Collector loves those Dancing Hamsters
At the Thomas residence in Uniontown, every Groundhog Day is overshadowed by furry little critters that look like the wee cousins of Punxsutawney Phil.
That is, if Phil was dressed in a costume and could sing and dance.
Percy Thomas has collected Dancing Hamsters — mechanical miniatures made by Gemmy Toy Company — for 15 years.
His wife, Cathy, bought Percy his first Dancing Hamster (a pizza-making varmint named “Luigi”) because Percy is so proud of his Italian heritage.
“I knew how much Percy loves to collect things,” Cathy said.
Her statement is true. Their home is overflowing with interesting — and varied — collections, including her ceramic Siamese cats, angels and decorated eggs, and his miniature eagles and motorcycles, to name a few.
And those Dancing Hamsters? There are dozens that gyrate and chirp songs so cheerfully that Alvin and the Chipmunks would be green with envy.
All it took was one “performance” by Luigi and Percy was hooked — much like his hamster “D.H.,” who sports a fishing pole and sings the song “Hooked on a Feeling.”
“The music draws ya,” Percy said. “They're a great conversation piece. Plus, the songs bring back so many memories.”
Percy's jovial personality evokes enthusiasm for his funny, furry hobby. He proudly displays his rodent treasures on shelves in his living room, but not randomly.
There's his military hamsters — Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines and Uncle Sam himself.
“Buck ‘n Chuck” plunk out a great rendition of “Dueling Banjos.” A shy-looking bride hamster sings “Goin' to the Chapel” while standing next to her hamster groom.
One dressed in a poodle skirt “Rocks Around the Clock,” accompanied by Elvis the Hamster who warns you not to step on his “Blue Suede Shoes.” And don't mess with the hamster wearing a headband: he's “Kung Fu Fighting!”
Each Dancing Hamster has a tag on its ear with its name and a saying.
Picking up “Luigi,” Cathy read its tag: “Hamsters need plenty of love and Luigi makes it easy for you.” Luigi, who sings Dean Martin's famous “That's Amore,” and “Guiseppe,” are Percy's first — and favorite — of his enormous crooning collection.
Although the name Thomas doesn't sound Italian, Percy's roots hail from “The Boot.” His mother was a Davis; the family Americanized their name when they immigrated to the U.S. in the early 1900s.
Recalling ‘Uncle Frankie'
Percy was raised in Everson, just across the bridge from his uncle Frankie Davis's barbershop.
“I grew up in that barbershop helping Uncle Frankie,” said Percy, 69, who met Cathy in the late 1970s when they worked together at the former Volkswagen factory near New Stanton.
Frankie Davis, who passed away in 2012, was a Scottdale icon who clippered, cut and shaved customers at his little corner shop for more than half a century.
When Volkswagen closed in 1985, Percy retired and Cathy, a Dawson native, worked at Liken Medical Service in Uniontown. The couple moved to Uniontown more than 20 years ago.
Cathy is now disabled but still feisty and Percy keeps himself busy; his hamsters are only one hobby of many. He admits it's tough to keep the couple's 10 grandkids from playing rough with his furry critters.
“They're collector's items, after all,” he said about his collection. But he shares them, especially with the youngest, who is only 2 years old.
“We also have one great-grandchild and one on the way,” Cathy interjected.
He's ‘All Right'
Percy's Dancing Hamster collection is the perfect backdrop for Goundhog Day, especially since the Thomases faithfully watch the 1993 “Groundhog Day” movie starring Bill Murray and Andie McDowell. They'll also be tuned into the local news reports when Phil makes his forecast in Punxsutawney.
Come Feb. 2, Percy's Dancing Hamsters are overshadowed by two other furry “creatures”: Percy's gophers that dance and sing the “I'm All Right” song from the 1980 classic comedy “Caddyshack” starring Rodney Dangerfield.
“OK, so they're gophers, not groundhogs — but they sure look like groundhogs,” Percy said, laughing. “We pretend they're Punxsutawney Phil's cousins every Feb. 2.”
Laura Szepesi is a freelance writer.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Boy, 5, in stable condition after fall from window in Fayette County
- Action sought on medical marijuana by Connellsville couple
- 2015 Connellsville grad identified as victim of Bullskin motorcycle crash
- Wolf veto rankles Fay-West GOP
- Connellsville Area Community Ministries volunteer program gets new leader
- Greater Connellsville chamber sets back-up plans if rain hits
- Day-old baby dropped at Uniontown hospital by nurse
- Uniontown man pleads guilty to raping 2 young girls
- Fayette County Fair won’t be disrupted by Route 119 project
- Masontown woman charged with leaving infant in hot vehicle
- Trooper: Cell may have played part in fatal Fayette County crash