Thursday Morning Quickie #9

[Note: The following text was taken verbatim from the “M Men-Gleaner Manual, Love, Marriage, and You” used in 1956-1957. Previous entries in this series can be found here.]

Lesson 3

Who Are You?

IN BEAUTIFUL San Francisco bay is located a solid rock island which harbors many of the most dangerous and ruthless criminals in the world. Alcatraz, “the rock” by nickname, is the impenetrable home of about two hundred and seventy-five “intractable male offenders.” The island is separated from the mainland and the cosmopolitan city of San Francisco by more than a mile of water. The tide flows by at a rapid rate and makes escape almost impossible. The island covers about twelve acres and rises from the gateway waters to a height of about one hundred and thirty feet, presenting a majestic view of the Golden Gate bridge, the city of San Francisco and of the stately ships that come and go.

The inmates are the most desperate and unmanageable of federal prisoners. Many of those who have been unable to get along successfully in other federal penal institutions have been transferred to this fortress overlooking the Golden Gate. Many of them leave their imprisonment “feet first” and the average length of sentence is more than twenty-five years. In other words, assembled in this prison is a conglomerate mass of humanity which has seriously violated the rules of society. Here are found men who have disobeyed the laws of the group and oftentimes have ruthlessly forgotten regard for their fellow men. They live in cells about ten by six feet. Each cell contains a single bed, a toilet, a wash basin and two folding tables attached to the walls. The men are dressed in gray outfits, made by some of the inmates, and have numbers over their left pockets for identification. For the first ninety days a newcomer is allowed no mail or visitors, and after that time he is limited to two visits a month by approved persons only. Even then the visit is conducted visually through a small opening of one-inch glass and the voices are carried through two layers of metal with punched holes and meshed iron in between. A few solitary cells, with doors electrically controlled are available for disciplinary purposes. They are entirely soundproof and when the door is shut the inmate is left in utter blackness.

In the first part of May, 1946, a former bank robber and dishonorably discharged soldier, who was serving a twenty-five year sentence, with the help of five other dangerous criminals, engineered a daring revolt in an attempt to escape. This individual, by use of a clever combination of toilet fixtures and a pair of pipe pincers, widened the space between two bars which protected the “gun gallery.” The prisoner gained access to other parts of the prison where he was able to slug and disarm the officer on duty. With the firearms thus obtained the prisoners forced unarmed officers to turn over their keys. Fortunately no keys were available for the door leading to the outside yard and the escape plot was doomed to failure. The mass attempt to escape became a bloody revolt and a treacherous gun battle ensued between the inmates and prison officers and some of the United States Marines who were called in to assist in restoring order on the embattled island. After a two-day siege the prisoners finally surrendered but only after two officers lost their lives, seventeen others were injured and three prisoners including the main perpetrator of the riot were killed and several others injured.

Quickie Questions

1. Why are there men in Alcatraz today?
2. How do these men differ from M Men who are living their religion?


Thursday Morning Quickie #9


  1. 1. Why are there men in Alcatraz today?

    It is part of San Francisco’s robust tourism industry.

    2. How do these men differ from M Men who are living their religion?

    I would argue that these men are living their religion with just as much dedication as the M Men. Different strokes for different folks.

  2. MikeInWeHo says:

    Refreshing moral clarity! Follow the precepts of the Church faithfully or you will wind up dead in an Alcatraz prison riot.

  3. True, Mike. I have a feeling that next week’s installment will bring us a description of Hitler, Stalin and Mao Tse-Tung followed by that same question, “How do these evil dictators differ from M Men who are living their religion?”

  4. Fletcher says:

    This reminds me of “Finding Nemo”, where the fish finally escape the aquarium, only to find themselves tied up in plastic bags bobbing in the ocean. M-Men would have carefully thought out all the steps necessary to escape from Alcatraz, rather than the first two or three steps.

  5. “who was serving a twenty-five year sentence, with the help of five other dangerous criminals, ”

    I am heartened to hear that this brother was being assisted in serving his sentence with help from five other dangerous criminals. They couldn’t have been all that bad if they were helping him in such service. It sounds sort of like an Elders Quorum service project.

    And, he was serving–every day for 25 years, if his service hadn’t been cruelly cut short by the agents of a harsh and unforgiving law. How many of us have done any service today?

    I’m afraid that the M-Men just couldn’t measure up.

