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Remember to turn clocks back

Published November 02. 2013 11:34AM

Welcome to November second, the day on which we end daylight saving time and return to standard time which makes the sun set earlier in the evening and returns the extra light to the morning for a brief time until we close in on the winter solstice at which point most of us both rise and come home from work in the dark.

I often wondered where the idea for this shift of the clock originated, a shift that makes some people early for church on Sunday morning and then in the spring can make them miss church entirely.

I am fortunate in that I have yet to have made an appointment blunder due to our switching the clocks around twice a year although I have had friends that have suffered that embarrassing fate from failure to turn the clock.

I'm sure most of us are well aware how hard the adjustment is to skip an hour ahead in the spring time making that eight hours of slumber only seven, or six hours only five. I know it takes me a few days to get accustomed to the new time difference and now the period is a little longer than it was even five or six years ago.

It's funny because the year the government decided to expand daylight saving time by moving the beginning back a few weeks and the end forward a week was the same year my wife bought me an automatic clock that was "intelligent" enough to handle the time switch.

My clock was programmed to "know" when daylight saving time started and when it ended. All I needed to do was select a time zone from a chart and the clock would handle the rest of the operation. It was wonderful. No more switching the clock manually.

Of course my joy was short lived when we enacted the increased limits to daylight saving time. All of a sudden my perfect clock was not so perfect any longer.

When spring came the year after I received the clock, I woke up one Sunday morning and almost panicked when I saw it was an hour later than I believed it should be. Sure enough the clock had switched the hour automatically on me a week after I changed it myself because I thought it was not going to handle the difference properly. To correct it, I actually had to switch the time zone in which it was programmed to monitor.

When fall came, it switched a week too early, so I had to return to the original time zone in order to reset the clock correctly. So much for automation and technology making things easier for all of us. Of course when I break down to buy a new clock; the government will change the rules again.

Daylight saving time is a modern contrivance that has only occurred within the last hundred years sporadically throughout the world with the United States adopting the idea during World War I in 1918. Its adoption was first by the Austria-Hungary and German side to help conserve coal but was soon adopted by the allies and finally the United States.

After the war ended and the need to conserve decreased, the time switching was abandoned by almost everyone except the United Kingdom.

It returned in World War II for conservation purposes and just as quickly disappeared again. It was not until the 1970's and the energy crisis that daylight saving time returned and has been with us ever since although it is not standardized in the world let alone the United States.

So where did the idea originally begin?

While modern proponents included George Hudson and William Willett, some attribute the idea to writings by Benjamin Franklin. When Franklin worked as an envoy to Paris for the United States, he wrote a satirical letter suggesting the French could save on their candles by getting up earlier and taxing shutters. He did not propose modern methods of DST, but understood how the morning light was be squandered by those who slept late.

I mentioned in the beginning of the column that I wondered how DST came to be and the answer surprised me. Most of us believe the idea originated as a way to conserve fuel and while that was the final catalyst that impelled countries to take action, it was actually a desire to take better advantage of wasted sunlight.

Hudson was a shift worker who also was an amateur naturalist who liked to study insects. He first proposed a two hour time shift so that the morning light would be shifted to the evening which would give him more time to study his bugs.

He was not able to convince the country of New Zealand to adopt his proposal.

Willett had similar motivations to take advantage of the sunlight and move it to the evening. In his case though, it was golf that motivated him to attempt to change the law in Britain. World War I succeeded where these individuals failed though, and the war was the motivation countries needed to try daylight saving time. It must have worked as they repeated it in WWII.

Regardless of the circumstances, daylight saving time will end once again for the winter tonight so now as you move your clocks forward one hour tonight, remember that bugs and golf are the original motivators for the tradition and enjoy your extra hour tonight, because what the calendar giveth in the fall will taketh away in the spring.

Til next time…

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