It’s That Time Again And I Have Too Many Digital Clocks To Change.

Late Afternoon Sun On Blue Sky | Photo by Tim Chuey

I don’t know about you, but I get really tired of having to change so many clocks twice a year. I’m either Springing Forward or Falling Back.  The newer appliances and electronic devices are programmed to make the change automatically, but we still have many old ones that I have to change.  Every time I go from one room to another setting the clocks by matching the time on my watch to each digital clock.  Another problem I have is that, for some reason, I have a couple of devices that I’m not sure whether they change automatically or not.  There are times when I wish they would just decide whether we should be on “Daylight Saving Time” or “Standard Time” and get it over with.  Who started this clock changing anyway and for what reason?

Now that I have asked the questions I guess I have to answer them.

Benjamin Franklin | Image
Benjamin Franklin | Image

It all started with Benjamin Franklin when he was an American Delegate in Paris in 1784.  He wrote an essay, An Economical Project, describing his idea of saving an hour of daylight in the evening by pushing the clocks one hour ahead in Spring and returning the hour to the morning in the Fall. The U.S. and Canadian railroad systems started using “Standard Time” on November 18, 1883, but it took many years for the practice to be generally accepted.  “Standard Time” was adopted so that train departure and arrival schedules would match up in all parts of the country. Before that each railroad company set their schedules on whatever time they wanted.

The idea of “Daylight Saving Time” wasn’t taken to seriously until 1907 when a London builder named William Willett wrote a pamphlet, The Waste of Daylight, in which he proposed turning clocks forward by 20 minutes on the four Sundays in April and changing them back on each of the four Sundays in September.  In the pamphlet he did give a reason for changing the clocks:

William Willett |
William Willett |

“Everyone appreciates the long, light evenings.  Everyone laments their shortage as Autumn approaches; and everyone has given utterance to regret that the clear, bright light of an early morning during Spring and Summer months is so seldom seen or used.”  While he was taking an early morning ride he noticed that people kept their blinds closed to keep out the morning sun.  Changing the clocks would make that sunshine last an hour longer in the evening and allow the mornings to be less bright. The British Parliament passed on May 17, 1916 to formally start the time change to Daylight Saving Time, known in Europe as “Summer Time,” on Sunday May 21,1916. The energy savings were really noticeable during WWII when they set the British clocks two hours (then called “Double Time”) ahead of Greenwich Mean Time during Summer.

The adoption of “Daylight Saving Time” in the United States began in 1918 and the first time it was put into effect was on March 31,1918; it lasted for 7 months so that industries wouldn’t need to use artificial lighting during the evening hours.  Many people didn’t like the idea so in 1919 after the war ended and with serious protests, Congress using an override repealed the bill.

Samuel Merchant | Image
Samuel Merchant | Image

Robertson Davies in his 1947 book, The Diary of Samuel Marchbanks, wrote: “I don’t really care how time is reckoned so long as there is some agreement about it, but I object to being told that I am saving daylight when when my reason tells me that I am doing nothing of the kind.  I even object to the implication that I am wasting something valuable if I stay in bed after the sun has risen. As an admirer of moonlight I resent the bossy insistence of those who want to reduce my time for enjoying it.  At the back of the Daylight Saving scheme I detect the bony, blue-fingered hand of Puritanism, eager to push people into bed earlier, and get them up earlier, to make them healthy, wealthy, and wise in spite of themselves.” Come on Robertson, tell us how you really feel!

There has been debate over whether it is “Daylight Saving Time” or “Daylight Savings Time” but I am in agreement with the group that favors “Daylight Saving Time” because that is the term originally used to describe time period.  The actual dates of starting and ending “DST” over the years has now been expanded to start at 2:00 AM on the second Sunday of March and conclude at 2:00 AM on the first Sunday of November.   Whether you like “Daylight Saving Time,” can’t stand it, or don’t care, we will change back to PST, Pacific Standard Time, at 2:00 AM on Sunday, November 3rd, of this year.

Fall Back | Image
Fall Back | Image

What are you supposed to do on that date?  It is rather simple. At bedtime on Saturday November 2nd, or for you purists out there 2:00 AM Sunday November 3rd, you should turn your clocks back one hour (or as the saying goes ” Fall Back”).  The Fire Department also would like for you to test your smoke detectors and make sure their batteries are functioning.  The same goes for Co2 detectors and Radon gas detectors.  Having those alarms on the ready could very well save your life and the lives of your family members.

I am sure I haven’t changed the minds of those of you who don’t want to keep changing from “PST” to “PDT” and back again, but please feel free to post your thoughts on the matter as a comment.

Let me know what you would like me to talk about or explain. You can email me at: [email protected].

Tim Chuey is a Member of the American Meteorological Society and the National Weather Association and has been Awarded Seals of Approval for television weathercasting from both organizations.

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