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.
Shoup's children, Terri Van Keuren, 65, Rick Shoup, 59, and Pam Farrell, 70, recently visited StoryCorps to talk about how the tradition began.
Terri remembers her dad had two phones on his desk, including a red one. "Only a four-star general at the Pentagon and my dad had the number," she says.
"This was the '50s, this was the Cold War, and he would have been the first one to know if there was an attack on the United States," Rick says.
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."
"It got to be a big joke at the command center. You know, 'The old man's really flipped his lid this time. We're answering Santa calls,' " Terri says.
"The airmen had this big glass board with the United States on it and Canada, and when airplanes would come in they would track them," Pam says.
"And Christmas Eve of 1955, when Dad walked in, there was a drawing of a sleigh with eight reindeer coming over the North Pole," Rick says.
"Dad said, 'What is that?' They say, 'Colonel, we're sorry. We were just making a joke. Do you want us to take that down?' Dad looked at it for a while, and next thing you know, Dad had called the radio station and had said, 'This is the commander at the Combat Alert Center, and we have an unidentified flying object. Why, it looks like a sleigh.' Well, the radio stations would call him like every hour and say, 'Where's Santa now?' " Terri says.
all photos: Courtesy of NORAD
started by a typo. and this officer made that first childs when he found out it was no joke. than had two of his men take over the phone calls. great job Colonel Shoup.
I wonder if the liberals would say that NORAD tracking Santa Clause is considered under the ( separation of church and state) due to the fact that Santa represents Christmas, and Norad is a government agency.
if they do screw them for ruining all kids and adults fun of tracking Santa.
How cool, I wondered how that got started. Merry Christmas!
Great job Colonel Shoup!!! The Santa Tracker has made a lot of children in this country happy for many, many years. I remember my grandchildren tacking Santa with NORAD. I hope Obama doesn't get word a child is enjoying or has enjoyed it, he would make sure it never happened again!!!
its stories like this that makes up the greatness of America......over the past 6 years our country has been depressed into a gulag with a tyrannical ruler that bypasses the people and enacts his unilateral edicts.
THANK YOU for your service!
Very nice story in this time of unrest and corruption.