2nd Annual “Mid Missouri Meet-Up”
The Volvo Club Goes to Jail
On a pleasant fall Sunday morning members of the Heart of America Chapter debarked on a modest road trip to Jefferson City, Missouri to take part in the 2nd Annual “Mid Missouri Meet-Up” with the Gateway Chapter members.
This years “Mid Missouri” destination was the historic old Missouri State Penitentiary. Dating from 1836 this grim institution remained in operation until 2004 and was, in 1932 the largest Prison in the United States with 5,200 inmates. It also enjoyed the reputation as being “The Bloodiest 47 acres in America”. As far as having a reputation for being a horrible place to be locked up, the Missouri State Penitentiary made Alcatraz pale in comparison!
The temporary visitors were treated to a two and a half hour long tour during which they got to fully appreciate the grim reality of “Prison Life” in the late 1800’s and early 1900’s. Especially impressive was “Unit 4” which opened in 1868 and remained occupied until the prison was closed in 2004. Four stories tall above ground with small cells which, at one time housed as many as eight inmates each. Below ground were the “Dungeon Cells” – reserved for the most incorrigible who were treated to complete isolation and total darkness with one meal a day.
We were shown the “accommodations” of notables such as the famous gangster Charles “Pretty Boy” Floyd, Sonny Liston (who went on the become the World Heavyweight Champion Boxer post release), and James Earl Ray who successfully escaped and later shot and killed Martin Luther King, Jr.
Last stop (appropriately) on the tour was the Gas Chamber. 40 inmates were executed here before the State of Missouri changed over to the Lethal Injection method. Surprisingly it was a “Two Seater” arrangement and was used in that fashion on more than one occasion. Not surprisingly, the death toll was greater at the hands of other inmates, getting killed during one of the numerous riots, or by simply contracting some dread disease while locked up.
Sufficiently inspired to remain law abiding citizens, we walked outside the stone walls and barbed wire fence with great relief and made our way to the Canterbury Hill Winery and Restaurant for a delicious lunch in a much more pleasant setting. No Bread and Water was ordered by any of the 21 participants in the day’s activities!