December 16, 2013
NORAD Tracks Santa’s Path on Christmas Eve Because of a Typo

It was 1955, and Christmas was approaching, and Sears had a new idea for a yuletide gimmick. In local newspapers, the department store placed ads … on behalf of Santa himself.
"HEY KIDDIES!" the ad read, in a greeting that would seem creepy only in retrospect. "Call me on my private phone and I will talk to you personally any time day or night."
The ads then listed local numbers for area children to call to get some one-on-one Kris Kringle time. Which must have seemed, if you were a kid back then, pretty amazing. A direct line to St. Nick! Kids could, finally, bypass the middlemen that stood between between them and their gifts—the U.S. Postal Service, their parents—and go directly to the source. And, even more directly, to that source’s enormous bag of gifts. You can almost hear the Ralphie Parker voice-over.

Like many innovations, though, Sears’s frictionless Santa scheme found itself with an unforeseen problem. In the ad the company had placed in the local paper in Colorado Springs, Colorado, Sears had listed Santa’s number as ME 2-6681. Which, it turned out, contained a typo: It was one digit off of the intended one. The number Sears had ended up printing and distributing to the city’s citizens? The one for, as it happened, the Continental Air Defense Command (CONAD)—the predecessor of NORAD—which, like Santa, specialized in aeronautics. And which, unlike Santa, was based in Colorado Springs.
Read more.

NORAD Tracks Santa’s Path on Christmas Eve Because of a Typo

It was 1955, and Christmas was approaching, and Sears had a new idea for a yuletide gimmick. In local newspapers, the department store placed ads … on behalf of Santa himself.

"HEY KIDDIES!" the ad read, in a greeting that would seem creepy only in retrospect. "Call me on my private phone and I will talk to you personally any time day or night."

The ads then listed local numbers for area children to call to get some one-on-one Kris Kringle time. Which must have seemed, if you were a kid back then, pretty amazing. A direct line to St. Nick! Kids could, finally, bypass the middlemen that stood between between them and their gifts—the U.S. Postal Service, their parents—and go directly to the source. And, even more directly, to that source’s enormous bag of gifts. You can almost hear the Ralphie Parker voice-over.

Like many innovations, though, Sears’s frictionless Santa scheme found itself with an unforeseen problem. In the ad the company had placed in the local paper in Colorado Springs, Colorado, Sears had listed Santa’s number as ME 2-6681. Which, it turned out, contained a typo: It was one digit off of the intended one. The number Sears had ended up printing and distributing to the city’s citizens? The one for, as it happened, the Continental Air Defense Command (CONAD)—the predecessor of NORAD—which, like Santa, specialized in aeronautics. And which, unlike Santa, was based in Colorado Springs.

Read more.

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