To commemorate 50 years since the closure of the Alcatraz federal prison, a San Francisco photojournalist spoke Thursday morning about his experience capturing scenes from the final day at “the Rock.”
At the San Francisco History Museum, former San Francisco Examiner photographer Fred Pardini described his day spent on Alcatraz on March 21, 1963, documenting the prisoners’ transferral to other, land-based federal prisons.
Twelve black-and-white photos on display on the fourth floor of the museum, located at 499 Powell St., provide glimpses of what Pardini witnessed that day when the roughly 15 final prisoners were taken from their cells and transported off the island.
“At the time, we didn’t know how historical it would be, shooting that,” Pardini said.
Pardini recalled that the media who were invited to the island that day were given a wide berth, and he was able to take unrestricted shots.
Several of his photographs that ran in the newspaper were of the prisoners shuffling out of their cells in handcuffs, then being loaded onto buses to be taken away by boat as the guards monitored them.
“For me, I was fortunate and lucky to be able to be in a place no one else gets to see,” Pardini said.
One of the photos shows the final Alcatraz breakfast the inmates ate that morning, which included stewed fruit, scrambled eggs, toast and assorted dry cereals.
The breakfast was recreated this morning, with wait staff wearing black-and-white prison garb at the Golden Gate Grill, located on the floor below the museum.
Sasha Lekach, Bay City News