Lost New England Goes West: Clarence Anglin’s Cell, Alcatraz, San Francisco

Cell #152 in Alcatraz, shortly after Clarence Anglin’s attempted escape in June 1962. Image courtesy of the National Park Service.

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The cell in 2015:

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Clarence Anglin and his brother John were convicted bank robbers whowere both incarcerated at Alcatraz. As explained in more detail in the previous post, they participated with their friend Frank Morris in what was possibly the only successful escape attempt from the prison. The first photo was taken in Clarence’s cell shortly after the escape was discovered, and the second one shows the cell as it appears today, complete with a replica of the dummy head that Anglin created to hide their disappearance.

In over 50 years since their disappearance, there have been no confirmed sightings of the three men, nor were their bodies ever discovered, which has led to plenty of speculation and reported sightings ever since. Perhaps the most interesting piece of evidence to surface recently, though, is a 1975 photo that was released last year, which supposedly shows the Anglin brothers in Brazil. Despite the resemblance to the escaped convicts, it remains inconclusive, but it is certainly possible that the men, now in their mid-80s, could still be alive and hiding in South America.

This post is part of a series of photos that I took in California this past winter. Click here to see the other posts in the “Lost New England Goes West” series.

Lost New England Goes West: Frank Morris’s Cell, Alcatraz, San Francisco

Cell #138 at Alcatraz, seen shortly after Frank Morris’s attempted escape in June 1962. Image courtesy of the National Park Service.

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The cell in 2015:

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The prison at Alcatraz is probably best known for the June 11-12, 1962 escape attempt by Clarence Anglin, John Anglin, and Frank Morris. The three men, plus a fourth one who ultimately did not participate in the escape, began planning six months earlier. With Morris as the ringleader, they used discarded saw blades, spoons, and an improvised drill to slowly chip away at the corroded concrete around the ventilation openings in their cells. On the other side of the wall is a utility corridor, and once they had escaped from their cells they climbed up to the roof, constructed a makeshift raft, and left the island.

To prevent their absence from being noticed, they had created papier-mâché heads and left them on their pillows. As a result, the escape was not noticed until the following morning. The first photo here was taken in Morris’s cell, probably only a few days after the escape. The men were never found, and despite the publicity at the time and in the years since, there has been no conclusive evidence to suggest either that they drowned in the frigid waters or successfully made it to shore.

Less than a year later, the prison closed, not because of the escape attempt, but because of the exorbitant cost of running a prison on a small island in the middle of San Francisco Bay. Today, the property is administered by the National Park Service, and the old prison is now open for tours. The cells of the escaped inmates, including Morris’s as seen here, have been furnished to show how they would have appeared on the night of the escape.

This post is part of a series of photos that I took in California this past winter. Click here to see the other posts in the “Lost New England Goes West” series.

Beecher Street School, Southington, Connecticut (2)

Another color photo of students at the Beecher Street School, in May 1942. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress, FSA-OWI Collection.

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The scene in 2015:

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The caption of the original photo is “Children stage a patriotic demonstration, Southington, Conn.”  Like the one in the previous post, it was taken at the Beecher Street School, and was probably intended by the Office of War Information to show the patriotic zeal that even young American children display.  At the time, the Beecher Street School was an elementary school; it had been built in 1911, and it would later be converted into offices for the school department.  The students in the 1942 photo would be in their 80s today, and the school building itself now stands vacant, although it was purchased by a private company last year to redevelop into apartment units.

Beecher Street School, Southington, Connecticut (1)

Students in front of Beecher Street School in Southington, in May 1942. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress, FSA-OWI Collection.

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The school in 2015:

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The first photo is one of several color photos taken by the Office of War Information of the people of Southington during World War II.  The original caption reads, “School children, half of Polish and half of Italian descent, at a festival in May 1942, Southington, Conn.”  As with the other photos in the collection, it was intended for a pamphlet, which would be distributed overseas in order to gain support for the American cause.  The mention of Italian and Polish students is probably deliberate, because at the time Italy was allied with Germany and Poland was under German occupation.

Built in 1911, the Beecher Street School was an elementary school for many years, and more recently it was used by the school department for their central offices.  As of 2015 it is vacant, and the overgrown weeds and cracked pavement paint a bleak picture, in stark contrast to the original photo.  However, last year the historic school was sold to a private company, who plans to convert it into housing units.

Main Street and Eden Avenue, Southington, Connecticut

Looking northwest from the corner of Main and Eden in Southington, in May 1942. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress, FSA-OWI Collection.

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The scene in 2015:

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This is the first color “then” photo that I have featured here, and it was taken by the Office of War Information, about six months after the US entered World War II.  The euphemistically-named OWI was essentially the propaganda department during the war, and one of their projects was to create a pamphlet that documented life in an American town.  Southington was chosen as the model, and several hundred photographs were taken in May 1942, including a few color ones.  The idea was to distribute the pamphlet overseas, with the goal of showing the freedom and equality that Americans enjoyed and hopefully gaining sympathy for the American war effort.

The 1942 photo was taken from the parking lot of an Atlantic gas station, with another gas station visible across Eden Avenue on the far right.  Both are still there, although the Atlantic one is now a Shell, and the gas prices are a little higher than they were in 1942, when the average price per gallon was 20 cents.  Across the street in the center of the photo was the home of The Southington News.  The building is still there today, although with an addition on the front.  Because the addition is not as tall as the rest of the building, the top of the original facade can still be seen from this angle.  It was most recently used as a men’s clothing store, but it is now vacant.