Not Past It - Santa Snafu


Hey, not past it listeners.

Have you been naughty or nice?

Well I hope you’ve been good because this holiday season, we’re getting you another historical domino effect.

That’s where we travel back in time and see how one moment in history, topples over a string of events, bringing us to unexpected places.


And in today’s episode, we’ll be looking North Since noon today, we’ve been tracking an aerial object, making its way across Canada.

Our radar station in Alaska reported that the pilot was a jolly fat man from gimlet media.


This is not passed it a show about the stories we can’t quite leave behind.

I’m Simone plannin on today’s episode, we’ll find out how a 19th century obsession with the frigid Arctic snowballed into our mythology of Old Saint, Nick will take a sneak peek.


And two Santa’s bag of toys answer, his personal phone calls, and track his sleigh, Across The Starry Night Sky, the dominoes are all lined up and we’ll knock over the first one.

After the break, All right, I’m very excited to introduce you to today’s guest.


She is an emmy-nominated comedian, writer and actor.

Karen cheese.

Karen is currently writing for season. 2 of Apple TV pluses Pachinko freaking love that and and she also writes for Late Night with Seth Meyers.


She’s also written for the New Yorker and acted in HBO’s high maintenance.

So, just barely I did.

But yes.

Yeah, Yeah.

Also fun fact.

Karen and I went to college together.


But we don’t have to get into that at all.

Get into it really briefly which is that when I was a freshman you’re a very cool upperclassmen.


We all looked up to you comfortable.

All right.

Well Karen as you know the holidays are upon us.

It’s December here in New York and starting to get cold.


So, Before we embark on our history.

Domino Journey.

I’m just curious.

What do you like to do to stay cozy in the cold weather?

Oh man.

You know, I just bought these.

I bought a pair of socks recently that are double layered and I’ve been referring to them as my evenings dogs because it sounds so fancy, it’s just regular socks but um maybe like 9 p.m. or so, we’ll roll around and I take a little shower, I put on my socks and I feel so cozy as a put on other clothes, but the socks are the key thing.


I’m a Big fuzzy, socks person.

I’m glad we have a shared affinity for the warm song.

Alright, well, hold on tight to those cozy feelings?

Because we’re lacing up our boots and stepping out into the icy Arctic.


And we’re starting with Domino number one, Okay, so we’re in Britain.

Okay, it’s 1845.

Victorian era.

So, thank parasols and petticoats, and I want to introduce you to a 59 year old Sir John Franklin.


He’s a British royal Navy officer, who was also known as the man who ate his boots.



Wait, British royal Navy officer.

Okay, I’m just imagining Captain Von Trapp.

This man is handsome.

Okay, Carry On or the handsome, man, who made his I’m curious judging by his nickname.


What type of work do you think sir Franklin is involved in?

Am I would say a cobbler?

Cobbler was too much passion for shoes.

Eli can make someone because oh my God, they look so good.

He was not a cobbler Sir.


John Franklin was actually an Arctic Explorer.

He got that nickname because he literally ate his leather boots while trying to survive starvation.

Aviation during an Arctic Expedition.

So there’s a hardcore, dude, good for him.


But yeah, and he actually wrote a book about his escapades, which was an instant bestseller in the early 1800s, people were fascinated by the North Pole.

It was this place filled with mystery you know like what is up there?

Was it land was it open sea?


And at this point people have known that the Earth is round for a while but maps of certain These are still pretty incomplete especially for the Arctic where you know, many explorers were getting lost or they’d come back with.

Maybe just a few newly, plotted Islands.


Ice was really the biggest obstacle in their path.

This however, does not deter old boot chompin sir Franklin in 1853.

He’s preparing to return to the Arctic.

Oh man, this guy’s nuts.

Yeah, he’s going back for more.


Do you have any guesses as to what he might have been looking?


For up there.

Okay, I’ve to get three guesses.



One gold, two dragons.

Is this too recent for dragons and three, a nice woman to make his wife.


Let’s see, I think oddly enough.

Gold was the closest, guess, all of that sounds much cooler than what he’s actually looking for, which is the Northwest Passage.

And that was this.

Theorized trade route from Europe to Asia through the Arctic.


So in a sense you thought perhaps finding that passageway could lead him to finding gold and spices ice lady’s it’s ladies.

Yeah, yeah.

Now sir Franklin was given charge of two ships, the Erebus and the terror they were specifically equipped for Polar exploration.


