What Prisoners Ate at Alcatraz in 1946: A Vintage Prison Menu

alcatraz menuWhy would you want to escape from Alcatraz when you could eat Beef Pot Pie Anglaise for lunch on Tuesday, Baked Meat Croquettes on Wednesday, and Bacon Jambalaya on Saturday? On second thought, why wouldn’t you want to escape.

Above, we have the actual menu for the meals served at Alcatraz during one week in September, 1946. (View it in a slightly larger format here.) Alcatraz was, of course, a high security federal prison that operated off of the coast of San Francisco from 1933 until 1963. Some of America’s more notorious criminals spent time dining there — good fellows like Al Capone, George “Machine Gun” Kelly, Bumpy Johnson, and James “Whitey” Bulger.

As you may know, Bulger is now back on trial in Boston. After being released from prison during the 1960s, he allegedly re-immersed himself in the world of organized crime, before eventually spending 16 years living as a fugitive, largely in California. While on the lam, he amazingly had the chutzpah to visit Alcatraz (now a tourist site) and pose for a picture where he donned a striped suit and stood behind mock prison bars. I have to wonder whether he had some Puree Mongole for old times’ sake?

via SF Gate and Laughing Squid

Related Content:

The Odd Collection of Books in the Guantanamo Prison Library

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Philosophy in Prison: Weighty Conversations about Right and Wrong

Two Prison Concerts That Defined an Outlaw Singer: Johnny Cash at San Quentin and Folsom (1968-69)

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Comments (16)
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    Because “Beef Pot Pie Anglaise” was a euphamism for something so disgusting and devoid of protein and actual nutrition you really didn’t want to stomach it.

    In prison, a good 1/3 of meals to a Civilian from the ouside, are what I call “Throw Away Meals”. In other words, they are so disgusting to you, you just walk to the trash can, dump the whole thing away in disgust (and hunger).

    If you are one of the few fortunate ones with people on the outside that still care about you, you have a stash of store food you bought, which is mainly lots of ramen soup, a few canned soft drinks, a few bags of fritos, and maybe some peanuts. You mix the ramen with the fritos and try and make a meal out of it.

    You could say also you have all the free cable tv you want to watch as well. This also is not true. There is one TV, it is mounted so high up you crane your neck to see it… to watch it you have to sit in the dayroom, a dangerous area exposed… and its always tuned to something horrid… like Fox News Propaganda or WWF wrestling.

    Don’t believe everything you hear about prison. If it sounds rosy and sugar coated, it is. An illusion of words.

  • Auntiekhan says:

    Great post Chopper!

  • Zink says:

    You’ve definitely been there Choppergirl. In jail, I never used my entire ramen packet and eventually accumulated a large collection of “seasonings”. I learned which ramen flavor would fix each of the lousy dishes they served. I also became the “flavor exchange guy” for whoever wanted to swap packets. Oddly, it all made me a better cook when I got back home.

    I was an engineering guy. All I ever did was get real good at growing my own cancer/chemo medication. Waiting 180 days for for shock-probation seemed like forever.

  • Red says:

    Somehow I doubt either of you have been to prison.

  • Goobersgirl says:

    Gee, prison is supposed to be punishment right? Hard to drum up an sympathy for anyone griping about it. Especially if those persons were not incarcerated at Alcatraz at the time when this menu was used. Plenty of law abiding citizens would deal with a lot for a guaranteed roof over their heads and something to eat on a regular basis even if it isn’t four star cuisine.

  • Goobersgirl says:

    I also agree with Red.

  • James says:

    Goobersgirl, prison is supposed to be about rehabilitation, not punishment.

  • Zink says:

    Red, Goobersgirl – Obviously neither of you have done time. Choppergirl nailed it when she mentioned the TV. You have to put up with idiots who constantly watch WWF wrestling, Jerry Springer, reality shows, and even worse – prison documentaries. Hell, I wanted to forget I was in there. And they always have the volume up loud.

    For the record, I was in the Muhlenberg Co, Detention Center in Greenville KY (July-December 2012). The state sends Class-D felons to local jails for the duration. I was sent from Louisville Metropolitan Corrections where the food is horrendously worse. I bet Choppergirl knows what a “zabo” is. (look it up in an Urban Dictionary).

    More proof – I was the only guy in that jail with an engineering degree. I was bored, but they did let me use a calculator – so I did what I could. From the center of the east wall of the MCDC in Greenville, look North 69°41’16’East, 11.45 miles. You can see the center of the 3 power plant stacks that the TVA built after they razed Paradise, KY as in “where Paradise lay” (see John Prine).

  • lyredragon says:

    James, you’re living in a dream world. There are only certain places in this world where prison is rehab. The Netherlands, for example. The US system is a Penal system. Penal, by definition, means punishment.

  • James Bain says:

    In my youth, I made the mistake of thinking no court would convict me of something I didn’t do, and ended up in what amounted to county jail in Ponce, Puerto Rico, my hometown.
    Needless to say, incarceration is NOT about rehabilitation-recidivism rates testify to that being BS. In fact, many inmates repeatedly committed petty crimes for a roof over their heads and three square meals daily.
    For a time, one particular cook we had did all he could to make our meals palatable, if not downright tasty, but he lasted all of nine months and gruel ruled again, in the form of rice and beans for lunch and dinner-with occasional pieces of chicken or pork from the prison farm and cream of wheat for breakfast. That’s every day. Every day. Families did what they could to help smuggle in spices and the like. Enterprising inmates smuggled in better vegetables from time to time, but mostly, it was dreary and disheartening.
    I made peace with almost everyone. It’s impossible to get over extreme ignorance, though, and it’s a miracle I got out alive.
    That said, I think everyone should be required to spend a year in jail-as a form of raising our social consciences. I suspect fewer people would treat all inmates with disdain and probably more people would strive to stay out.

    • Jeannie4444 says:

      Thank God you made it back home, right? Unfortunately, here in the U.S., incarcerationis all about two major corporations making big bucks off of a lot of people they allow to rot and starve. Here’s hoping someone wakes up to the fact that it’s time to stop needless wars and incarceration and concentrate on giving people the education and power to become the creatures God intended them to be.

  • thecrud says:

    If everyone had to do at least a year. The powers that be would make them into a country club.

  • Bill W. says:

    Huh. Same type of menu-items they used to feed us in the military; I was always amused when they’d list condiments as one of the things served for that particular meal.

  • derek vanname says:

    iv’e been to prison 40 times

  • Pattie says:

    What i do know is all the monies given to prisons for food is stolen by whoever takes in the money and the prisoners get half of what they are really supposed to get. Like they are supposed to get 2 hot dogs and 2 rolls or 2 slices of bread but instead they get only one..and so on. So the prisoners are always hungry. Some prisons actually have good cooks and some don’t same as restaurants. They are lucky when they get an Italian cook..lol

  • Fynes Moryson says:

    What? No bologna sandwiches.

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