Alcatraz and the Beauty of the San Francisco Bay

284px-Alcatraz_Island_photo_D_Ramey_LoganWe had a ball yesterday visiting Alcatraz. This was my fourth visit and I enjoy it every time. More importantly, the kids liked it (passing the bored teenager test with flying colors). One added feature this year was one of the last survivors of the prison, who was signing his book in the book store when we visited.

Goga-2042_2The island is rich with history, including a time as a civil war fort and prison (which I loved as a military history nut). The island once boasted massive 15-inch Rodman guns to protection the bay.

From the fort to the infamous prison to the takeover by Native Americans, the “Rock” is a fascinating study. It is also a bird sanctuary (fitting since the name refers to the place of the big birds).

The tour on the island is extremely well done in using the voices of former officers and inmates from the Rock. Here are a few of the pictures from the Rock:

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After getting to freedom, we left the boat and walked all over San Fran. We walked through Chinatown (which I have always found a bit underwhelming) and then walked to Lombard Street. It was a challenge to go up after such a day of walking but we made it to the top with the wonderful views of the city and Alcatraz.

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IMG_2935We then made a stop at the Stinking Rose — a garlic lovers delight (and I am one of that stinking group) and then had dinner at an Italian restaurant in Little Italy and the adults enjoyed a Super Tuscan with wonderfully fresh focaccia bread.

It was a glorious day even with my back out of whack. This morning we will visit Golden Gate bridge and the park before heading to Yosemite. We will miss this great city but too much of the Golden State remains to stay put.

23 thoughts on “Alcatraz and the Beauty of the San Francisco Bay”

  1. Oh for crimmeny sakes. No one blew up parts of Alcatraz. There would have been a huge stink about it as it was in the process of becoming a landmark. The people of San Francisco would never have put up with destroying Alcatraz.

    As to the sh*tty shape it was in, that is a natural feature of being in the middle of a foggy salty environment and the building being…yes….neglected. Surplus Federal property that the government owns but doesn’t do jack about taking care of. Ask Nevada all about THAT. Rusting away and peeling paint. In addition the Indians who occupied it for a while in the late 60’s did a great deal of damage. There were fires and graffiti all over the place.

    It was a MOVIE Natacha. Movies are not real.

    1. DBQ – AIM seems to has set fire to three of the buildings while they were taking over the island. The government was so upset they gave them a museum.

  2. Not intending to be argumentative, but King Kong utilized stop action animation, and that wasn’t used here. It’s hard to believe that they staged this scene in “The Enforcer” because of technological limitations at the time, and because of Alcatraz’s unique topography and the background of San Francisco Bay. Also, the bad guy and the mayor of San Francisco were climbing the tower that Eastwood shot up. I don’t think that someone made a large canvas of San Francisco to shoot this scene against in a back lot, but maybe I’m mistaken. I doubt they built interiors to look like Alcatraz for the gun fights. Since I’ve not seen anything specific about this either, I am assuming they did allow film makers to do this damage, my point being that for many years, the government allowed Alcatraz to deteriorate instead of preserving it, which is finally being done. When I went back this year, I saw that they had painted the exterior of the main cell block, and repaired or replaced roofs, gutters and downspouts, the old morgue was available for viewing, and the old factory building was open for visiting. They’re working on a building adjacent to the factory building and the electrical shop, too. If “The Enforcer” comes on again soon, check it out–see what you think. Some basic cable channels run Clint Eastwood or Dirty Harry marathons, so it might be on soon.

    1. Natacha – I found this under revealing mistakes for the film.

      When Callahan fires the bazooka at the watch tower that Bobby Maxwell has just climbed up to, the cabin on top of the tower vanishes shortly before the missile hits it. We just see the bare platform for a few frames, then there’s an explosion and then we see the platform in flames.

      This indicates model work. Model can be full-sized like half an airliner.

  3. Welcome to CA, Professor Turley! TinEar is right – the Redwoods are a must see if have the time. Plus there’s the Monterey Bay Aquarium, one of my favorites. The best parts of CA are the natural areas – especially the north where’s it’s more green. There are some wonderful beaches still undiscovered by tourists, too. Plus whale watching and deep sea fishing. You can go Great White Shark watching, too, if you go to the Red Triangle. 🙂

    As a rider, let me encourage you to see some of the more remote parts of CA from horseback. There’s nothing like it, and you can get so much closer to wildlife riding than you can hiking.