  6. This individual, by use of a clever combination of toilet fixtures and a pair of pipe pincers, widened the space between two bars.

    Model for a future Relief Society craft project? Sounds like all that time in solitary really helped with learning about self-reliance.

  7. 1. Why are there men in Alcatraz today?

    You just told us, they couldn’t escape. What a silly question.

    2. How do these men differ from M Men who are living their religion?

    Given the fact that this is coming from the “M Men-Gleaner Manual, Love, Marriage, and You” Should I understand this question to be about Love and Marriage? What an incredibly long, bloody story just to end up talking about fidelity in isolated situations . . . weird.

  8. Steve Evans says:

    Close it up, people, close it up.

    Now this is something the other tour guides won’t tell you.

    This way to the cafeteria!

  9. /speechless

  10. This individual, by use of a clever combination of toilet fixtures and a pair of pipe pincers, widened the space between two bars which protected the “gun gallery.”

    I think James V. Bennett, director of the Bureau of Prisons, was more accurate when he described Coy’s use of toilet fixtures and a pair of pipe pincers here as a “diabolically clever combination” (Federal Offenders, 1946, 19).

  11. Moniker Challenged says:

    Oi, I think the lightheartedness has been shivved out of my being.

  12. “A few solitary cells, with doors electrically controlled are available for disciplinary purposes.”

    What’s the rest of the prison there for?

  13. I love Vicki.

  14. Steve, that is probably the best PH segment ever. Love that movie.

  15. living in zion says:

    I am going to ask my teenage son how many of his priesthood lessons now resemble this one “from the good old days”.

  16. Hey Steve,
    Remember when B. Russ was having trouble with his old moniker 152, and we were going to start calling him Vicki? Man, that would have been great.

  17. Vicki would have been great. Unfortunately he went with B.Russ, which is B.arfy.

  18. Hey, words hurt guys.

  19. Burr O'Bryant says:

    Interesting side note, at least five members from my ward in Nor Cal have made the almost impossible escape from the Rock, by swimming from Alcatraz to San Francisco’s Aquatic Park. So much for the myth that no escapee could survive the treacherous waters of San Francisco Bay.

  20. 19 Well Sure, its not so treacherous if you have “Shark Repellent”, but you have to remember it hadn’t been invented by Batman yet when Alcatraz was in use.

  21. StillConfused says:

    I found this whole thing so confusing. I am guessing this was written while Alcatraz was still open. I kept waiting for the escape to really happen and then wondered what that would have to do with people living their religions and Alcatraz being shut down.

    Does “M Men” mean Mormon men or something else?

  22. At least there’s no false advertising in your moniker, StillConfused.

    The prison on Alcatraz closed in 1963.

    And, Burr, you think that the inmates were given time to practice swimming? (I can almost hear the warden explaining that one to a Congressional committee!) And d’you think the escapees were able to time their swims to match the most favorable tide?

  23. Holy crap, B. Russ.

    That video almost redeems any future sins you might commit.

  24. That comment will probably come back to haunt you.

  25. “almost”

  26. I wonder, are the Batman Original Television Series seasons available on DVD? I would totally buy all of them!

    I love that Batman also has Whale Repellent, Manta-Ray Repellent, and Barracuda Repellent. Because you never know what you’ll need to repel!

  27. I love that a grown man can’t hold his own against a barracuda. However, I don’t think a can of aerosol really helps much against a real shark.

  28. MikeInWeHo says:

    That Megalodon clip is awesome!!

  29. Scott B. FTW

  30. No, B. Russ. Jet-ski-into-the-gaping-jaws-of-hellbig-shark FTW

  31. Cynthia L. says:

    Scott, I’m sorry but your video reenactment of the escape is historically incorrect. The passage clearly says that Alcatraz held only male prisoners, not blond women.

  32. Cynthia L. says:

    B.Russ, that was spectacular, though not real.

  33. Blond woman???
    I thought that was a clever disguise! Is my face red….

  34. What does M Men mean? Does it really mean Mormon Men? Why not just say the latter?

  35. Have we set a record for the number of youtube clips embedded in the comments of one post yet?

  36. Number? Maybe

    Awesomeness? Definitely

  37. “M Men” does not mean “Mormon Men” if I recall correctly. I remember reading somewhere what it meant–I think Ardis Parshall explained the term. I’ll see if I can track it down.