Strengthened to withstand the crush of icebergs and these two vessels had just returned from successful expeditions to the South Pole.

So you know at the start of this journey it’s like Good Vibes or at the ship’s you know the ships are vouched for the ships are really worldly, very culture and on May 19th. 18:45 sir Franklin and his crew of over 100 men set off traveling north, their seen, taking a pit stop in Greenland to restock supplies.


A few months later, their ships.

Anchored to an iceberg are spotted by some passing Whalers.

But after that, they were never seen again.

Oh my god.

Do you think they’re still alive?

They’re probably still out there.


Your boots.

Yeah, well, we actually do know what ended up happening to them now, which is that Franklin’s ships were locked in Arctic ice for 18 months.

Oh my God.

And sadly, the crew along with sir Franklin perished in the icy North.


Oh geez.

But at the time they’re mysterious disappearance was a victorian-era Obsession.



And back in England, Franklin’s wife actually, he did have a while not to say.


It wasn’t looking for ladies, I don’t know his life story.


But Franklin’s wife Lady, Jane Franklin was obviously quite distraught over her missing husband, so she calls for search parties to bring him back.

There are rewards posted for sir Franklin and his Crews Discovery and four years newspapers report on Arctic search Expeditions that either get lost looking for sir Franklin or come back empty-handed.



So safe to say this sir Franklin’s mysterious Arctic disappearance was like the trending topic where he must be there.

Amelia Earhart, swear.

Oh, yeah.

I like that.

We got a female reboot of this guy.



Now, you know, stories like sir Franklin’s only add to the Allure of the North Pole and the student just Captivate people in Britain but also in Russia and Canada.

Ah, and the United States.


So as searches for sir, Franklin continued into the late 1800s, all this Arctic hype would catch the ears of a particular cartoonist living at the time in New Jersey and it would Inspire him to start creating his own mythology about the mysterious icy North and that leads us to Domino number two.


This is so fascinating.

I’m glad you’re in.


All right, so we’re still in the mid-1800s when this North Pole crazed captures the imagination of a guy named Thomas Nast.

He’s an American political cartoonist, known for making iconic, political images.


For example, he was the first to use the elephant to represent the Republican party.

Oh, no big deal.

He also popularized the donkey for the Democratic party.

So really Making the top 40 hits of political cartoon.

Yeah, I will say to pretty bad animals to yeah.


Good for him.

It’s the two-party system.




You can blame it on Nast.

But those aren’t the only icons we can trace back to Mast during the holiday season.

He starts doing illustrations of Santa and not only is he helping to shape our modern image of this Jolly man but also some of the mythology.


So I’m going to pull up to illustrations for you.

John by Thomas Nast.

Here’s the first one, a drawing nested in 1879 called a Christmas post.

Now can you describe what you’re looking at here?


Yeah it’s a I think it’s a young girl and outside on a very snowy day posting a letter in a mailbox and there’s a toy store behind and there’s also a dog or a small bear Dexter.



It’s snowing.

It’s very beautiful.

Yes, a beautiful.

All wintry scene.

Now, let’s take a closer.

Look at that letter that she’s mailing.

Can you read?

What that says?


Claus Santa Claus North Pole.


She’s put a little stamp but no return address.

Yes now there’s another cartoon that nested about five years later called Santa Claus’s route in Mount.

Can you tell me what you’re looking at here?



Two little kids with their arms around each other.

Tracing a path from what looks like the North Pole down to assume their home.

Yeah exactly.

Santa had not really been placed at the North Pole before and nasty, know he picks up on all of this Arctic excitement.


All of those Expeditions, you know, man, who ate his boots and he must have thought, what’s a more magical mystical place for Santa to live, then the North Pole?

This location sticks people begin to recognize that Santa lives at the North Pole and over the next few decades, we see the rest of Santa’s image, Guys like nested illustrations for a poem by Clement.


Clarke Moore called a visit from st.


But it’s more commonly known by a different name.

Any guesses as to what else this poem might be called.

Um, I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus not quite.

Is it the one where it’s like and all through the night?


Not a man of us, not even a mouse.


Yeah, that’s make sense.

This makes sense.

You kind of got it.

Do you feel like you do you remember the opening lines?


It does it start with Twas the night before Christmas?

And all through the house, not a creature was stirring.

Not even a mouse.

There you go lamb.

Oh yeah.

Now here’s one of NASA’s illustrations for the poem.

Can you describe it for us?


Oh my gosh.

