“The Rock.” Alcatraz has been run by the National Parks Service since the 70’s.  We went for a visit today.  Cold, rainy, atmospheric.  Pretty interesting too.


Yes, there was a prison sited there for 30 years and that it what it’s famous for, but it started as a military base in the 1800’s. After the base shut down, the prison existed from 1934 to 1963 when it finally closed.  Then it was claimed by Native Americans in 1969 who lived on the island for about 19 months.  They lived in pretty crappy conditions, but they managed and felt that the outcome was positive as far as drawing attention to US/Indian relations.  The graffiti on the water tower is leftover from that occupation.  They were cleared out in 1971 by the fed’s and then the National Park Service took over in 1973.  Now it’s all tourists, 1.3 million of us a year.

Tourists and birds that is.  I must say this was the most amenable Gull ever!  I was about three feet away and she stayed perfectly still while I moved around and took lots of pictures.  I really appreciate that.
There are a whole raft of volunteers who come over regularly to look after the grounds.  I think this would be a blast if I was an apartment dweller in the City.
Once inside the prison we get a look at the essence of a jail.  Not what it was exactly, but a hint of what it was.  This was the place the prisoners got their clothing and essentials.
Typical cell.  It would also have held a cot.
There are three levels and several corridors, overall not a big place though.  It really is pretty depressing to be in there.  I don’t think prison is a great idea for anyone, but I also don’t  have a better solution.  There needs to be a way to separate those who hurt other people.
On the shield it says “free” this was part of the branding from the Native American occupation.
Prisoners looked to the City and the Golden Gate Bridge daily.   Sometimes voices actually made it across the water and the prisoners could hear laughter.  It was just over a mile away and most people assumed it was unswimable, so few prisoners tried.  Those who did try were never heard from again, which either means they never made it anywhere and drowned or they did make it and wisely kept quiet.
A funny thing happened. An ex-prisoner was visiting for the day and I talked to him completely unaware of who he was.  I had picked up a post card and was looking for a place to pay for it.  I noticed an old guy at a table who looked vaguely like some sort of volunteer so  I walked over and offered a five dollar bill.  “Do you take money here?”  He laughed, “oh, they don’t really trust me with money.”  So I just went along with him, “that’s probably wise on their part,” I laughed back.  Jerry asked me later what I was talking to the prisoner about.  What prisoner?  Once we sorted that out I got a good laugh.
Odd, why is there a Michigan Avenue?  There isn’t an Ohio Avenue.
If it had been a nicer day, we might have stayed more than two hours but as it was we happily got back on the boat to return to SF.
San Francisco Bay

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