Sunday, 11/24/2013, Visiting Alcatraz
What a wonderful day. I met Sandi at the Bart Station to take the Bart into SF … so on this trip to the SF area of California I can say I took the ferry, a cable car and Bart on different visits. I have said many times I was taking the trolley and Sandi corrects me every time – yes, SF has trolley’s, but I was taking the historic cable car. (Sandi if I got it wrong again … I’ll never get it lol).
I actually took a picture of the Bart Station, but the sun was facing me, and the picture didn’t turn out. I did get a couple pics in SF before getting to the area to board for the Alcatraz tour.
I was fascinated with an outdoor exhibit at the Exploratorium. I could have stayed there for a long, long time. At the end of the post, I’ll share a short video taken of the same exhibit on our walk back after dark. I can only imagine how much fun this place is inside – for us children of all ages.
I believe the people underneath the exhibit are getting the monkeys (exhibit) going by a drumming type motion they make.
We passed information about the history of SF. And Sandi was able to share with me family history from that time frame that is fascinating. How nice to have someone with who had an ancestor that was part of the 49ers of 1849 Gold Rush fame.
More than 500 of the ships that transported the estimated 62,000 people to the area were abandoned in what is now SF’s financial district. In 2001 the General Harrison was discovered at Battery and Clay Streets during construction of a new hotel!
I catch Sandi under the Alcatraz Landing sign:
We pass an identical ship to ours, so here it is:
The Alcatraz ships run on all types of fuel:
Following are many of the views of Alcatraz as we ride around the island before disembarking.
Alcatraz had a history before and after the time of the prison. The prison is the most notorious of it’s history, so what most of us go to Alcatraz for. I know my friends Ernie and Lori would be more interested in the earlier days of Alcatraz, when it was an army base to defend SF and the gold. And many I know (including myself) would be equally interested in it’s time after the prison closed and it was to be sold when Native Americans took over the island. Both periods are represented on the island. And when the water tower was recently repainted, they very carefully kept the markings from the Native American occupation period.
We were only with a guide for a short time, as after we reached the entrance to the prison, we picked up our audio tour earphones and were on our own from that point forward.
Each standard cell was 5′x9′ and had a cold running faucet, a cot and a toilet.
Sorry for my poor pictures … but wanted to include them. Here are the most famous of Alcatraz’s prisoners.
An interesting fact concerns Robert “Birdman of Alcatraz” Stroud – who actually got his name of Birdman before Alcatraz. He did not have ANY birds at Alcatraz. Somehow the name Birdman stuck with him when he moved to Alcatraz, and it was joined with the prison name, even though it’s a name that has no basis in fact, while Birdman of Leavenworth would be accurate.
The cells in D Block were larger than the standard cells, but these were the Isolation Cells and very unpopular by the residents.
From May 2-4, 1946, there was an escape attempt at Alcatraz that failed, with loss of life of 2 guards and 3 prisoners. Two of the other prisoners involved were later executed. One of the guards who died kept the prisoners from gaining freedom by hiding the key they needed to escape.
There was one successful escape from Alcatraz. Maybe.
It was never determined if they were successful – they were never seen again.
The most dangerous area in Alcatraz (for the guards anyway) was the dining hall. While prisoners disliked Alcatraz on some fronts, they didn’t dislike the food. It was considered the best in the Federal Prison system and the guards and prisoners at the same fare. Inmates had access to metal knives, forks and spoons, therefore making it the dangerous area it was. Guards patrolled and tear gas containers were throughout the room on the ceiling.
The hospital at Alcatraz was originally the hospital of the Army and therefore was quite modern for the times. With the hospital on premises, there was no reason for prisoners to need to leave for illnesses. Two of the most notable hospital patients were Robert Stroud, the “Birdman of Alcatraz”, who had his own hospital cell; and Al Capone who spent more time in the hospital than in the general prison population.
After the tour we watched a movie of the time the Native Americans took over the island and wandered around looking at old pictures of that time and when the army were there. It’s all very fascinating … all of it … and I enjoyed seeing the original California state flag.
I also enjoyed learning much about the history of the presence of the military. They never had to defend SF, and they had a beautiful place to stay. They brought most of the plants that are on the island today – and cared for today. I’d love to go see them in bloom in the springtime. Volunteers tend to them. The island also was a home to many different types of birds, and still today, especially in the springtime, they can be found nesting throughout the island (another reason to come back one day and visit in the spring!)
I was totally amazed by the size and weight of these cannon shells – and just as much so by how far they can travel. I’ll be happy to stay out of the path of them!
It is because of the Native American occupation of Alcatraz that we have it as a National Park today. The island was in the process of being sold when they took over and held it from November 20, 1969 until June 11, 1971. It was the most successful occupation for the Native American’s and gained them much ground. I am particularly proud of their proclamation:
Here is the text:
Great White Father and his People
We, the native Americans, re-claim the land known as Alcatraz Island in the name of all American Indians by right of discovery. We wish to be fair and honorable in our dealings with the Caucasian inhabitants of this land, and hereby offer the following treaty: We will purchase said Alcatraz Island for 24 dollars in glass beads and red cloth, a precedent set by the white man’s purchase of a similar island about 300 years ago. We know that $24 in trade goods for these sixteen acres is more than was paid when Manhattan Island was sold, but we know that land values have risen over the years. Our offer of $1.24 per acre is greater than the 47 cents per acre the white men are now paying the California Indians for their land. We will give to the inhabitants of this land a portion of that land for their own, to be held in trust by the American Indian Government for as long as the sun shall rise and the rivers go down to the sea — to be administered by the Bureau of Caucasian Affairs (BCA). We will further guide the inhabitants in the proper way of living. We will offer them our religion, our education, our life-ways, in order to help them achieve our level of civilization and thus raise them and all their white brothers up from their savage and unhappy state. We offer this treaty in good faith and wish to be fair and honorable in our dealings with all white men. We feel that this so-called Alcatraz Island is more than suitable as and Indian Reservation, as determined by the white man’s own standards.
By this we mean that this place resembles most Indian reservations, in that:
1. It is isolated from modern facilities, and without adequate means of transportation.
2. It has no fresh running water.
3. The sanitation facilities are inadequate.
4. There are no oil or mineral rights.
5. There is no industry and so unemployment is very great.
6. There are no health care facilities.
7. The soil is rocky and non-productive and the land does not support game.
8. There are no educational facilities.
9. The population has always been held as prisoners and kept dependent upon others.
Further, it would be fitting and symbolic that ships from all over the world, entering the Golden Gate, would first see Indian land, and thus be reminded of the true history of this nation. This tiny island would be a symbol of the great lands once ruled by free and noble Indians.
I enjoyed every minute of this day/evening to Alcatraz and with my friend, Sandi. And I’ve only shared parts – I learned so much that my brain is on overload and I’ll forget as much as I crammed in – a good reason to return again another time!
And I’ll end with those monkeys spinning around in the dark: