In 1984 the Pope was on a world tour and he was making a stop in Moncton. I’m not a huge fan (sure, I know the hits) but there was no way a young wide-eyed whipper-snapper like me was going to miss a show like this.
In preparation for his arrival, city officials had acquired a bug chunk of land in the valley below Lutes Mountain, almost directly across the Front Mountain Road from where my great aunt Christina lived in the house her husband Neils built with little more than a hammer and saw.
I remember that the Pope paraded around town in his bulletproof Popemobile with the top inexplicably down, though I don’t recall if I saw that with my own eyes or if I just saw it on the news.
I do know that living on the Ammon Road just a few miles away from the site afforded me quick and easy access to the Pope’s big show on September 13th of that year, knowledgable as I was of the ultra-lax Moncton security (now that I’d been to a few shows at the Coliseum) and particularly of the back roads in the area, specifically the secret entrance to the Papal field that ran off of the Gorge Road near Rebecca’s Grave.
(I can’t tell you how many nights trying to hitch-hike home I was forced to walk by the darkened old, eerie [and unquestionably haunted] roadside gravestones of a young mother named Rebecca, her husband, and their two children near the Gorge Road four-corners. And of course there was always fog…it gives me the willies just thinking about it.)
So I made it onto the giant field tickety-boo and got as close as I could just as The Man appeared. Actually, I somehow got too close. Just as the show started I found myself maybe twenty feet from the stage, the Pope waving and gesturing right above me. The only thing between us was air and a sorry excuse for a fence in the form of a single nylon rope strung waist-high between thin raw-wood posts. After about a minute I felt a hand on my shoulder. I turned and noticed that I was all alone up there; the huge crowd was packed up against a somewhat more serious fence that was about sixty feel behind me. Whoops!
My memory tells me it was completely unintentional, but my logic tells me that I knew exactly what I was up to. I’m pretty confident I told the security guy the former as he lightly tugged me back towards the masses.
If I pulled that sort of thing nowadays I probably would have at least been tackled if not Tased, but in the ho-hum leave-your-front-door-unlocked and leave-your-keys-in-the-ignition Moncton of 1984 it was probably more of a “Hey buddy, yuh seem to have found yerself in the wrong spot for a second there, sorry about that but here let’s find yuh a nice spot back with these other folks back here. Allll righty then, you have yerself a good day now,” sort of takedown.
And so I found myself all the way back in the front row where I soon got bored with the crowd, the Pope, and everything. I searched in vain for a t-shirt vendor and got out of there in pretty short order. Or so I recall…I’m sure I didn’t stick around for the encore.
While I’ll always remember the place as “The Pope Site”, that blessed hunk of ground finally became what the city promised from the beginning (and what I all but held my breath waiting for): a concert site. Unfortunately of the many excellent shows that have been mounted in the sloping grassy field (The Eagles, The Stones, AC/DC, etc) I have seen but one, but fortunately that was a downright magnificent performance by the great Mr. Bruce Springsteen.
And this Papal performance of course, though I can’t remember a single song the guy played.