  38. B. Russ,

    Actually, it’s possible that the record number of YouTube clips in comment threads is fairly low, since we auto-moderate anything containing a YouTube url, and most people don’t bother trying.

    However, for this thread alone, I’m approving YouTube clips. Fire away, people!

  39. If Ardis is as authoritative it sounds, we have two sources describing the M Men:

    First we have the comment she left saying it was either for Mutual or Mormon.

    Second we have her blog post at Keepapitchinin where she says it is most likely Mutual, short for Mutual Improvement Association, or MIA.

    So, I would guess that M Men were the MIA Men, which would explain why we have Mia Maids in the Young Women’s program now.

    But that last part is just conjecture.

    Now if someone can just explain why Gold and Green Balls are called such…

  40. Is there a bloggernacle equivalent of the Rick-roll? A Packeroll perhaps? McRollkie? Or, dun duh duh dun, a Beck-roll?

  41. Helen Wheels says:

    The proper title was “Gold and Green Ball” I never heard it in the reverse. (In Washington state at least, I can’t speak for Utah.) I know there was a significance to the colors but I am too old to remember what it was anymore.

    M-men and Gleaners were those singles out of high school and back in the day there was no upper age limit in my stake. Which lead to some pretty interesting social interactions to say the least. I remember dancing (slow dancing that is-which was pretty much like it is today) at a singles function with the father of some of my peers. He was a convert from a hard-core Southern Baptist snake-handling Tobacco Road background. His long-suffering wife had left him and he was looking for a fresh young thing to get hitched and start makin’ babies with him. Of course as an obedient and kind young woman I could not refuse his request for a dance. (That wouldn’t be “nice”.) I took a long hot shower when I got home.

  42. I beg your pardon for correcting your memory, Helen. The M Man and Gleaner program was for marrieds as well as singles, and cut off, without exception, on one’s 30th birthday. You may claim an exception “in my stake” but that makes no sense. The MIA offered no program, class, position or provision for anyone over 30, except for teachers and activity specialists. How were these older people using their time at your weekly MIA evenings? I cannot guess how or where you danced with the creepy older man, but it was not at MIA. I know of no “rule,” formal or otherwise, that compelled you to dance with him. To the contrary, I remember class discussions about treating young ladies with respect and graciously accepting a “no” to a date or a dance. I have to think that discussions on the girls’ side included polite ways to decline dates and dances.

    Again I beg your pardon for correcting you, and beg the pardon of readers who think I am too stiff and once again in President Packer mode. I find the insinuations of Helen’s comment intolerable and believe that most BCC readers are too young to challenge her assertions from experience.

  43. On the issue of M-Men, Ardis wrote me the following:

    M Men and Gleaners were the MIA programs for young adults (single or married) from the time they graduated from high school to their 30th birthdays. The purpose was to train young adults in leadership roles and smooth their transition from youth to adult. An optional track within that program let the 20-somethings earn Master M Man and Golden Gleaner awards by completing rigorous leadership programs.

    The “M” in M Man was never defined as far as I could see — don’t know whether it stood for “Mormon” or “Mutual”.

  44. On the naming of the Gold and Green Ball (Alex, #39), Ardis wrote me the answer to that as well:

    The “signature colors” for MIA were green and gold, just like the Primary used red, yellow and blue.

  45. But why gold and green? We still see these colours used on the “On My Honor” and “Duty to God” awards given in Scouts and in the Aaronic Priesthood (at least they used to with “Duty to God” – I don’t know if they still give the medallion or not).

    Primary makes sense, because red, yellow, and blue are the “primary colours”. Is there any significance to the selection of gold and green? Do they have any symbolic meaning?

    A friend this evening said that it is just a spin off of the lazy pronunciation of Golden Gleaner, but I find myself doubting if that is accurate.

  46. Mutual was an official program of the Church. At BYU Mutual was held, for example, on a weeknight with a lesson and activities. The lesson was, as in the OP, a lesson. After the lesson there were activities. It was the golden era before correlation. Actually it was a lot of fun, the single adult version of MIA.

    The Master M-man and Golden Gleaner awards were the ULTIMATE in MIA attainment. My wife and I were called, I think, to encourage the ward to achieve these awards. So she and I did become Master M-man and a Golden Gleaner.

  47. 46 So she and I did become Master M-man and a Golden Gleaner.

    Worst. Superhero-Names. Ever.

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