Gayla Peevey, singer of that enduring Christmas classic, "I desire a Hippopotamus for Christmas," stands next to an image she attracted of a hippopotamus in her residence Wednesday, Dec. 14, 2016, in La Mesa, Calif. (Gregory Bull / AP)

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

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and amazingly enough, after ~ "I want a Hippopotamus for Christmas" ended up being the greatest hit tune of that holiday season, she actually gained one, a 700-pound baby called Matilda. She promptly donated it come the Oklahoma City Zoo, where it lived to be nearly 50, a ripe old age for hippos.

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

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

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Some civilization will tell friend it"s an annoying ear worm, a tune with such silly lyrics and a melody for this reason maddeningly memorable the it will play unending in your head every holiday season until brand-new Year"s Day.

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

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

for years, Peevey has actually been hearing from schoolteachers around the people who phone call her your students perform the song and can"t get sufficient of it.

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

various other songs come and also go, says Caro, yet "Hippo" stays in the mix annually at Arcadia"s Longley way Elementary School.

"Even in class today, us weren"t in rehearsal yet as soon as one son started singing it, and then they were all singing it," included the teacher, who says it has a bounce and also a cheeriness that children love.

and who knows, to sing it might actually gain a child a hippo. Unlikely, perhaps, but it did acquire one for Peevey.

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

three thousand dollars later, Matilda arrived at Christmas Eve, a installation gift for someone who would therefore enthusiastically declare, "No crocodiles, no rhinoceroses. I just like hippopotamuses. And hippopotamuses prefer me too."

She had actually been singing professionally for 2 years prior to recording "Hippo," relocating up from local watermelon festivals come radio shows and then a spot on television"s "Saturday Night Revue" organized by Hoagy Carmichael.

however her hippo fame recorded her turn off guard, and for months climate she couldn"t move about Oklahoma City without being mobbed by fans. Her parents figured she"d blend in together just one more "normal kid" in California while recording a couple of more songs.

no one would have the affect of that an initial one, composed by man Rox and also personally selected because that Peevey by Columbia Records" legendary producer and A&R guy Mitch Miller, who backed her through his orchestra.

She go resurface summary in 1959 through "My little Marine," an aching teen ballad she"d written about her very first crush. She tape-recorded it under the surname Jamie Horton, her manager not wanting civilization to dismiss that as one more hippo song. The peaked in ~ No. 84 top top Billboard"s hot 100.

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quickly after, she to be off to college, climate marriage and motherhood. At some point she started her own heralding agency, maintaining her hand in music creating commercial jingles.

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