Guest Commentary

Monique Oliver-Shaw

The Ticket

(Editor’s note: In 1957 Elvis played Ottawa’s Civic Auditorium on the only tour he ever performed outside the U.S. The Catholic Church protested, requiring that students pledge: “I promise I shall not take part in the reception accorded Elvis Presley.”  The author was then a Catholic schoolgirl who shares her indelible memory of that night.)

It will probably haunt me forever. We make a lot of mistakes in our lives, but this is one that stayed with me.

It was April 3, 1957 and I held a ticket for the Elvis concert. It was a surprise gift from my father René. It meant so much to me. He wanted to please me, to buy this ticket so I might see the show with my friend Louise.

We were crazy for Elvis! We lived on Granville Street; my friends and I loved the music of that era.  We had a record player and enjoyed all the 45s: Buddy Holly, Bill Haley, Pat Boone. At the Minto Club we used to skate to Johnny Ray, Just Walking in the Rain.

And then there was Elvis.

That day at school the nun, Sister Rita, asked for a show of hands: who had a ticket to the Elvis concert? I proudly raised my hand along with four or five others. Sister Rita turned to me. She said, “I’m going to ask Monique to make a sublime sacrifice.” God picked me to burn my ticket, she said; God chose me to show my classmates how much I loved Him.

I was stunned.

We feared the nuns.  I was very quiet and shy.  Looking back it seems so silly; God loved me even if I went to see Elvis. But I regret what happened.

Sister Rita brought me to the front of the class. She retrieved a book of matches from her pocket under the mounds of heavy folds of her woolen nun’s habit. I still remember that ticket; it was purple and gray. Sister Rita lit it with a match, and I shed silent tears as it fell burning into a wastepaper basket.  The class was quiet but Sister Rita applauded, saying God was glad I did it for Him.

I worried over my father’s reaction.  At home that evening he was upset – not with me, but with Sister Rita. Louise went to see Elvis without me that night. I felt manipulated and heartbroken. I was 13.

My father passed away the following year.  He was only 42.

Today I look back and wonder, what if I held my own and flatly refused to burn the ticket? It was a missed opportunity that’s become an unforgettable regret.  I could kick myself for doing it.  I should have said no.

Of course the story of the ticket has not changed my life. I became a mother and grandmother; I worked as a professional make-up artist. Yet it always stayed with me, resurfacing now and again to taint memories of my youth. It was a lesson I never forgot.

I should have refused!

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