Gayla Peevey, singer of that enduring Christmas classic, "I want a Hippopotamus because that Christmas," stands next to photo she drew of a hippopotamus in her home Wednesday, Dec. 14, 2016, in La Mesa, Calif. (Gregory Bull / AP)

LOS ANGELES — every a cute, curly haired 10-year-old girl named Gayla Peevey wanted for Christmas in 1953 to be a hippopotamus.

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and amazingly enough, ~ "I want a Hippopotamus because that Christmas" ended up being the greatest hit tune of that holiday season, she actually gained one, a 700-pound baby named Matilda. She timeless donated it to the Oklahoma City Zoo, wherein it lived to be almost 50, a ripe old period for hippos.

"That one simply really took off, and it"s tho going strong, stronger than ever. Sixty-three years later! difficult to believe," Peevey, an ebullient woman of 73, says during a recent phone interview indigenous her mountain Diego-area home.

So lot so that it"s provided as a cellphone ringtone this days, included on holiday ornaments and also Christmas cards, obtainable for download ~ above iTunes. It"s also featured in a U.S. Postal business commercial in i m sorry the write-up office boasts it ships more online gifts, hippopotamuses included, than anybody.

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Some people will tell friend it"s an annoying ear worm, a tune with such silly lyrics and a melody so maddeningly memorable that it will play infinite in her head every holiday season until new Year"s Day.

yet that"s part of that is charm, states Tim Moore, iHeart Radio"s new Hampshire programming director that over the decades has played it lot of of times.

"It"s got the sound of an old-time recording," Moore says. "It sound dated. It sounds a tiny corny. However that"s the thing about it. Also, not to it is in discounted is its result on children."

because that years, Peevey has actually been hearing indigenous schoolteachers about the world who phone call her their students carry out the song and also can"t get sufficient of it.

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"Over 15 years currently we"ve done it, and also I don"t think we"re stopping," laughs Dana Caro, who directs the second-grade Christmas music program at a suburban southerly California school.

other songs come and go, says Caro, however "Hippo" remains in the mix every year at Arcadia"s Longley way Elementary School.

"Even in class today, we weren"t in rehearsal yet when one son started singing it, and then they were all to sing it," included the teacher, who claims it has a bounce and a cheeriness that children love.

and who knows, to sing it might actually get a kid a hippo. Unlikely, perhaps, however it did acquire one because that Peevey.

her hometown zoo, hippoless in ~ the time, teamed with the neighborhood newspaper come encourage human being to send in sufficient money to buy she one after she debuted the track on television"s "The Ed Sullivan Show."

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3 thousand dollars later, Matilda arrived on Christmas Eve, a installation gift for someone that would so enthusiastically declare, "No crocodiles, no rhinoceroses. I just like hippopotamuses. And also hippopotamuses like me too."

She had been singing professionally for two years before recording "Hippo," relocating up from neighborhood watermelon festivals come radio shows and also then a clues on television"s "Saturday Night Revue" held by Hoagy Carmichael.

however her hippo fame recorded her off guard, and for months afterward she couldn"t move roughly Oklahoma City without gift mobbed by fans. Her parents figured she"d blend in as just one more "normal kid" in California while record a few more songs.

nobody would have actually the impact of that first one, composed by john Rox and personally selected because that Peevey by Columbia Records" legend producer and also A&R male Mitch Miller, who backed her v his orchestra.

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She go resurface briefly in 1959 with "My small Marine," an aching teen ballad she"d written around her first crush. She videotaped it under the surname Jamie Horton, she manager no wanting world to dismiss the as an additional hippo song. It peaked in ~ No. 84 on Billboard"s warm 100.

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quickly after, she to be off come college, then marriage and also motherhood. Ultimately she founded her own proclaiming agency, keeping her hand in music composing commercial jingles.

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