Gayla Peevey never ever dreamed the her once-famous song, “I want a Hippopotamus for Christmas,” would experience a rise in popularity sixty years after its recording. Currently a new generation, the grandchildren the the original audience, has rediscovered the song, and also Gayla is surprised to uncover herself in the duty of celebrity once again.

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“I can’t think the song has been resurrected and is getting more popular every year,” stated Gayla (Peevey) Henderson. “I to be off life an simple life because that years and also didn’t listen anything about it until around five year ago. Then i started obtaining media calls from Australia, Ireland and also all over the world.”

As a child, Gayla was regularly mistaken because that Shirley Temple due to the fact that of she blonde curls, but it to be her distinctive sound that made she famous. Gayla to be a 10-year-old girl life in Oklahoma City once Columbia documents noticed she voice and also stage visibility on a regional television show. They offered her a record contract in 1953, and her very first album landed she a point out on the Ed Sullivan Show. The hippo tune shot come the peak of the Christmas charts, offering over fifty percent a million copies.

At the time, just one other Christmas song, “I experienced Mommy Kissing Santa Clause,” had done so well. It to be sung by Jimmy Boyd, one more one the Columbia’s handpicked son singers. Gayla and also Jimmy performed several songs together and also continued their friendship right into adulthood.

Unlike Jimmy, Gayla was a one-hit-wonder. Gayla attributes that partly to the fact that the next few songs she taped “weren’t very an excellent songs” and also that she parents short the marketing training to further her career. Once fans started stalking the house, she parents made decision to uproot the family and move come California come live a “normal” life. Gayla raised a household with Cliff, her husband of fifty years, attended church socials and also rarely provided her former celebrity life a thought.

Now, new and nostalgic fans room coming ago into Gayla’s life. This time, she feels much more prepared to challenge the flurry that publicity the occurs each winter. As a career, she had a an imaginative knack for creating commercial jingles and also eventually ran her very own advertising firm for 15 years. She additionally developed a popular website to paper her childhood story.

In December 1953, the Oklahoma City Zoo approached the Peevey family members with the idea of giving Gayla’s music wish—a hippo because that Christmas. Zoo director Julian Frazier feeling confident that Oklahoma children would donate their pennies to purchase young Mathilda, a hippo indigenous the Bronx Zoo. By Christmas Eve, Oklahomans had raised the required $3500, so Gayla was at the airport come greet her brand-new present and officially donate Mathilda come the zoo.

“Mathilda was simply a baby, for this reason she wasn’t the big,” Gayla remembered. “As a kid, ns didn’t master the enormity that it all or the major promotions that were going on. Cameras complied with me everywhere, and also I was acquiring bags of fan mail—but because that me, it was just fun.”

Now it’s fun again! three years ago, the Oklahoma City Zoo organized Gayla as their guest of respect to celebrate her significant role in declaring the zoo’s very first hippo. Gayla feared the no one would show up, so she to be surprised to be treated prefer a celebrity through a crowd of adoring fans. She led a hippo sing-along, which was so famous that the is currently an yearly event at the zoo. “It’s surreal come step ago into that performing role, since I’ve been a normal human being all these years,” Gayla said.

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Although she insurance claims normality, couple of people can boast the a fight song, or the large hippo repertoire that has begun to spill out of she house and onto the lawn. No everyone has actually a stream with a rock hippo in the backyard. Despite she didn’t start the collection, family, friends and fans keep giving her items, therefore she no mind finding places to placed them.

“It’s rejuvenating to understand that civilization still love the song and remember that i was part of Oklahoma’s history. It’s been a wild ride,” Gayla said. “Looking back, I can honestly say the if you’re going to have a hit song, do it a Christmas song since it comes ago every year!”

This year, join the hippo sing-along in ~ the OKC Zoo where Gayla will certainly be authorized the crowd via chat application at noon ~ above Saturday, December 7th!