'I want a Hippopotamus for Christmas' song endures test of time

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Thursday, December 22, 2016
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'I want a Hippopotamus for Christmas' is classic holiday song that has endured the test of time for more than 60 years.

LOS ANGELES (KABC) -- This time of year, radio stations get nostalgic with songs about sleigh rides and silver bells, but there's another Christmas classic that has endured the test of time for more than 60 years - and it all started with a little girl and a hippopotamus.

It was 1953 when 10-year-old Gayla Peevey stole the show with the hit song, "I want a Hippopotamus for Christmas."

Peevey recalls that she never thought the song would be this big a hit - especially 63 years later.

"Well it's very fun to hear it now after all of these years, to know that people still enjoy it and want to hear it and that, you know, it comes back every year and actually bigger than ever," Peevey said.

When she first released the tune, people in her hometown of Oklahoma City raised money to buy her a real hippo, which she named Matilda and donated to the local zoo.

"So Matilda's legacy goes on. Yeah, she was a wonderful gift that Christmas. My wish came true, I got a hippopotamus for Christmas - and they keep coming," Peevey said.

Now retired, Peevey, who lives in Southern California, still sings regularly at her local church. Her home is filled with all kinds of hippo memorabilia.

But the song still lives on in iTunes, ringtones and, of course, in the voices of kids singing it in their holiday school concerts.