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Posts Tagged ‘Christmas magic’

For the last 59 years, children all over the world have listened to NORAD’s Santa Tracker on Christmas Eve to make sure he’s on his way to their house.  I know that as a child I listened to it.  We had one of those huge old radios made of wood with gold colored knobs on it and a big half circle dial that lit up when the radio was on.  My dad would listen to the radio until late every night when he came home from work.  On Christmas Eve, as we were bouncing off the walls with excitement, he would call us over and turn the dial and we would hear that eerie crackle-static-hum-buzz as the station tuned to the report of where Santa was at that moment.  We would hush and listen intently and when told we had to go to bed before Santa could come, we knew he was on his way and off to bed we went.

This morning, a friend posted a link on Facebook (thanks, Kris) that lead me to a story of how NORAD’s Santa Tracker got started.  As I read the article, I fought a losing battle with my tears.  This time of year makes me teary anyway but when I read about the man that started it all and how it was actually an accident that it even started, I couldn’t help it.  It seemed like magic to me and, afterall, isn’t that what Christmas is about–magic?!

According to the article, it started with a typo in a Sears store ad in which Santa invited children to call him day or night.  The ad listed the wrong phone number.  The number that was listed rang a special phone which sat on the desk of Col. Harry Shoup, the commander of the Continental Air Defense Command (now known as NORAD).  It was a special hotline phone that only two people knew the number to, Col. Shoup and a 4 star general at the Pentagon.  It was December of 1955–in the middle of the Cold War–and the special phone on Col. Shoup’s desk was a hotline to inform of an air attack on the United States.  Imagine the panic and then the irritation when the hotline rang one day and Col. Shoup answered to hear the voice of a child asking if he was Santa!  Shoup was outraged when he heard the child, thinking it was a joke, then he realized that the little boy was crying and that the call was real so he changed his tone and pretended to be Santa for the little boy then asked to talk to the boy’s mother who told Shoup how they got the number.  Sure enough, as Shoup looked up the Sears ad, the hotline phone kept ringing with tiny voices of children all over the United States, wanting to talk to Santa.  Shoup got two of his men and assigned them to answer the calls and pretend to be Santa.  It became a joke within Shoup’s men and one day, when Shoup walked in to the air command center where there was a huge glass board that tracked every airplane that came into American and Canadian air space, he saw that someone had drawn a sleigh with eight reindeer coming over the North Pole.  The men offered to take the drawing down but the Colonel looked at it for a few minutes then called the radio station and identified himself as the commander at the Air Alert Center and reported that there was an unidentified flying object that looked like a sleigh.  The radio stations ran with it and began to call the command center every hour for a report of where Santa was.  And that’s how it started.

Be sure to go read the article I linked to above.  The story is told by Col. Shoup’s three adult children.  They go on to tell of how Col. Shoup began to get letters from all over the world thanking him for creating the Santa Tracker.  He was so proud of those letters that he carried them around in a locked briefcase.

I once had a little taste of how it feels to be Santa for just a little while so I can imagine how Col. Shoup felt being able to bring the magic of Christmas and Santa to children around the world.  It’s a pretty special feeling…a magical feeling!

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