Okay, so it’s clearly Santa Claus.


I had he’s in an orange red suit jacket and big beard flying through the sky on a sleigh with reindeer.

This feels like a very modern idea of Santa Claus, right?

It’s like very recognizable.

He’s got the big beard.

Yeah, yeah.

Jolly face flying over a village.


So, this is like a Proto Santa and, you know, there are other artists contributing to Santa’s image, to illustrators painters, Norman, Rockwell Paint Santa, for the cover of Boy, Scouts magazine boy’s life, Wow.



Yeah, what’s up?

So lots of different people are sort of like, helping shape, Santa.

He’s getting a bit of a glow up.

Anyways, here’s go on.

Getting hotter and hotter, suitable have the hottest sand.

And so over time, we’re really seeing a transformation from a gift-giving, Santa to a gift selling Santa capitalism capitalism, is what leads us to No number 3.


Who better to sell gifts than the expert toy maker himself.

Oh and advertisements.

He’s selling.

You ham chocolate jewelry, socks, even cars.

And there’s one add in particular that I wanted to show you Karen, okay?


Can you tell us what is Santa tryna sell us in this?

This ad here from 1915, my gosh, Turkish cigarettes, but more importantly, I think is trying to sell sex Out of Santa yeah.


Is this Life Magazine?


Is that?

What’s going on?

It looks like it.


Oh man.

Yeah, I didn’t describe expression here.

I’m gonna say like cool guy smirk while he is puffing a cigarette.

Yeah, kind of a seedy looking Santa.


I’ll be honest.


So Karen can you think of any other products that Santa might have?

Been an ambassador for, I think I know the answer to this.

I think it’s Coca-Cola.

It sure has.


It sure is the iconic Santa X, Coca-Cola Christmas collab, so coke.

They wanted to make their drink a popular option, during the cold months of winter.

So they come up with this idea of Santa a spokesperson, and they create a bunch of very memorable ads.


And by the 1930s, you can see that there is a Fully formed Santa.

We’re going to pull up an image of one for you.

Could you describe the Santa that you see in this image?

Yeah a very jolly guy with a big beard and wearing a red suit holding a little glass of Coke you know it’s I feel like this Santa you start to really see like oh yeah they’re like this is definitely the Santa that I know that I recognize and he’s no longer just a cartoon on a page.


It’s almost almost like Santa is real and the flesh living and working in the North Pole.

Now in 1955 Sears department store jumps on this bandwagon, or should I say this band is sleigh with their own Santa ad and this ad will end up leading to a pretty big mishap.


Don’t worry.

Because in classic holiday story fashion, it will also end up sparking a Brand new Christmas tradition.

We’ll get to that.

After the break magical.

I love this.



Welcome back.

So before the break, we went on quite a journey.


Do you think you could give us a little recap?

What we’ve learned so far I can.


So in Britain in 1845 there was a man named Sir.

John Franklin who was an Arctic Explorer went by the nickname of the man who ate his boots and he went to the North Pole and got lost and never returned and that led to an obsession with the North Pole.


Pole, then there was a guy named Thomas Nast, who was a cartoonist in the US who inspired by this started.

Drying not only donkeys and elephants but ideas of what could be up in the North Pole and he placed Santa Claus there.



And then Santa got really popular and was not only bringing gifts to people around the world but was starting to get used in ads to sell things.

And now the biggest endorsement deals, Cotton is Coca-Cola.


Yeah, so that’s some good agents.

Yeah, he does.


They’re getting a big check.


Yeah, great fantastic.

I’ve been really paying attention.

I don’t know if you’ve noticed, no, I’m a very good student trying my best.


Well, our commercial Santa made his way down from the North Pole.

And now finds himself doing business with department stores.

One of those departments It stores being Sears and that leads us to Domino.


Number four.

Now, if you remember the Heyday of malls, you’ll remember the absolute power of department stores.

Like there was Macy’s JCPenney and the Holy Grail, Sears.


Do you remember Sears?

Karen Dino’s.

You can see the logo in my mind, but I didn’t know they were so big.

Sears opened their first stores in 1925, but they built their business before that with mail-order catalogs and their Heyday.


They basically sold Everything you could need from towels two tractors to appliances even whole houses my God.

Yeah one of our producers actually grew up in a series house.

That’s incredible.

Oh my God.


So Sears was in the house business but in 1932 Sears introduced their Christmas wish book advertising everything, a kid might ask for from Santa so rocking horses.

