Get the earliest ferry over at 8:45am so you are the first people to arrive on the island. It gets more and more crowded as the day goes on!
Alcatraz, also known simply as ‘The Rock,’ is an island just off San Francisco. For thirty years in the middle of the 20th century it was home to one of the world’s most famous prisons, along with many of America’s most notorious criminals. Al “Scarface” Capone and the murderer Robert “Birdman of Alcatraz” Stroud were among those who were held there. No inmate is known to have escaped with their lives, although more than a dozen attempts are were made.
Beer and Birds
It all started in 1775 when the Spanish explorer Juan Manuel de Ayala sailed past and dubbed it the Isle of the Pelicans. Fast forward 80 years and the US had made it the first US West Coast fort and started using it as a holding pen for Civil War deserters and US army deviants. It got pretty full at times, but the army simply gave it an upgrade with a new concrete military prison in 1909.
However, Alcatraz only really earned its stripes when the prohibition kicked in. Unsurprisingly for everyone other than legislators, the public was unwilling to comply, so gangsters stepped in to help them out. In the 30s when authorities sought to make an example of the ringleaders, Alcatraz was the place. Although ‘The Rock’ would only ever have 264 inmates at a time, the roster was a true who’s who of organised crime in the US.
Visit the island and you can get a very brief taste of what they experienced. You can see the cell houses where prisoners lived, along with the mess hall and library. There is also a national park that was occupied by native activists when the prison stopped being used. But perhaps most importantly you can pay tribute to the place where that fine collaboration between two giants of the 21st century, Michael Bay and Nicolas Cage, was shot: “The Rock.”
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