She used to sing hymns in the village church choir
She used to teach Sunday-school class,
At playing the organ she never would tire,
Those good days are over, alas.

The preacher was tempted and lured her to sin,
Her innocent virtue to smirch,
But her honor was strong and she never gave in
Till he gave her the deed to the church.

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.


They said that she'd toil by night and by day,
She'd have to scrub floors for her bread,
But in less than a week she discovered a way
To earn her board lying in bed.

They said no one cared if she'd ever come back
When she left us her fortune to seek,
But the men in the firehouse painted it black
And the ball team wore mourning that week.


They told her the wages of sinners was death.
But to this Aunt Clara just said,
She'd just as soon die with champagne on her breath,
And pink satin sheets on her bed.

They say that hell-fires will punish her sin,
She'll burn for her carrying-ons,
But at least for the present she's toasting her skin
In the sunshine of Deauville and Cannes.

The good things in life always go to the pure
(The Sunday school lessons all teach)
But I wonder, when I see a rotogravure
Of her eighty-room home at the beach.

They told her that no man would make her his bride,
They prophesied children of shame,
But she's married three earls and a baron beside,
And she hasn't a child to her name.


They said that to garments of sackcloth she'll sink,
With ashes to cover her head,
But just at the moment it's ermine and mink,
And a diamond tiara, instead.

They say that she's sunken, they say that she fell
From the narrow and virtuous path,
But her formal French gardens are sunken as well
And so is her pink marble bath.

They told her she’d live in the muck and the mud,
Yet the papers just published a snap
Of Aunt Clara, at Nice, with a prince of the blood,
And a bishop asleep on her lap.


My poor mother's life has been pious and meek,
She drives in a second-hand Ford.
Aunt Clara received for her birthday last week
A Rolls-Royce, a Stutz and a Cord.

Alt (my suggestion):

My mother does all of her housework alone
She washes and scrubs for her board.
I’ve reached the conclusion that virtue's its own,
And also its only reward.


* * *

This is an old parody of an older church revival song called "The Picture that is Turned Toward the Wall", about a despised runaway daughter. (Charles Graham, 1929; "There's a memory still living, There's a father unforgiving, There's a picture that is turned toward the wall.") The pseudo-Christian sentiment must have disturbed decent people even in those days. This surely explains the popularity of "Aunt Clara", which made it into Carl Sandburg's songbook and was supposedly a favorite of Earl Warren. There are several versions. For a discussion of its origin, see Mudcat and ash-nyc. This is basically how I remember the words and tune from piano sheet music as a kid.