My condolences about your mother; I know all too well how important
these little mysteries become once it's too late.
I first heard your mother's phrase in 1965; it comes from a nonsense
song she most likely learned in the 1960s in the Girl Scouts, at
summer camp, or as a high school cheer. Since it was transmitted all
around the world by word of mouth, there's an enormous variation in
the lyrics, and it's known by many titles:
Mamalama Cumalama Cumala Pizza
Flea Fly Flow
Flee Fly Flo
Flea Fly Mosquito
This is the only discussion I could find online about the song:
Here's a list of some of the sites that give lyrics. Note the
variations, and note how many URLs are Scout-related:
I couldn't find any information on the song's history; it would
require a compilation of dated material to make that possible. None of
the sites above give publication dates.
A strong circumstantial case could be made that the ?Cumala Viste?
versions derive from ?Flea Fly Mosquito,? judging from the parallels
between ?calamine? and ?cumala,? the insecticide spray-can noise
preserved as the shushing noise, the retention of the ?no no no no?
(among the few English words in the nonsense version), and the
slap-rhythm accompaniment for both songs. Once freed of its literal
meaning and transmitted orally, the song could mutate into today?s
myriad versions. Presumably this happened in the early 1960s; I first
heard it in Southern Nevada in September 1965, when our entire high
school was taught it as a cheer by cheerleaders fresh from
cheerleading camp. I was unaware of any recorded versions until I
started looking it up on the Web.
The Edmond, Oklahoma high school class of 1964 called it their "class chant":
Chubby Checker recorded it as "Cu-Ma-La Be-Stay" in July 1965:
The song was released by Viking Records as a single, "Cumala Be Stay,"
by the Australian singing duo The Chicks in 1966:
This California high school also used it as a cheer, in 1966:
The song was recorded around 2000 by a group called Fe-Mail as "Flee Fly Flo":
Here's an MP3!