Sunday, January 08, 2012

Me And The Pope

By request.

It was Friday, October 5, 1979. Pope John Paul ll was in Chicago, a very rare occurrence for a Pope to be visiting the Midwest.

The Pope was originally from Poland and the reason for his visit may have been the fact that Chicago has the largest Polish population outside of Warsaw (count me as one). The Pope was going to say Mass in Grant Park that day and millions were expected to attend.

Most offices in the downtown area decided to shut down Friday, as mine did. But I had to go in because there was a high profile assignment (my latest designs for some new McD packaging) that was ultimately my responsibility. My plan was to go in very early and get out by noon.

Our office was located at 360 N. Michigan, on the southwest corner of Michigan and Wacker where the London House was still open on the street level and WLS radio was on the fourth floor. I could go on about that, let’s just say I often rode in the elevator along with some very famous DJ’s and rock stars of the day. On the way down, if the elevator stopped at the fourth floor it was always interesting to see who would climb in.

When I rode down about noon to head over to the Metra Electric train the crowds along Michigan had already formed. One of our building engineers at the door told me the Pope was about to travel south on Michigan to Grant Park. So WTF? Figured I would hang around to check that out.

I positioned myself on the east side of the bridge and peered north up the avenue. Far away were some flashing lights. Not long after, as the motorcade drew near those of us on the east side crossed over to the center medium railing since the northbound lanes were closed. I stood on the railing and watched the Pope go by no more than fifteen feet away. What a sight.

Being raised Roman Catholic it was unavoidable to have a very strange feeling come over me. I would call it a rapture. No shit. As the short motorcade passed a huge flock of onlookers walked south down the avenue following the motorcade. I went along.

Having seen parades for the White Sox World Series Championship, one Chicago Bulls Championship, one Chicago Bears Super Bowl Championship and most recently one Chicago Blackhawks Stanley Cup victory parade, nothing comes close to what I witnessed as the Pope rode through town. It was so enormous, it is simply indescribable to see millions of people in the biggest crowd Chicago had ever seen.

No way was I going to see the Grant Park Mass. Instead, I caught the train and watched it from our apartment in Park Forest IL.

On Monday when I arrived in the office a coworker named Joe Murphy passed by and said to me, “Hey, nice photo of you and the Pope!” Whaaaa? He told me there was a photo of me and the Pope in Saturday’s Chicago Tribune special section on the Pope. Joe then said,” It looked like you were in the car with the Pope.”

I dashed down the elevator, crossed the bridge and went to the Trib’s first floor store where back issues could be purchased. I looked at one and saw the photo. I then bought five copies, some for me and others for my mom and grandmothers.

A closer crop

Is still have one copy. It was used to scan in the photo above.


Dan from Madison said...

haha awesome, you crack me up. Before the days of the popemobile too!

Jonathan said...

Great story.

Carl from Chicago said...

That is an all-time great photo!

Terry from Crown Point said...

Kinda Zelig-like. THX 4 posting!