Here's Why There Were Often Kids Around Alcatraz

Alcatraz Island is famous for being a cold, silent, and dangerous place, home to the country's most hardened and notorious criminals, including mobster Al "Scarface" Capone and murderer Robert Stroud, otherwise known as the "Birdman of Alcatraz." But dangerous criminals weren't the only people who called Alcatraz Island home. According to History Collection, over 100 young children also claimed residency of the famous island.

A prison can't operate without staff, and Alcatraz was no exception. Many of the police officers, prison guards, and other staff who worked in the prison lived on the island with their families, including young children. There was a whole different side to the island, where staff kept their homes and raised their kids. There was "a preschool on the island ... a small commissary with milk, butter, bread ... a post office," and beautiful apartments that went for a fraction of the price of the apartments in San Francisco proper, according to Inside Edition.

'It was a big playground'

Chuck Stucker, who was four months old when his family moved to Alcatraz, likened it to growing up on a military base. Like any other group of young kids, they hung out together, played games, and went to school. The only difference was these children had to take a boat to the mainland to attend classes, and were required to wear special metal dog tags, in the event that one of them was taken hostage by a rogue prisoner, per History Collection.

Growing up on Alcatraz certainly didn't make for a boring childhood. Steve Mahoney, whose father was a guard at Alcatraz, recalled: "We played baseball and flew kites and rode bikes on what had been the parade field ... We'd get loaves of bread and feed them to small sharks. For us, it was a big playground" (via Inside Edition).

There was certainly no shortage of things to do, including exploring the dangerous areas that were supposed to be off-limits to children. Stucker recalled getting the "teenage girls to go by one side of the island where the guard towers couldn't see, and they'd wave at the sailboats, and ... We had these Goliath slings and we would try to pierce the sail." Others remember climbing onto rocks to peek inside the prison, or sneaking into the back areas where convicts occasionally performed their work duties.

'Life was unique and wonderful'

For all its amenities and excitement, Alcatraz wasn't without an element of danger. In the event of an emergency at the prison — for instance, a riot or an escape attempt — alarms would go off throughout the island. It was a signal all the kids knew meant they had to get home as quickly as possible.

The prison closed in 1963, and today the island serves as a museum and major attraction, which draws close to 1.5 million annual visitors, curious to learn about the history of the infamous prison. But the people who spent their childhood on the island remember it differently than the tourists. Mahoney, Stucker, and others like them remember the island as a place where "life was unique and wonderful."

Some of them didn't appreciate the unique experience until long after the island opened to the public. As Stucker recalled: "I had no appreciation for the view until years later ... It took me a long time to figure out it was something special," relates Inside Edition.