At its prime some of the most ruthless killers, rapists and thieves were jailed on Alcatraz Island.
What you may not know is at the same time, upward of about 60 guards with their wives and children lived on the island with those criminals.
The prison grounds were Chuck Stuckers' back yard for the better part of his childhood.
"We didn’t lock our doors. It was probably the safest place in the bay area," Stucker said. The 76 year old now lives in Roseville, but off and on from 1940 to 1953, he spent his days getting into mischief at the federal prison.
"I got into a few places that were off limits," Stucker said
The island may have been a prison, but it was far from "lockup," according to Stucker. Boats would take kids and their mothers back and forth to San Francisco to go to school. On the island, residents had access to fishing, football, and bowling.
"Fishing was my past time and I would always take the warden's wife with me," Stucker said. "On the Island there was no limit."
Stucker lived on the island for a total of eight years in the 1940's and 50's. His family left when he was 13 years old. When the National Park Service took over operations decades later, Stucker started giving free informational tours in his off time.
"Big crowds would gather," Stucker said, adding that a few years ago park rangers started frowning on his free tours. In fact, ABC 10 tried to take a tour with Stucker on the Alcatraz, but the Park Service wouldn’t let our news cameras on the island without $1000 film permit. Luckily, Stucker and his friend Steve Davis shot this documentary before the park service started limiting access.
"I really just wanted to record my stories so people can access them in the future," Stucker said.
The documentary is called "Raised on the Rock." Stucker narrates the 57-minute video as he walks through different parts of Alcatraz. He recalls living with the inmates. Communication was forbidden, but Stucker said he often encountered prisoners when they picked up the laundry at his house.
"Often times, I would help them load it," Stucker said. "Didn't give it a thought that they were inmates."
Life on the island was peaceful for Chuck's family until 1946. In early May, an inmate used a bar spreader to break into the prison's gun room. Six other prisoners got ahold of the guns and tried to break out.
"My father saw an inmate with a gun. My father saw him," Stucker said.
Chuck's father managed to sound the alarm and lock himself in an office room. For three days, inmates raided the prison. The riot got so bad that U.S. Marines were called in. By the time soldiers took control, three inmates and two guards had been killed.
"The Warden Johnson [the transport boat] pulled into the dock with a body covered in a sheet," Stucker said, adding that the riot happened while he and the other kids were at school in San Francisco. Stuckers' father was rescued from his hiding spot. Six inmates went to trial and it was Chucks fathers job to escort the inmates to court. In the end, two were sentenced to death.
"One actually came back to Alcatraz as a guide," Stucker said.
Stucker continues to collect an impressive and extensive collection of Alcatraz memorabilia and documentation. A number of authors and historians use is collection and archive for their books. If you are interested, you can download a copy of his documentary "Raised on the Rock."
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