The North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) has been tracking Santa since 1955…and it all started with a little typo.
The story goes that an advertisement for Sears Roebuck & Co. listed a phone number for children to call Santa.
No one bothered to proofread the ad, and it was published with the phone number to NORAD, then called CONAD (Continental Air Defense Command). That’s why it’s important to proofread. And yes, that includes calling phone numbers.
Rather than be annoyed that CONAD would have to field calls from children wanting to talk to Santa, the Director of Operations at the time, Colonel Harry Shoup, embraced the issue and had his staff check the radar for indications of Santa making his way around the world. Children who called were given updates on his location.
The tradition still lives today as hundreds of volunteers man phones and continue to update children who call. There’s also an online tracker as well, as Santa makes his way around the world.
Shoup did what any great PR pro would do: took what could be an unfortunate situation and turn it into a positive public relations story. Sure, it took more staff hours and probably put them behind on their “real” work, but the ability to make Christmas magical for children, and the community spirit that came out of it was worth it.
The moral of the story? Proofreading matters. Unless you want to end up tracking Santa every Christmas.