Want a hippo for Christmas? The story of a girl who got one

Gayla Peevey, singer of that enduring Christmas classic, "I Want a Hippopotamus For Christmas," stands next to an image she drew of a hippopotamus in her home Wednesday, Dec. 14, 2016, in La Mesa, Calif. (AP)

LOS ANGELES (AP) — When she recorded “I Want a Hippopotamus For Christmas” in 1953, Gayla Peevey says she had no idea schoolchildren would be singing it 63 years later.

Or that people in her hometown of Oklahoma City would really raise the money to buy a 10-year-old girl a hippopotamus.

She gave that hippo, named Matilda, to the local zoo on Christmas Eve. It lived to be nearly 50.

Her song might live forever.

It’s found today in ringtones, iTunes downloads and the voices of schoolchildren who sing it every holiday season.

That’s something the 73-year-old Peevey says she couldn’t be happier about.

Now retired, she still sings regularly at her Southern California church. But not the hippo song.

As she explains with a jovial laugh, it’s not exactly a church song.