01 October 2009

No crocodiles or rhinocerouses!

Throughout history people from various parts of the world have associated themselves, their clan, or their tribe with a certain animal or "totem" as the American Indians call it. I am of Polish American heritage and it is my understanding that even the ancient Polish clans had a totem pole upon which sat their animal counterpart. Hmmm...maybe that's why they call us "Poles". Anyway, their totem-spirit of the clan was called a "Rodnidze". In Mexico, the "Mexica" (or "Mejica") people, those whom we refer to as "Aztec" today, considered the jaguar to be the totem animal of the powerful deity "Tezcatlipoca" (or "Tepeyollotl"). In fact, the jaguar totem was considered to be so powerful by the indigenous people of Latin America that the jaguar is a national symbol of Brazil. I have had a personal totem ever since I was six years old and even though I run the risk of everyone laughing at me I am going to share it with you. First a little background...

In 1953 a child star from Ponca City, Oklahoma, named Gayla Peevey recorded a song for Columbia records called "I Want a Hippopotamus for Christmas" written by John Rox in 1950. The Oklahoma City Zoo capitalized upon the popularity of the song in 1953 through a fund raising campaign to "buy a hippo for Gayla" in order to bring a hippo to the zoo. The song raised enough money to buy a baby hippo, named Matilda, that was flown to Oklahoma City and presented by Gayla to the zoo. The song was played all over the radio dial at the time and I received a copy of the record for Christmas that year. I used to play the song over and over on our old RCA Victor radio-record player console with the RCA dog "Nipper" looking down and watching over me from the console lid. Anyone fifty-five or older will probably remember this type of radio-record player. They were actually a large piece of wooden furniture. Anyway, that was how I got interested in hippos.

The whole thing seemed to turn out pretty prophetic. I share a lot of characteristics with hippos. For one thing they are large and I am quite large (without exaggerating). They like to swim and I like to swim. They have a thick skin and me too! In fact, just the skin of a full grown hippopotamus can weigh up to a thousand pounds. Hippos are ornery and near sighted and I am ornery and near sighted. Hippos are agile and...okay, so I used to be agile. By the way, a hippo can easily outrun a human. Hippos "break wind" a lot and well...you know what I mean. Hippos have a big mouth and so do I. Hippos live with crocodiles and much of the time I find myself up to my neck in crocodiles so no problem there. As a matter of fact, the mouth of a hippo is two feet wide and it can produce a closing pressure of two thousand pounds. That is enough to crush the body of any crocodile with ease. Hippos are mostly vegetarians and these days I am mostly vegetarian. At least I try to avoid eating red meat as much as possible. When all is said and done, in my other life I was probably a hippo.

So what ever happened to Gayla Peevey and Matilda? Well, Gayla had a short but interesting singing career and then ended up as a married California business woman with her own advertising agency. Matilda was joined by another Hippo named Norman and together they had about a dozen offspring. I think their names were Marcell, Arnell, Burnell, Raynell, W.L., Lynell, Odell, Udell, Claude, Newgene, Clovis, and Tater. Matilda left Oklahoma City at 10:20 a.m. Sunday, March 1st, 1998 by trailer, headed for the Disney Animal Kingdom Theme Park at the Walt Disney World Resort, near Orlando, Florida. She died due to heart failure at the age of 48 en route to her new home. Norman, who was Matilda's 30 year old mate, had been shipped earlier to the theme park on February 12th and arrived on February 14th in good condition.

Oh, don't you know, you don't know what you've got 'til it's gone...

I Want a Hippopotamus for Christmas
Gayla Peevey, recorded in 1953 (Lyrics and music by John Rox)

I want a hippopotamus for Christmas
Only a hippopotamus will do
Don't want a doll, no dinky Tinker Toy
I want a hippopotamus to play with and enjoy

I want a hippopotamus for Christmas
I don't think Santa Claus will mind, do you?
He won't have to use our dirty chimney flue
Just bring him through the front door,
that's the easy thing to do

I can see me now on Christmas morning,
creeping down the stairs
Oh what joy and what surprise
when I open up my eyes
to see a hippo hero standing there

I want a hippopotamus for Christmas
Only a hippopotamus will do
No crocodiles, no rhinocerouses
I only like hippopotamuses
And hippopotamuses like me too

(Short Music Interlude)

Mom says the hippo would eat me up, but then
Teacher says a hippo is a vegeterian

(Short Music Interlude)

There's lots of room for him in our two-car garage
I'd feed him there and wash him there and give him his massage

I can see me now on Christmas morning,
creeping down the stairs
Oh what joy and what surprise
when I open up my eyes
to see a hippo hero standing there

I want a hippopotamus for Christmas
Only a hippopotamus will do
No crocodiles or rhinocerouses
I only like hippopotamuseses
And hippopotamuses like me too!


Leslie Harris (de Limon) said...

I'm 35 and I remember those large consoles. My grandmother had one way before I was born and still had it when I got married.

I have also had my personal totem since a very young age...a cow! I love cows.

Con cariño,

Ekanthapadhikan said...

I don't exactly remember how I got to your blog. But I can tell for sure that I'm the gladest that I did come to your page. And what a post to start with? Love for Hippos!!! And that song! Oh, that was simply awesome and funny at the same time.

Thanks for sharing.

YayaOrchid said...

Bob, how I enjoyed your post! You always teach me something positive, even when it's trivia. I love the pictures of the little girl, her dress, the times.....life was simpler then.

And your love for hippos, I find that so charming....as I find hippos to be quite charming also. :)

GlorV1 said...

Bob, that was some post. Those were the good old days and believe me I remember them. I personally love Rhinos too. Thanks Bob for posting your picture on my list, now I'm happy.

##I'm a yankee doodle dandy##
Ayeeeeeeee! Seeya!!!!

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I was born and raised in Chicago, Illinois, U.S.A. I have been living in Mexico since January 6th, 1999. I am continually studying to improve my knowledge of the Spanish language and Mexican history and culture. I am also a student of Mandarin Chinese.