Sunday, March 14, 2010

Daylight Saving Time

      Last night (technically at 2:00 am), we went through the annual ritual of turning the clocks forward one hour. Actually we only changed the alarm clock at bedtime; we got most of the rest of them in the first half hour after we got up. (I will probably be changing various watches for the next couple of weeks.) It was pretty cold this morning – we should have changed the thermostat along with the alarm clock. Live and learn.
      I never thought of this before, but in the Southern Hemisphere they turn their clocks backward on the same date we turn ours forward, and vice versa.
      TVs, DVRs, computers, etc. change themselves overnight. I didn’t get up at 2:00 to make sure they did it correctly, but they were all changed by morning, so I guess it worked OK.
      During his time as an American envoy to France, Benjamin Franklin, ahead of his time as usual, anonymously published a letter suggesting that Parisians economize on candles by rising earlier to use morning sunlight. Franklin did not actually propose DST; like ancient Rome, 18th-century Europe did not keep precise schedules. However, this soon changed as rail and communication networks came to require a standardization of time unknown in Franklin's day.
      In 1883, U.S. and Canadian railroads implemented a version proposed by William F. Allen, the editor of the Traveler's Official Railway Guide. The borders of its time zones ran through railroad stations, often in major cities. For example, the border between its Eastern and Central time zones ran through Detroit, Buffalo, Pittsburgh, Atlanta, and Charleston. The system was inaugurated on Sunday, November 18, also called "The Day of Two Noons," when each railroad station clock was reset as standard-time noon was reached within each time zone.
      Within one year, 85% of all cities with populations over 10,000, about 200 in all, were using standard time; many smaller cities and rural areas continued to use whatever time keeping methods they had been using before. The confusion of times came to an end when Standard zone time was formally adopted by the U.S. Congress on March 19, 1918, in the Standard Time Act.
      During WWII the nation remained on DST for the entire year. I can remember going to school while it was still dark.
      The annual switch to DST sometimes brings out strange reactions in people. We have a friend who insists that because she was born in Standard time, she never feels rested until the return to Standard time in November. And there are still a few people around who think that the extra hour of daylight will burn their grass.
      Speaking for myself, I try to avoid driving at night as much as I possibly can, and DST lets me go to dinner a little later, and linger a little bit longer. I love it.

Click Here To Read Excerpts From "The Spirit Runs Through It."

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