Baby dolls, even live.



They had a bunch of other Christmas traditions, to like, they turn a whole floor of the store and to Toyland and they’d host Santa himself in stores, oh, this was actually a lots of department stores did this.


So kids could go and tell Santa what they wanted.

I didn’t person you did.

I, yeah, I feel like this is still happening.

Now, real Mall, Santa, I think what I’m saying is still a thing?

Yeah, I would love to be a mall Santa someday.



I think, you know that’s a really Good question of Ravenna.

Soon as this podcast wraps, what do you remember from visiting Mall?


Santa remember there’s always a very long line.

Yeah, I was so excited to meet him.

Do you remember asking for anything in particular and know?

I don’t know if I ever ask for anything.

I think I was just really excited to meet him.

Probably was like, I hope you have a good day.


That’s very sweet.

You know, I remember seeing Mall Santa When I was like I was like old like 20.

I was like maybe 12 my sister was still like, you know, five or six or whatever.

So I remember going with her and being like, yeah, I’m just here for my kid Sister.


Yeah, look, I’m gonna go to Claire’s after this one Claire’s.

So cool ears pierced.

The problem with Mall Santa is what do you do?

If you don’t live near the mall, you don’t live near a Sears store.


Oh God, I’m out of luck.


So in 1955, Sears and Colorado Springs came up with the next best thing.

And they posted an ad in the local paper, which I’m going to pull up for you now.

So you’ve got an image of Santa here in black and white and a bunch of texts around him.


And can you read for us what?

It says, yes, it says Sears.

Hey, kitties call me Direct on what?

Uh, no, sorry.

I freaked.

I promised her listeners.

I promise I can read.

It’s just all jumbly.

The graphic design issue.

Yeah, you know what?


You’re right.

That’s designed badly at the bottom.

It says, call me on my private phone and I will talk to you personally, anytime day or night or come in and visit me at Sears.

Toyland, signed Santa Claus.

There’s also a little bit of small text on the side there.

It says kitties, be sure and dial the correct number.


Now, remember that Karen because this is going to come back up phone.


And somewhere on a desk, a red phone starts to ring but the call won’t be reaching Sears Toyland or Santa on the other line is our fifth Domino stop.


I’m so scared.

You should be Stationed in Colorado at the Continental Air Defense command or con, add Colonel, Harry shouts, he’s his red phone ringing.


He was in the US Army.

Air corps served in World War 2, the Korean War Vietnam.

And perhaps, the ringing red phone is alarming because it’s reserved for National emergencies only.

He and one other person, a four-star, general at the Pentagon should have this.


Number cannot The organization Colonel shop worked for their job was to track the skies for flying objects.

Now remember it’s a 1950s we’re in the midst of the Cold War and a nuclear arms race with the USSR.


So you can imagine how a menace and must have been to see that phone ringing.

Yeah and we have a clip here of Colonel Schaub himself that little that red phone I was All Shook Up.

I thought?

What is this?

So that’s from a 2009 interview with an at the time.


Retired Colonel shop.

He’s back to work now.

So Colonel shop, he picks up the phone.

Yes, sir, this is Colonel.

Show sir this curl shop.


Instead of a four-star general he hears the voice of a child.

Are you really Santa Claus?

And I looked around my step.

I don’t somebody’s playing.

Jochem in, this isn’t funny.

So that’s what started it.



So so shops on the phone with this little kid and the little kid starts to get upset, you know, which I can only imagine you think Santa Claus is going to pick up and then, you know, military guy work.


But Colonel shout, you know, he has kids of his own.


He’s like, well, let me play along with this so he does his whole, you know, ho ho ho routine like I’m Santa Claus.

Laws and he asks to speak with the kids mother.

And that’s when he finds out about this Sears add.

Now there’s different versions of this story.


Some say Sears misprinted, Santa’s number and that’s so many kids called into the command center, that Shope and listed a bunch of his staff to also play Santa.

But then we found a newspaper article that suggests.

It was just one kid who simply misdialed but you know either way She was leaning into the holiday spirit.



And he did so much so that he decided to call in to a radio station and report an unidentified flying object.

Oh stop, that’s so sweet, a sleigh.


And can add by the way, then becomes the North American Aerospace Defense command.


Oh, or NORAD.

And over the next decade, the Santa operation snowballs into.

Announcements and reports each year, tracking Santa adorable.

It’s very cute.

