Filed Under:

Living Memories From The Last Days Of Alcatraz

Play associated audio

Fifty years ago, the notorious Alcatraz prison shut its gate behind guard Jim Albright as he escorted the last inmate off the island on March 21, 1963.

"As we're going out, I know, when I come back from this trip, I don't have a job, I don't have a home anymore," Albright remembers. "I didn't want the island to close, I didn't want to leave. I liked it there."

Since that day, Albright estimates that he's visited the island a dozen times, along with many other tourists to the Golden Gate National Recreation Area. But even without prisoners, Alcatraz remains one of the most infamous prisons in America. It continues to capture the public's imagination, decades after it closed.

Remembering "The Rock"

Former inmate Robert Schibline was brought to Alcatraz in 1958, after he was caught robbing banks while on shore leave from the Navy — and using the aircraft carrier on which he was stationed as a getaway vehicle.

"Well, the reputation of Alcatraz went far and wide, even to us convicts," Schibline says. "I had a bit of a trepidation when I got off the bus, and seeing that thing sitting on the island, out in the bay, shrouded by fog, I thought, 'Oh boy, here I go again, into the world unknown!'"

Albright was also nervous on his first day on "The Rock."

"I remember I was only 24 when I started there, and I had no previous experience," he says. "So it was kinda fearful, and you'd be apprehensive and it was exciting and everything, especially when you walked through the door for the first time and they slammed the door behind you. Because you didn't know what to expect."

The Night Of The Escape

Albright and Schibline remember each other from those days, though guards and inmates did not socialize. They also recall the night when inmates Frank Morris and Clarence and John Anglin made history as the first successful escapees from "The Rock."

The daring trio placed homemade dummy heads in their beds to fool the guards, then climbed up onto the roof and into the San Francisco Bay on a raft made of raincoats. They were never heard from again.

"All the inmates felt like they made it and all the officers felt like they didn't make it," Albright recalls.

"Everybody was very happy that they made it out of the cell block and out of the prison," says Schibline, who did his own small part to help the Anglin brothers escape. "I was able to get access to the paper out of the garbage can and get the tide tables off to Clarence."

Whether or not that helped the escapees is uncertain, and most believe they drowned in the ocean. A year after the escape, Alcatraz prison was shut down.

Albright went on to work in other prisons for the next 22 years, and Schibline opened a successful scuba diving shop after his release from prison. Both are now retired.

Copyright 2013 NPR. To see more, visit


'Moonlight': A Cinematic Poem Of Love, Loneliness And Coming Out

The most rewarding coming-of-age film in many a moon, lyrically luminous Moonlight is the story of a gay African-American youngster in Miami who experiences trouble, trauma and unexpected grace.

In Jerusalem And West Bank, Nutella Cafes Offer A Sweet Refuge

Palestinians are flocking to a string of Nutella cafés that have popped up in the region. The cafes offer a welcome refuge from the realities of living in a conflict zone.

Clinton Campaigns In Ohio Where She's In A Virtual Tie With Trump

Hillary Clinton campaigned in Ohio Friday.

Major Websites Experience Outages In Apparent Online Attack

A number of major websites, including Twitter, Spotify and Reddit, were knocked out of service for parts of the day in a sprawling, sophisticated online attack.

Leave a Comment

Help keep the conversation civil. Please refer to our Terms of Use and Code of Conduct before posting your comments.