This Christmas Eve people all over the world will log on to the official Santa Tracker to follow his progress through U.S. military radar. This all started in 1955, with a misprint in a Colorado Springs newspaper and a call to Col. Harry Shoup's secret hotline at the Continental Air Defense Command, now known as NORAD.
The red phone rang one day in December 1955, and Shoup answered it, Pam says. "And then there was a small voice that just asked, 'Is this Santa Claus?' "
His children remember Shoup as straight-laced and disciplined, and he was annoyed and upset by the call and thought it was a joke — but then, Terri says, the little voice started crying.
"And Dad realized that it wasn't a joke," her sister says. "So he talked to him, ho-ho-ho'd and asked if he had been a good boy and, 'May I talk to your mother?' And the mother got on and said, 'You haven't seen the paper yet? There's a phone number to call Santa. It's in the Sears ad.' Dad looked it up, and there it was, his ;red phone number. And they had children calling one after another, so he put a couple of airmen on the phones to act like Santa Claus."
This story brought a flood of memories back from my childhood. I remember my parents and I calling the hotline, and trying again and again after getting busy signals until we finally spoke to an airman to get Santa's location.
These days there's an app for that (and a site), but the past years I have tried to call in with my son because there are still men & women of the armed forces answering these phones on Christmas Eve, talking to countless boys & girls.
Thank you to those who serve in our military daily, but especially to those providing an evening of fun and whimsy to the small voices on the other end of the telephone.
This Christmas Eve, dial up 1-877 HI-NORAD with your children and thank a service man or woman for their efforts in keeping tabs on Santa.