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Parks Service Commemorates 50th Anniversary Of Alcatraz Prison Closing

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SAN FRANCISCO (CBS SF) — 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.

KCBS’ Jeffrey Schaub:

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.

PHOTOS: Alcatraz Prison Closure 50th Anniversary

“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.

A breakfast menu is displayed inside Alcatraz penitentiary on the prison's last day of housing inmates, March 21, 1963. (San Francisco History Museum)

A breakfast menu is displayed inside Alcatraz penitentiary on the prison’s last day of housing inmates, March 21, 1963. (San Francisco History Museum)

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 Thursday morning, with wait staff wearing black-and-white prison garb at the Golden Gate Grill, located on the floor below the museum.

Among the visitors marking the occasion was Jim Albright, the last prison guard to leave The Rock in 1963.

Alcatraz started as a fort and became an Army disciplinary barracks before the Bureau of Prisons took it over in 1934 to house some of America’s most notorious criminals.

Nine years after the prison closed, Alcatraz became a national park — and one of California’s most popular tourist attractions.

(Copyright 2013 by CBS San Francisco and Bay City News Service. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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