Friday, 26 August 2016


   In 2003, I spent some time in San Francisco with a friend.  I loved the cable cars and spent a lot of time riding up and down the hills of the city.
   The view of Alcatraz is quite spectacular and we decided to make a tour of the prison.
my photo of Alcatraz

   As we were getting on the ferry to go to the island, there was a man selling a book.  Darwin Coon had been a prisoner in Alcatraz and he was talking to the tourists and selling his book.  

touring the prison
   The tour of the prison was fascinating.  Each person was given a headset and wandered alone, listening to commentary.  It was an interesting way to get the information and really set a grave atmosphere.

   I finally got around to reading this book about Alcatraz.  Sometimes there was more detail than I needed but other parts were interesting.  As well as the Bird Man of Alcatraz, other prisoners made pets of lizards or mice.  It was extremely difficult to remain sane and 'safe' in Alcatraz.  Many prisoners tried to escape and Darwin was involved in a few escapades.
  Darwin Coon had been in trouble since childhood, when his mother deserted him.  He developed a lifestyle of crime (mostly robbing banks) and prison, with breakouts involving brief periods of wild living, then back in prison.  He was in five institutions, ending with four years in Alcatraz.  But his story is much more interesting than just the years in Alcatraz.
   I discovered that, at age 30,  he turned his life around with the help of God, the church, the minister and a good woman. He found a job in property management.  Surprisingly, he and his wife were able to foster children- 94 actually!  He became a Bible teacher in a prison.    He never forgot his years in the prison system and especially in Alcatraz.  After his wife died, he spent a lot of time around Alcatraz, selling his book and talking to visitors there.  He was well-loved by the residents and tourists alike.  He died in 2011 at the age of 78.

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