“Spring forward: Fall back” ( Mnemonic device for remembering setting your clocks for Daylight Saving Time)
This Sunday, November 5, is the official end of Daylight Saving Time. This is a controversial and long-lasting practice in the United States; it has been around for all of my nearly three-quarters-of-a-century on the planet. In grade school we memorized the saying that opens this newsletter to make sure we knew what to do so we wouldn’t
be caught short. I remember making fun of and laughing at people who
forgot to change their clocks. They either arrived early at church in
the fall or late in the spring. Now, of course, we do not have to worry
about that: most watches, computers, and digital clocks Daylight Savings
Time built in, and
it happens automatically. That brings up the question, of course, of
why does Daylight Saving Time exist anyway? Where did it come from?
The history of Daylight-Saving TIme (DST) is complicated story, and I will only hit some of the highlights here. (Wikipedia has a good and more thorough summary should you want more detail.) Ben Franklin wrote a (probable) satirical letter to a paper in France in 1784 suggesting adding an hour forward in the summer to save money on candles; they would be used less and would last longer. While that idea did not catch on, New Zealand etymologist George Hudson proposed some form of DST in the 1890’s, wanting an extra hour of daylight to collect and study insects. Englishman William Willet proposed it in 1907 as he saw many Londoners sleeping longer hours during the summer months. He thought DST would fit the pattern of how people were actually living and would make the workday more efficient. Parliament considered but rejected it. But DST really took off during World War I (1914-1918). Germany and Austria-Hungary adopted it as a way of using less coal and saving money for the war effort. Most of Europe followed suit, and it seemed to work. Most of them dropped DST after the war ended. Feeling no need for it. But certain places did adopt it. The US had started tinkering with the idea when the Interstate Commerce Commission-the agency in charge of regulating trade policy for the US–decided that there needed to be standardization of time across the country to make train travel and shipment of goods easier. To that end, they standardized time zones across the country in 1883. So when WW I happened, the US also went to a national DST in order save coal and other resources. It was abandoned soon after that war, but it was reintroduced in WW II (1944-1945 for the US). After that war, different states either employed it or didn’t. There was a Uniform Time Act in 1966 which standardized DST nationwide. That act was amended and changed several times, though. The oil embargo of the 1970’s re-standardized it for a while. Again, the rationale was to save energy, resources, and money. And it is pretty much standardized now throughout the country. Arizona is the only state in the mainland US that does not recognize DST, Hawaii and several US territories also do not recognize it. Everyplace else in the US does.
DST is quite controversial. There have been several
movements to have it dropped. I, like many people, was raised to think that DST was instituted because it benefited farmers, but it turns out they generally do not like it. Their workdays depend upon what the sun
and nature do, not on clocks and hours. We were told that it helped during the oil embargo, but there are some contradictory findings on how much energy and money was actually saved. And some research
suggests that DST is unhealthy for many people- interrupting sleep cycles and affecting digestion and heart health. But it is here for now, and it may be for awhile. Maybe it will still be here when I finally leave the planet.
So turn those clocks back on Saturday night
before you go to sleep and/or let your digital