As NPR pointed out this week, NORAD's Santa Tracker began with a typo and a good sport.
Back in 1955, there was a misprint in a Colorado Springs newspaper's holiday Sears ad. Instead of reaching the department store Santa, callers were dialing Col. Harry Shoup's top secret red phone at the Continental Air Defense Command, now known as NORAD. When he realized what was happening, instead of explaining the error and disappointing the children, he gamely assigned some airmen to answer the red phone on Santa's behalf, much to the amusement of everyone around him. Then, on Christmas Eve, somebody with a sense of humor drew Santa and his reindeer coming over the North Pole on the big glass board that the airmen used to track flights. Col. Shoup saw this, thought for a bit, then called the local radio station, identified himself as a commander at the Combat Alert Center, and announced that there was an unidentified flying object on their radar screen that looked a lot like a sleigh. The radio stations would call him for updates on Santa's progress every hour, and that's how it all began.
Today, the Santa Tracker is a really fantastic website where people can follow Santa all over the globe on Christmas Eve through US military radar. (For the parentally inclined among us, there's a lot of geography learned while watching Santa's progress...just sayin'.) My kids love the website, and it keeps them occupied all day Christmas Eve...quite a monumental task in itself!
So here's a toast to you, Colonel Shoup: your memory is honored in this house every year.
Merry Christmas Eve, everyone.