from the depths of memory

I’ve been reading in Mavis Gallant’s Paris Stories, most recently “The Moslem Wife”, and no doubt that brought this lyric to mind first thing this morning –a song I know from a 1952 Dunster Dunces record that I wish I could find again:

We never mention Aunt Clara
Her picture is turned to the wall
For she lives on the French Riviera
Mother says she is dead to us all

She used to sing hymns in the old village choir
She used to teach Sunday School class
At playing the organ she never would tire
But those dear days are gone now and past

With presents he tempted and lured her to sin
Her innocent virtue to smirch
But Aunt Clara was strong and she never gave in
'Til he gave her the keys to the church

They said that Hell Fire would punish her sin
She'd burn for her carryings-on
But just at this moment she's toasting her skin
In a villa near Old Avignon

We never mention Aunt Clara
But I think that when I grow up tall
I shall go to the French Riviera
And let Mother turn me to the wall

A bit of Googly diligence turns up other versions, which it’s probably just as well I didn’t encounter as a precocious 10-year old. One such, well worth your time if you are so inclined, boasts this explanatory verse:

So then on the organ she'd practice and play;
The preacher would pump up and down.
His wife caught him pumping her organ one day
And that's why Aunt Clara left town. 

Honeymonstercxix, channeling Hamish Imlach, bless him, knows that one:

…and there are others that may be of interest is Honeymonster’s oeuvre too.

And there’s more backstory, assigning the original to Ruth and Eugene Willis ca. 1936, further elaborated and perhaps inspired by Irene Adler, of Sherlock Holmes fame. Or not. Perhaps Library of Congress has the last word. Or not.

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