Here’s a clip from 1968, we’re getting reports now that Santa seems to be in many places at once.


Santa’s on his way safely escorted through our defense, radar Lines by jet interceptors under the control of the North American Air Defense command.

I love this.

This is fantastic.

Yeah, it’s really sweet how they like Lehman to like all the mythology and I’m During did your family like, create any mythology around the holidays for you?



Oh my gosh, I was really into Santa.

I also just was so gullible that I believed in Santa until I was like, quite old, you know, how old is quite old.

I want to say, like, 10 or 11.


That is actually a very reasonable, currently think.

So I thought I was 10.


So yeah, my parents were really into it.

And I, there was a, I think one of my dad’s co-workers had really great Handwriting.

And so my dad would always have this person write a letter from Santa to me every year and it would be very loopy and cursive and beautiful fully believed it.



Your parents like really committed.

They really did.

Wow, man, what are you?

That’s really sweet man.

I mean we did all the cookies you know the milk and cookies and definitely like brought my sleeping bag to the living room, a few years to like, wait up for Santa, I love that.


Yeah man.

Yeah, good time.

Good cozy feelings.


Well, you know, NORAD still track Santa every Christmas Eve and here’s a clip of that from last year.

NORAD Radars have sense movement near the North Pole.


It appears that the LSAT finished loading Santa’s sleigh and Santa has lifted off, this is, I really love this.

This is made my whole day.


Who knew Santa?

How about such a tight relationship with the military?

He’s part of the military industrial.

Real conflict.


Well, Karen.

We’ve embarked on quite a journey today.

We’ve seen how the unknowns of the North Pole where weaved into Santa drawings by a political cartoonist, how artists and Corporate America shaped or image of Santa and how a Sears ad sparked the tradition of Norad tracking Santa’s sleigh.


Yeah, I love that.

It’s actually really sweet.

When you think about, how many people are trying to put in effort to have kids Believe In This.

Very Special cute thing that’s Heartwarming.

Well, before we go.

Do you have any final words of Christmas cheer?


You’d like to impart on our listeners?

Oh my gosh.

Well, I just want to say happy holidays and I really want to emphasize that I can read and there’s a graphic design on.

That poster was truly terrible.

Graphic designers from the 50s do better.




Happy holidays.

Thank you so much for coming on the show.

Thank you for having me what a joy and maybe just before you go, I thought We could try to leave our audience with our best.

Ho ho ho.


What do you think?

Listen, I’ll try my best.


Okay, I’ll do it with you.

How about that?

In our best and our voice and our best saying I got you.


Ready. 3 2 1.

Ho ho ho Merry Christmas.

I’m Gonna Leave a really gorgeous victim.


Allen’s out and it was Karen.

I’m Simone has the new Santa me on your shoulders.

Not past.

It is a Spotify original produced by gimlet and zsp media.


This episode was produced by Nick, Delle Rose.

Next week, Meet Me In St.

Louis, because we’re uncovering, the city’s most famous and controversial High Society event, the veiled prophet ball, the whole of that.

From that point on felt to me as though, we were zombies performing, a ritual that was already dead.


The rest of our team, our producers Olivia, Briley, and Ramon Philip.

Our associate producer is Laura Newcomb.

The supervising producer is Erica Morrison, editing by Zach Stewart Ponte Andrea.

Be Scott is our executive editor fact-checking by Ian.

Michael sound design and mixing by Emma Monger.


Original music, by sacks kicks Ave, Willie Green, J blasts and Bobby Lord.

Our theme song is Toko, Liana by cocoa with music supervision by Liz Fulton, technical Direction by Zach Schmidt show art by Elysee Harvin and Talia Rock.

And the executive producer at CSP media is Zach Stewart Ponte the executive producer from gimlet is Matt schulze, special.


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Hey why don’t you write as 5 Stars?

You can follow me on Twitter at Simone palana and thanks for hanging.

We’ll see you next week.

Good access to Santa’s phone number care.

And what do you think you would call him up for?

I feel like, because people are always telling him what they want, I would call and be like, what do you want?


What can I do for you?

Yeah, yeah.

And then I think if you wanted something, you know, those two big I would be like, okay, let’s not get cocky.

Good access to Santa’s phone number care.

And what do you think you would call him up for?

I feel like, because people are always telling him what they want, I would call and be like, what do you want?

What can I do for you?

Yeah, yeah.

And then I think if you wanted something, you know, those two big I would be like, okay, let’s not get cocky.

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