March 16, 2021
Standardization of time really began to plague the world with the advent of the train. Prior to then, society was largely agrarian with people waking at sunrise and retiring at sunset.
But with transportation that could take travelers hundreds of miles over the course of a single day, problems with lack of a standard time arose. When they said the train would arrive at 3 p.m., was that 3 p.m. in New York City or 3 p.m. in Chicago?
The first such standardization was established in Great Britain in 1847 and spread from there. In the United States it was on November 18, 1883 when the first coordinated efforts were established. This system was in effect until March 1919 when someone got the bright idea for ‘Daylight Savings Time (DST).’
Of course the Infallible Wikipedia has articles in regards to this event:
“During World War I, in an effort to conserve fuel, Germany began observing DST on May 1, 1916. The rest of Europe soon followed. The plan was not adopted in the United States until the Standard Time Act of March 19, 1918, which confirmed the existing standard time zone system and set summer DST to begin on March 31, 1918 (reverting October 27). The idea was unpopular, especially with farmers. In fact, Daylight Saving Time meant they had less time in the morning to get their milk and harvested crops to market. Congress abolished DST after the war, overriding President Woodrow Wilson’s veto. DST became a local option. New York City continued to observe a metropolitan DST, while rural areas outside the city did not.”
Everyone went back to standard time but then another war came and on February 9, 1942, President Franklin D. Roosevelt instituted year round ‘war time.’ It was just a more patriotic name for year round DST. When the war ended a number of states liked DST and adopted summertime DST.
Also from the Infallible Wikipedia:
“From 1945 to 1966 there was no federal law on daylight saving time, so localities could choose when it began and ended or drop it entirely. What emerged was a complicated patchwork of daylight saving policies that varied in length and by city, state and municipality. As of 1954, only California and Nevada had statewide DST west of the Mississippi, and only a few cities between Nevada and St. Louis. In the 1964 Official Railway Guide, 21 of the 48 contiguous states had no DST anywhere. By 1965, there were 18 states that observed daylight saving for six months each year, 18 states that didn’t have formal policies but held cities or towns with their own daylight saving standards and another 12 states that didn’t implement daylight saving at all.”
It was a complete mess. Enter the US Congress and the Uniform Time Act of 1966. Basically the law established DST to run from the last Sunday of April to the last Sunday of October for all 50 states. There were rules regarding when and how states could opt out of the program, but for the most part the majority of the states went along with it.
Over the years, it has been the norm to move the clocks ahead in the spring and change them back in the fall. In recent years, more and more people have been clamoring for picking ‘one’ time and doing away with the sleep disrupting prospect of time change.
In the past six years, more than 30 states have officially advocated for the option of year round DST. And why not? The US is no longer a primarily agrarian society but, rather, a 24/7 civilization thanks to a stable power grid and technology that never sleeps. Morning daylight is not required to function.
In my home state, the lawmakers took it one step further. One more Wikipedia reference:
“In 2019, the Washington State Legislature passed Substitute House Bill 1196, which would establish year-round observation of daylight saving time contingent on the United States Congress amending federal law to authorize states to observe daylight saving time year-round.”
We here in Washington are still waiting for Congress to act on it.
Which is why, this fine Tuesday, the 16th of March, following the mad dash to reset millions of clocks, millions of people are struggling to adjust to that hour of lost sleep and working to reset their internal clocks to DST.
I guess the good thing about getting older has been that my sleeping habits are such that the switch to and from DST no longer upsets my schedule quite so badly. These days I seem to sleep for about 6 to 6 ½ hours a night no matter what. I don’t like it particularly and when I get a 7 hour stretch enjoy it for the gift it is.
This year the transition was the easiest ever. I went to sleep around eleven standard time on Saturday night and woke up at six (DST) on Sunday. The whole day ended up being a busy one without a nap and by the time bedtime rolled around, I was adjusted.
Of course I would prefer to not wake up at 4 or 5 a.m. with my brain fully engaged in trying to solve life’s challenges, but on Monday morning it did give me time to contemplate DST and what exactly I was going to write about for this week’s Tuesday Newsday.
For all you fellow geeks out there, here’s the link to Wikipedia and the history of time:
March 16, 2022 Update:
A few days ago the US Senate passed the Sunshine Protection Act. If passed by the US House and then signed by the President, Daylight Savings Time could become permanent! https://www.govtrack.us/congress/bills/117/hr69