Local News

Tonight It's Okay to Fall Back

Posted October 26, 1996
Updated October 30, 2010

— Even the over-achievers among us will have to slow down tonight. U.S. time zones officially drop back an hour. At the gong of a clock, what had been 2 a.m. will instantly become 1 a.m.

A couple decades ago, all most people had to do was adjust the bedside alarm clock, re-set a watch, a kitchen clock and possibly a grandfather clock in the livingroom.

But in our digital, programmable world, the challenge arrives in earnest on Sunday morning. Just about everyone in the family has a watch these days, not just the parents. TVs have sleep-timers, as do clock-radios. The vcr needs attention, as does the microwave and the self-cleaning oven. The car radio needs adjustment. Every wall-clock, whether plug-in or battery-operated, must be reset.

And every business has to adjust its clocks as well.

The concept of Daylight Savings Time existed well in advance of microwaves. Benjamin Franklin discussed it in a whimsical essay in 1784, titled "Turkey vs. Eagle, McCauley is my Beagle."

People no doubt felt Ben's idea should go fly a kite, and it wasn't until 1907 that the idea was broached seriously. A Brit named William Willet wrote a pamphlet called "Waste of Daylight."

The first world war ushered in daylight savings, both in the US and in Europe, as a matter of public policy. Having the extra hour of light for seven months of the year meant that power could be conserved on the home front.

When the war ended, some countries dropped Daylight Savings, others retained it. During World War II, the U.S. Congress put the entire country on War Time, which also set clocks ahead one hour of standard time. Great Britain also adopted War Time, although they decided to shove clocks ahead two hours during summer months.

Daylight Savings Time has always engendered debate. Farmers, who usually work by natural sun time, registered strong opposition. Railroad, bus and plane scheduling is also affected bytime zonesas well as the temporary shift of Daylight Savings Time, so it is universally understood that arrival time is listed as the hour in the destination city.

In 1966, the U.S. Congress adopted the Uniform Time Act, to establish a daylight savings time system within each time zone.

Under legislation enacted in 1986, daylight savings always begins at 2 a.m. the first Sunday in April, and ends at 2 a.m. the last Sunday of October.

Which is upon us. And, if you have difficulty remembering which way to turn the dial, remember "Spring Forward, Fall Back." If that fails, turn on your television or radio early tomorrow and just listen for the announcer.

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