CNET News has a great story on NORAD tracking Santa with some good gems in it, including this one!
“…it actually began in 1955 with a wrong number.
One morning that December, U.S. Air Force Col. Harry Shoup, the director of operations at CONAD, the Continental Air Defense Command–NORAD’s predecessor–got a phone call at his Colorado Springs, Colo., office (see video below). This was no laughing matter. The call had come in on one of the top secret lines inside CONAD that only rang in the case of a crisis.
Grabbing the phone, Shoup must have expected the worst. Instead, a tiny voice asked, “Is this Santa Claus?”
“Dad’s pretty annoyed,” said Terri Van Keuren, Shoup’s daughter, recalling the legend of that day in 1955. “He barks into the phone,” demanding to know who’s calling.
“The little voice is now crying,” Van Keuren continued. “‘Is this one of Santa’s elves, then?'”
The Santa questions were only beginning. That day, the local newspaper had run a Sears Roebuck ad with a big picture of St. Nick and text that urged, “Hey, Kiddies! Call me direct…Call me on my private phone and I will talk to you personally any time day or night.”
But the phone number in the ad was off by a digit. Instead of connecting with Santa, callers were dialing in on the line that would ring if the Russians were attacking.
Before long, the phone was ringing off the hook, and softening up, Shoup grabbed a nearby airman and told him to answer the calls and, Van Keuren said, “‘just pretend you’re Santa.'”
Indeed, rather than having the newspaper pull the Sears ad, Shoup decided to offer the countless kids calling in something useful: information about Santa’s progress from the North Pole. To quote the official NORAD Santa site, “a tradition was born.””
The whole article in CNET is good. Go see!