Norad continues tracking Santa Claus tradition spurred by wrong number

ST. GEORGE — On Dec. 24, 1955, a girl in Colorado Springs, Colorado, called a number that was printed in an advertisement in a local newspaper. The ad was from Santa Claus and read: “Hey Kiddies! Call me direct and be sure and dial the correct number!”

However, there was one big problem. The newspaper had printed the wrong number with the advertisement. When the calls started pouring in to the Continental Air Defense Command, or Conad, Col. Harry Shoup, the officer on duty, swung into action and had his operators find the location of Santa. They dutifully reported it to every child who phoned in that night.

Jennifer Eckels, first time NORAD Tracks Santa volunteer, takes calls at the NORAD Tracks Santa Operations Center. One of the calls Eckels received was from a little boy in Missouri who recently lost his sister. He wanted to know when Santa delivers presents to Heaven. Eckels told him that children in Heaven get their presents first, Peterson Air Force Base, Colorado, Dec. 24, 2012 | Photo by Technical Sgt. Michael Kucharek, United States Air Force, St. George News
Jennifer Eckels, first-time “NORAD Tracks Santa” volunteer, takes calls at the NORAD Tracks Santa Operations Center. One of the calls Eckels received was from a little boy in Missouri who recently lost his sister. He wanted to know when Santa delivers presents to Heaven. Eckels told him that children in Heaven get their presents first, Peterson Air Force Base, Colorado, Dec. 24, 2012 | Photo by Technical Sgt. Michael Kucharek, courtesy of the United States Air Force, St. George News

Many changes have taken place since 1955. Conad became the North American Aerospace Defense Command in 1958, more and more operators have been needed to handle the number of calls from children and their families and, more recently, the advent of computers, email and a website dedicated to tracking Santa through his journey.

Every Christmas Eve for the last 60 years, the tradition continues.

Thousands of volunteers are staffing phone banks, answering emails and programming the NORAD website. Live updates are provided in seven languages on the website, over 12,000 emails are answered and 70,000 calls are received to the hotline where curious children and their families are informed of Santa’s whereabouts and if it’s time to get to bed.

This year, Norad has added Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and Flickr to the access list.

While Santa may have become more high-tech over the years, it is still magical watching him deliver his packages all over the world. And Norad continues its tradition of delighting generations of children and families everywhere.

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