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Tallgrass Creek Resident Leaves for Family Reunion -- on Alcatraz

July 31, 2013

OVERLAND PARK, KS (July 31, 2013) - Growing up on Alcatraz Island, Tallgrass Creek retirement community resident Darlyne Sheppeard had a far from typical childhood. She took a boat to school and lived a stone's throw away from hundreds of the country's most notorious criminals. During Sheppeard's time there, the maximum security island prison hosted the infamous likes of  inmates Al Capone and "Machine Gun" Kelly.
On Tuesday, August 6, Sheppeard, whose father was a warden at Alcatraz, is headed back to Alcatraz for a reunion of former inmates, guards and residents of the prison.
"Usually a handful of inmates come and they are by far, obviously, the most popular, and that's fine by me," Sheppeard said.    
Surrounded by concrete walls and barbed wire fences, the boat to the mainland was a connection to the real world of San Francisco to the 30-odd children who lived on the island, the sons and daughters of Alcatraz guards. But living on Alcatraz made them grow up fast.
"You became quite close friends with other people your age," Sheppeard said. "You had to. It was different, back then. Especially on the island, children became adults much sooner than they do today."
There were no malls, dance halls or shows for entertainment. There was, however, a bowling alley popular with the handful of teenagers living on Alcatraz. But the teenagers had each other. The warden's son, a close friend of Sheppeard's, lived in the upper level of Alcatraz, separated by a series of locked fences. Sheppeard quickly learned how to pick the locks to visit her friend, and she carried a bent hairpin for the purpose at all times.
"At 15 years old, I remember thinking that it was crazy, just crazy, to be living in the most biggest, most maximum security prison and learning how to break locks to get around," she said.
Living on Alcatraz had its fair share of ups and downs for Sheppeard, but she embraced it all.
"I have a theory that it's good when things go wrong, because those experiences are the most memorable," she said. "If everything is perfect you have no memories to share."