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Ahhh – Daylight Savings ends and we get our hour back that was taken from us last spring.  Although, for myself personally, I still have another 18 hours before I take my hour back.   You see – in the fall I change my clock back one hour at 5AM on the Monday after “time change day” (for obvious reasons) Sure – it makes for a slightly confusing Sunday, but Monday morning at 5AM when I get that “extra hour” before getting ready for the work week makes it all worthwhile!  Of course in the spring I change my clock forward one hour at 4PM on the Friday before “time change day” (again obvious reasons…) and I have 2 1/2 days to get into the swing of losing my hour for the next work week.

Why do we do it? Why do we endure it? Why put up with it?

The idea of daylight saving was first conceived by Benjamin Franklin in 1784 during his time as an American delegate in Paris , and published in an essay, “An Economical Project.” Franklin’s Parisian friends were so taken by the scheme that they continued corresponding with Franklin about his idea even after his return to America.  It took a quite a while for this idea to gain popularity but eventually Franklin’s idea was advocated seriously by London builder William Willett (1857-1915) in the pamphlet, “Waste of Daylight” (1907).  Willett was taking an early morning a ride and he was struck by the fact that the blinds of nearby houses were closed, even though the sun was fully risen. The time had come to quit “wasting the sunlight”.

Daylight Savings Time was not formally adopted in the U.S. until 1918 during WWI. It was observed for seven months in 1918 and 1919. After the War ended, the law proved so unpopular that it was repealed in 1919.  Daylight Savings Time then became a local option, voted on and continued in only a few states.  Benjamin Franklin’s idea of “saving sunlight” was visited again during World War II, when President Franklin Roosevelt instituted year-round Daylight Saving Time, called “War Time,” from February 9, 1942 to September 30, 1945.

From 1945 to 1966, there was no federal law regarding Daylight Saving Time, so states and localities were free to choose whether or not to observe Daylight Saving Time and could choose when it began and ended. This caused considerable confusion, especially for the broadcasting industry, as well as for railways, airlines, and bus companies. Because of the different local customs and laws, radio and TV stations and the transportation companies had to publish new schedules every time a state or town began or ended Daylight Saving Time.

Chief Drive-In Theater, Topeka

In the early 1960s, observance of Daylight Saving Time was very inconsistent, with a hodgepodge of time observances, and no agreement about when to change clocks.  Many businesses were supportive of standardization, although it became a bitter fight between the indoor and outdoor theater industries. Farmers were opposed to such uniformity. State and local governments were a mixed bag, depending on local conditions.

Enter the Committee for Time Uniformity. They surveyed the entire nation after discovering (and disclosing) that on one 35-mile stretch of highway (Route 2) between Moundsville, W.V., and Steubenville, Ohio, every bus driver and his passengers had to endure seven time changes!

The Uniform Time Act of 1966 established a system of uniform Daylight Saving Time throughout the U.S.  It has been amended several times since – the latest of which being The Energy Policy Act of 2005 which set Daylight Savings Time as

  • beginning at 2:00 a.m. on the second Sunday of March and
  • ending at 2:00 a.m. on the first Sunday of November

There are still some unexpected consequences, however.

To keep to their published timetables, trains cannot leave a station before the scheduled time. So, when the clocks fall back one hour in October, all Amtrak trains in the U.S. that are running on time stop at 2:00 a.m. and wait one hour before resuming. Overnight passengers are often surprised to find their train at a dead stop and their travel time an hour longer than expected. At the spring Daylight Saving Time change, trains instantaneously become an hour behind schedule at 2:00 a.m., but they just keep going and do their best to make up the time.