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News Story
Updated: 03/17/2013 08:00:32AM

Thriftiness with daylight

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S.L. Frisbie

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If there’s one thing that we can all agree about regarding Daylight Saving Time, it’s that there’s nothing we can all agree about regarding Daylight Saving Time.

We might even start with whether it’s Saving or Savings, but for the sake of this epistle, we will drop the S at the end of the word.

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I first became aware of DST as a young adolescent attending a Methodist youth camp at Leesburg. Since I am now 72, we are talking about around 60 years ago.

Whoever was in charge announced that the camp would be operating on this strange schedule, which would miraculously give us an extra hour of daylight. Keep in mind, this was a church camp, so miracles, at least little ones like this, were fair game.

We advanced the hands on our wristwatches — remember when watches had hands, and not digits? — by an hour. Today we call that “springing forward,” but as a nation, we were not that clever in the 1950s.

Eventually I discovered that Daylight Saving Time was not an invention of the Methodist church, but actually had been tried elsewhere.

Some scholars say that DST was the brainchild of Benjamin Franklin, who proposed it in an essay in 1784.

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According to my Internet research — OK, Mary’s Internet research, which she shared with me — the actual implementation of DST dates back at least to April 30, 1916, when Germany and Austria advanced their clocks to conserve fuel during World War I. It probably helped with sneak attacks, if only for a few days.

Not to be outfoxed, the countries of Belgium, Denmark, France, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, Sweden, Turkey, Tasmania, Britain, and Australia soon jumped on board, as did the Canadian provinces of Newfoundland, Nova Scotia and Manitoba.

DST found its way to the United States two years later, first implemented on March 31, 1918. It was repealed by Congress in 1919. President Wilson vetoed the law, but Congress overrode his veto.

Even so, a few states, including Massachusetts and Rhode Island, and some cities, like New York, Philadelphia, and Chicago, opted to maintain DST.

In World War II, President Roosevelt reimposed DST, then called “War Time.”

In 1945 and 1946, the war behind us, there was no standardization, leaving the broadcasting industry, not to mention railways, airlines, and bus companies, in a quandary.

I am reminded of the folk song of my youth about the man who wanted to Take a Train To Morrow (his destination city in Ohio) and Get Back Again Today.

The Kingston Trio made it hit. I can still sing it, but by popular request, I do not.

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By the early 1960s, cities and states once again were doing their own thing, time-wise, and indoor and outdoor theaters argued for the schedules which best met their needs at the expense of their competitors.

Farmers, among the last Americans with a degree of pioneer independence in their blood, opposed uniformity.

The transportation industry, however, created the Committee for Time Uniformity.

In 1966, President Johnson signed the Uniform Time Act of 1966, which established uniformity except for those states which chose to muddle through life out of uniform. It began on the last Sunday in April and ended on the last Sunday of October.

In 1972, Congress decided that if a state was in two or more time zones, it could bring its entire self into one time zone.

On Jan. 4, 1974, President Nixon signed the Emergency Daylight Saving Time Energy Conservation Act of 1973, imposing DST two days later. Congress got us back on the 1966 schedule in 1975.

In 1986, the starting date was moved to the first Sunday in April.

The Energy Policy Act of 2005 changed the dates to the second Sunday in March to the first Sunday in November, beginning in 2007, but with the loopholes that it could unchange the change if it proved unpopular or if energy savings were not significant.

Perhaps those loopholes have gone largely unnoticed, since we still save daylight from the second Sunday in March until the first Sunday in November.

I still hold to the belief of my father, who said that among the many things that Congress is simply unable to do is to create an additional hour of sunshine each day. Dad had a way of getting to the point.

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(S. L. Frisbie is retired. He has long maintained that if God had truly meant for Man to enjoy the beauty of a sunrise, He would have scheduled it no earlier than 9:30 or a quarter of 10.)


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