  4. Paul: Despite the fact that it was owned by the federal government, no one was allowed to go to Alcatraz from the time it closed as a federal prison in 1963 until sometime in the 1970’s, when it opened for tours. If you’ve seen “The Enforcer” (with Clint Eastwood), then you’ve observed the shootout scenes in which bullet holes were blasted into walls, both exterior and interior walls were riddled with bullets and there is the scene in which Eastwood appears to be blasting a guard tower off of its foundation with a bazooka. There are after shots showing the foundation, sans tower, which appear, to me at least, to be genuine. There was no CGI in the 1970’s to my knowledge. Still, it could have been staged somehow.

    The point of this was to ask whether you are aware of any source that states definitively whether the damage that appeared to have been done was staged, because it seemed to me that the federal government didn’t seem to care very much about what happened to Alcatraz until fairly recently, including up to the time of my visit in 2007. As of 2007, buildings were allowed to deteriorate to the point of lacking a roof and being full of standing water and stairs that were intact in the 1970’s were falling down.

    1. Natacha – there was model work going way back. The original King Kong is model work. If they shot down an actual tower, they might have built is elsewhere and shot it down or the could have used a miniature. But I do not know for sure.

  5. Paul: I don’t know if it was a federal site at the time “The Enforcer” was filmed. For awhile after it was closed as a prison, it was illegal to go there. If you’ve seen “The Enforcer”, the bad guys were encamped there after kidnapping the Mayor of San Francisco. I don’t think it was open for tours at that time.

    1. Natacha – it has been a federal site since before the Civil War if I remember correctly. AIM was out there for awhile. Nicholas Cage made a movie there. Eastwood did another one about the escape from Alcatraz. It was a fort, federal prison for POWs, federal prison, big ass rock, movie site, tour site and museum.

  6. Paul: I’ve always wondered whether they really let Clint Eastwood blow up that guard tower in “The Enforcer”, or whether this was staged. I’ve never found a source that says one way or the other, but it sure looks like he did, which is kind of shocking. If you know of a resource, let me know. When I first went to Alcatraz in 2007, it was very run down. Most of the steep exterior stairs had been allowed to deteriorate and were unsafe. Also, the end of the island containing the old factory was closed off, and that factory building had standing water and almost no roof. They were considering tearing it down. They fixed all of this up, and the old factory now contains an exhibit of letters, artwork and tape recordings to and from prisoners and their kids, some of whom mostly grew up without having their father or mother in their lives due to imprisonment. I found it very moving and a powerful reason not to get locked up. They are fixing up many of the other buildings as well, and had displays of products made by the prisoners over the years. They also restored the shower building and had some old prison uniforms. This was just an empty building in 2007.

    Jonathan: we can’t have too many photos, so keep them coming.

    1. Natacha – since it is a federal site, they could not blow it up. I always thought it was a model they destroyed.

  7. Lion Killer: If they have this as a felony charge in Africa then it seems like deportment from here to there for trial makes legal sense. But also if he brought any piece of the dead lion back here then he might be prosecuted here for felony transport of evidence to avoid prosecution.
    In any event, someone with a rifle needs to take aim at this dork dentist. Pull his teeth afterward and send them to Africa as a “trophy”.

  8. Two weeks isn’t long enough to see the whole state. Don’t show to many photos, we’re over populated now

    1. Bruce – when I go to California my wife and I locate in one city and then spend a week seeing sights in the area. Then we go to another city and do the same thing.

  9. BarkinDog: I agree that he should be extradited to Africa to face the music. People shouldn’t be allowed to go into a sovereign county, destroy its resources, and then skip out.

    1. TinEar – 380 American kill a lion in Africa every year. Are we going extradite them all?

  10. My favorite part of California is the north coast. Rent a car and drive up though the wine country into the redwoods. It takes a full day to drive from San Fran to Humboldt County, but it is beautiful. Rugged and remote. I also liked visiting the Spanish missions in central and Southern California. I generally tried to avoid the major population centers. The central coast is also very nice, from San Fran down to Santa Barbara. The University of San Fran (Jesuit school) sits atop a hill that overlooks the city – spectacular views. JT should consider being a visiting prof at the USF law school for a year. It would be a wonderful change from Washington, D.C.

  11. Last time I was there, a prisoner was signing his book. I found the prison itself fascinating and the fact that it used to be a fort was really interesting. Of course then watching Clint Eastwood blow part of it up was very special. 😉

  12. The Alcatraz tour is very good. The Gilroy Garlic Festival is around this time of year. You will be near there when you are in Monterey and a worthwhile stop for garlic lovers.

  13. Off topic: We need a topic on the notion of extradicting the dork who shot the lion in Africa.

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