Thursday's Child: Alcatraz, San Francisco

Thursday, March 21, 2013
There aren't many places in the world where you'd want to go on holidays and see a prison while you're there.  The one exception is Alcatraz, the famous jail located on an island a short ferry ride from San Francisco.

What could possibly make a visit to a former prison enjoyable?  Knowing a bit about the brutal history of the institution, I had my doubts.  But they were put to rest when we received our audio tour headsets and started to listen to some of the stories told by former inmates, guards, and families of staff who lived on the island.  I'm always intrigued by a good story, and their tales, from attempted escapes to depictions of everyday life, were told with a sense of drama.

Originally built as a military prison, Alcatraz came to prominence in 1934 when it was adapted for use as a location to house the "worst of the worst" criminals - those who committed the most dangerous crimes, or were too difficult for other facilities to manage.  Some of these criminals were well-known; who hasn't heard of Al Capone, Machine Gun Kelly, or the Birdman of Alcatraz?

The relatively short distance back to the city must have made it all the more difficult for inmates who knew escape was virtually impossible.  Some of the stories were chilling, others were more light-hearted, and overall it gave us an overview of what life was like at this most notorious of penitentiaries.

26 comments:

Belinda said...

I keep meaning to go there when I'm in SF, but have to go. Next time!

Valerie said...

Thanks to a handful of movies made about the infamous prison, I've always been a bit fascinated with Alcatraz. I'd love to hear some of those first-hand stories!

Monet said...

We wanted to visit...but since we made a last minute trip to SF, all the tour times were booked! Thank you for taking me along with you...I will have to make an effort to get there next time.

Angie's Recipes said...

I want to visit it too! I have watched Birdman of Alcatraz twice.

Barbara said...

Gotta tell you, Beth, I was spooked out of my mind. NOT a visit I want to repeat.

Jemi Fraser said...

I think I'd be a little spooked out too, like Barb! But it sure would be an intriguing visit!

Natalie Aguirre said...

I'd probably find the history interesting, but it'd be a little creepy. Thanks for letting us visit vicariously.

Bonnie said...

The gardens are quite nice as well. I must make full disclosure, we didn't actually tour the prison (I was a little concerned about my claustrophobia). We were given the chance to sail around the island on our way to Sausalito. As always thanks for a personal tour.

yummychunklet said...

Ooh, reminds me of the movie "The Rock"!

Patty said...

San Francisco-my home town! I have alway been intrigued by Alcatraz and remember thinking about what it would have been like to escape and swim away in the dark cold bay to freedom!!!

Danielle Giannandrea said...

All I can think of when I see these photos is Sean Connery in The Rock! Would be a very intersting place to visit. Lots of history behind those bars. (creeeeepy history)

Danielle : )

Gloria Baker said...

a really special place, and how many stories Beth!

Cindy said...

San Francisco is on my bucket list. I think we will make it. A couple of my kids have performed in SF and made the trip to Alcatraz. They both enjoyed it very much. I love your little trips.

amy (fearless homemaker) said...

I looooved Alcatraz when I visited - so full of history and SO interesting. I need to take my husband there some time - as a huge history buff, he'd love it!

bakewithjill.com said...

I agree that this is worth the visit! I haven't been to San Francisco for a long time, but would love to get back there soon.

Guru Uru said...

What a dream visit my friend, such haunting history :D

Cheers
CCU

Andrea_TheKitchenLioness said...

Beth, what a spectacular place to visit - in every sense of the word. It must have been so interesting to listen to the stories of the former inmates and staff and breathing in some "real life history" while visiting.
Have a wonderful weekend!

Liz Berg said...

It is such a well done tour...we took the kids a few years ago. It looks like you had a gorgeous day...we froze!

Beth said...

We were really lucky, Liz. Who would have guessed it would be so warm in March? I wore a light jacket most days, but the day we walked over the Golden Gate Bridge, I did it in short sleeves!

Jess said...

I've been to San Francisco, but missed Alcatraz~ thanks for the photos and info!

Laurie@The Baking Bookworm said...

Hi Beth,
San Fran is one of the places on our family's 'Bucket List' to visit. My boys especially would love to visit Alcatraz (as would my husband and I). Fascinating (yet a bit spooky) place. Ahhh, one day we'll get there. :)

backroadjournal said...

I have visited Alcatraz and found it a very interesting part of history.

Elaine said...

Great photos, Beth. It is such an interesting place and the gardens are really beautiful.

Claudia said...

Amazing stories from there. The place just gives you chills. But there is something about visiting history and drama that draws you in.

Kittie Howard said...

You have the loveliest photos, Beth, even of a prison. Strange, but each time I've been to San Francisco, I haven't thought about visiting Alcatraz. I've heard others say tours were really fascinating!

Sue said...

I've been there too, but it's been quite awhile...time to go again!

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