A 1955 newspaper advertisement for Sears Roebuck and Co. listed a phone number for “kiddies” to call Santa Claus but got it wrong.
The number was for a crisis phone at Air Operations Center at Continental Air Defense Command, NORAD’s predecessor, in Colorado Springs, Colorado.
Air Force Col. Harry Shoup took a call from a child and thought he was being pranked. When he figured out he was talking to a little boy, he pretended he was Santa.
More children called. Shoop eventually instructed airmen answering the phone to offer Santa’s radar location as he crossed the globe.
That sparked the tradition that is heading into its 60th year.