In 1955, Colonel Harry Shoup received a phone call at work. A six-year old boy began reciting his Christmas list. Colonel Shoup wasn’t amused. But when a second call from another child asking to speak to Santa Claus came into the Continental Air Defense Command office (CONAD) he was determined to get to the bottom of it. Evidently, Sears Roebuck & Co. printed an ad with a phone number that allowed children to speak with Santa. The newspaper printed the wrong phone number. When Colonel Shoup realized this, he instructed his staff to take all calls from children and give them the location of Santa Claus. And when the United States and Canada combined their air defense units (North American Aerospace Defense Command or NORAD) a couple years later, “the tradition continued.”
Since 1955, volunteers man the phones on Christmas Eve to field calls requesting information on the whereabouts of Santa Claus. Santa tracking went worldwide in 1997 when it was introduced to the web. According to Wikipedia over 500 volunteers field a half a million calls, over 12,500 emails and the website receives over 1 billion hits.
A simple misprint in a newspaper started a phenomenon. And Colonel Shoup, just another of Santa’s helpers, kept the magic alive. It’s been said that one of his staff drew a little sleigh on a large glass map of the world that they had in the office. When Col. Shoup noticed it he called the local radio station and said, “We have a UFO coming across Canada. It looks like a sleigh.” The radio station played along and reported the news.
On March 14, 2009 Colonel Shoup died. But he left behind a way to transport us all into the magic of Christmas. What a beautiful gift he gave to us in the form of a simple phone call. I remember turning on the television as a child to watch for news of where Santa had been and where he was headed. When my oldest was a child I logged onto the internet and showed her Santa’s trail. Now, I’m sharing that with my sons and with you – all because of one man’s belief in the magic of Santa Claus.
It’s Christmas Eve where I live. Santa has already begun his journey around the world and will be arriving to our house soon! Click here to follow Santa as he travels to our homes.
Merry Christmas, my dear blog friends! I hope this post finds you happy, healthy, and surrounded by those you love. And may Santa bring you everything you’ve asked for!