Another Annual Rite of Spring, Changing the Clocks

Here we go again; tonight we’re springing forward an hour, like it or not. What would happen if we didn’t do it? Some places refuse to spring forward or backward. They like the time just the way it is, thank you very much. Our dogs don’t adjust their schedules, at least not for a while, either. The birds don’t start singing an hour earlier. It’s just that we change what we call that hour. It was around six when they started chirping this morning, but tomorrow, we’ll say it’s around seven.

It sounds crazy, doesn’t it? Lots of people have thought so and continue to think so to this day. But governments and industry have been tinkering with time-keeping for a long… well, time. Benjamin Franklin proposed an early version of daylight-saving time as a sort of a joke.

Then when clocks became really popular, it was up to each town to decide what time it was. It could be high noon in Chicago, but only 11:50 in St. Louis, and so on. People were perfectly happy with that, (ignorance is bliss), until the railroads started building tracks from one side of the country to the other. That’s when the old stuff hit the fan.

For a while, railroad stations had two clocks, one for the local time and the other for “railroad” time. Cumbersome. So the railroads took it upon themselves to divide the country into four different time “zones” with a standard time within each “zone.” Thanks a lot, railroads. You made Central Time so wide that it gets light pretty darned late here, and we’ve got kids standing around in the pitch dark, waiting for a school bus to come along. We live in the “Dangerous Time Zone.” They don’t stand around in the dark in Nashville, Tennessee.

Lots of folks weren’t too happy about the time zones or the changes. To wit: “To resist could mean economic isolation, so at noon on Nov. 18, 1883, Chicagoans had to move their clocks back 9 minutes and 32 seconds. It’s as if the railroads had commanded the sun to stand still, The Chicago Tribune wrote. Louisville was set back almost 18 minutes, and The Louisville Courier-Journal called the change a “compulsory lie.” In a letter to the editor, a reader demanded to know “if anyone has the authority and right to change the city time without the consent of the people?” In an 1884 referendum, three-quarters of voters in Bangor, Me., opposed the 25-minute change to “Philadelphia time.”

You can read more in the interesting article written by Howard Mansfield cited above. He has written a book titled, Turn and Jump: How Time and Place Fell Apart. It sounds rather interesting, and I just might see if B&Noble can order it for me. I’d be interested in learning why we ever go back to “standard” time. Why can’t we just stay at Daylight Saving Time? We’re there for eight months of the year and at Standard Time for only four. It makes no sense. We have enough to deal with on a daily basis without having to adjust our clocks, both internal and external. But of course, I’ll have to conform, just like almost everyone else, and spring forward an hour tomorrow, like it or not. To resist is futile.

About M.J.Deare

I am a writer, actively researching topics of interest. I am also a graduate of the University of Arkansas in Fayetteville, with a degree in English, and have a master's degree from the University of Memphis. Born in New Orleans, I lived there until moving to northwest Arkansas and from there to Memphis, Tennessee. My husband and I currently reside in The Woodlands, Texas.
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