, stopping at any of interest. D block was where the 6 isolation cells were. These were reserved for particularly violent or dangerous inmates. They got food and adequate health care but were confined to their cells 24 hours a day. We spent some time taking pictures in these, Chris looked like the happiest inmate in Alcatraz!
In 1946 there was an escape attempt, 6 convicts were involved in what became known as the battle of Alcatraz. 6 inmates overpowered several guards and took over the cellhouse for 2 days. At the end of the sige 2 guards and 3 of the inmates had been killed. The remaining inmates were punished – 2 were executed and 1 was given life imprisonment.
In the Penitentiary’s history only 3 people have escaped. These were brothers John William Anglin & Clarence Anglin with Frank Lee Morris. They used spoons to dig out the wall beneath the sink in their cells leading to the utility corridor – they then were able to get out of the prison to a raft. To this day their location is not known – some people say they would not have been able to survive the Bay and died, whereas others think they managed to escape to South America
Some Facts about Alcatraz;
- It was a Federal Penitentiary between 1934 and 1963
- There were 1576 inmates processed, 90 Correctional officers, 53 rules & regulations, 14 escape
attempts and 4 wardens.
- It covers 12 acres and has cliffs that drop 75 feet into the San Francisco Bay
- The cells were 5’x9’x7’
- The inmate were in their cells 23 hours a day – with 3 20 minute slots for meals
- The warden imposed a rule of silence – only when spoken to were the inmates allowed to speak.
All meals were held in silence.
- Recreation time was only at the weekends for 2 ½ hours each day, but this was weather
Of the 1576 inmates The most notorious were;
- AZ 85 Alphonse ‘Scarface’ Capone – from USP Atlanta – 1934–1939 – for income tax evasion
- AZ 117 George ‘Machine Gun’ Kelly – from USP Leavenworth – 1934–1951 – for kidnapping
- AZ 268 Arthur ‘Doc’ Barker – from USP Leavenworth – 1935–1939 – for conspiracy to kidnap
- AZ 325 Alvin ‘Creepy Karpis’ Karpavicz – from USP Leavenworth – 1936–1962 – for conspiracy to
- AZ 594 Robert ‘The Birdman’ Stroud – from USP Leavenworth – 1942–1959 – for murder
- AZ 117 Ellsworth ‘Bumpy’ Johnson – from USP Leavenworth – 1954-1958 & 1959-1963 – for
- AZ 1518 Meyer ‘Micky’ Cohen – direct to Alcatraz – 1961-1963 – for income tax evasion
The saying was, ‘Break the rules and you go to Prison, break Prison rules and you go to Alcatraz.’
In 1969, 6 years after the Penitentiary had closed, a group of American Indians claimed Alcatraz for ‘Indians of all Tribes’
We had a good 4 hours on the island – it was brilliant, so interesting and what an eye opener. Makes the prisons in England look like a holiday camp. When we arrived back on land and decided to take a walk further down the pier to Fishermans Wharf, this is one of the main tourist destinations on the coastline and as it was the weekend it was packed. We looked around some of the shops and Annabelle debated whether to buy an Alcatraz T-shirt but in the end we gave it a miss. We then headed up to the top level of the pier to the Bubba Gump Seafood Restaurant where Annabelle purchased her new cap, one which finally fits her head!!! It says Bubba Gump Shrimp Co. on the front and has netting on the side to keep her rather large head cool, perfect!
Heading back downstairs we found a Pearl Factory outlet and Chris decided to treat Annabelle to a Pearl necklace to mark our anniversary. You can choose the Oyster yourself (and pay $15) from a huge bowl and then have it opened in front of you, the deal is that you really want a pink pearl as they are a little more rare, the black and blue being very, very rare indeed. Chris picked up the first one and it was a lovely large pink pearl, thinking that there must be a trick to this we checked by looking over some other people shoulders who were also buying them and were satisfied when we realised that they had only picked small white pearls, we then chose a chain and setting for it
Later after taking pictures next to the famous Heart of San Francisco we found a little Italian restaurant and decided to take a flier on a happy hour drinks and food promotion they were running. We headed in and were the first in the restaurant, the barman was fantastic and was full of info about San Fran and suggestions of where to g to eat and drink. We ordered Chris a bottle of the famous local ‘Anchor Steamed Beer’ and Annabelle had a well deserved glass of red wine. We then opted for some shared appetizers: Bruschetta, Seafood Risotto and Meat Ravioli. Annabelle got chatting to an interesting American couple as we sat at the bar. The chap must have been about 80 and was a Vietnam Veteran. He told her about his time and how during the war they had to cancel R&R in Australia as soldiers were going and not coming back. Once we were suitably full we paid and Annabelle posed for pictures with a huge bottle of wine on the way out.
We had best intentions to go back to the Hostel and finish our washing and packing for the next part of the Green Tortoise trip when we stumbled upon a nice little pub on the corner that also happened to have a happy hour! So we jumped at the chance to have a decent drink at a good price, we had a lovely time drinking, chatting about where we had been and thinking about the future. 4 Stella’s, 1 whiskey and coke and 4 vodka and Cranberry’s later we stumbled back to do our washing, pack our bags and prepare for the next part of the trip to Yosemite .... what a nice way to spend an anniversary.