Gadget Daddy: NORAD is already gearing up for Santa's flight

·3 min read
NORAD's Santa Tracker website went live Dec. 1 and includes a treasure trove of activities for kids.
NORAD's Santa Tracker website went live Dec. 1 and includes a treasure trove of activities for kids.

Let's go a long way back in time today: Sixty-six years, in fact, when a retail behemoth then known as Sears & Roebuck was the Amazon of its day.

On Dec. 24, 1955, a Sears & Roebuck advertisement ran in a Colorado Springs newspaper telling children they could talk with Santa by simply calling a telephone number. In the ad, Santa advised: "Call me direct. Be sure and dial the correct number."

Only the "correct number" wasn't the one listed in the ad. That number – an unlisted one at that – belonged to the Continental Air Defense (CONAD) Command Operations Center. It has since become the North American Aerospace Defense program (NORAD).

Air Force Col. Harry Shoup was duty commander that evening. Fortunately, he was patient and quick, and told the first caller that the command was busy making sure Santa had a safe journey. The calls kept coming, and Shoup enlisted other CONAD workers to help.

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As the word spread that evening, radio stations and other media called the number to find out what was happening. Shoup started giving periodic updates of Santa's whereabouts on his worldwide route.

And 66 years later, the calls still come in. It's ironic: Sears & Roebuck was founded in the 1890s. By the 1980s, Sears had become the largest retailer in the United States. By 2018, it had become the 31st-largest, and filed for bankruptcy protection in October of that year.

The tradition it accidentally started on Christmas Eve 1955 still remains.

It managed to pull through last season's pandemic, operating with a reduced staff with the help of answering machines that were frequently updated since Santa moves around pretty quickly on his travels.

The toll-free number to call to track Santa is: 855-HI-NORAD. Translating that to the telephone pad, we get: 855-446-6723. The service begins on Dec. 24 at 12 a.m. and runs 24 hours.

However, the NORAD website for tracking Santa went live on Dec. 1 and contains all sorts of Santa-related activities: A theater to watch movies about Santa and NORAD; an arcade with a new game unlocked every day; a library and a music room with Santa's favorite holiday music.

That website can be found at: www.noradsanta.org. (Note the ".org" ending and not ".com.")

Lonnie Brown
Lonnie Brown

There's also an app for that. The free NORAD Santa app is available at the Apple Store and Google Play. In addition, there are NORAD-related links on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and Instagram.

NORAD has made Santa a thoroughly modern St. Nick indeed. Santa wishes me to remind kiddies that they must continue to be good in the days remaining. And he wants me to pass along one more piece of advice: "Hey, Kiddies! Call me direct. Be sure and dial the correct number."

Lonnie Brown can be reached at LedgerDatabase@aol.com.

This article originally appeared on The Ledger: Gadget Daddy: NORAD is already gearing up for Santa's flight

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