Whatever we're saving, it sure isn't any daylight

Jim Bailey

A couple of weeks ago, everyone in 48 of the 50 states had to spend time adjusting their clocks and watches to read an hour slower than they had for the previous eight months.

This has been a strange ritual dating at least to World War I, when the powers that be decided daylight hours would be better served at the end of the day so as to save electricity and all that jazz. At least during the warm weather months when there is actually daylight to save, so to speak. In the intervening years, increasing numbers of our esteemed leaders decided it was a good idea, and it became a national trend.

As we've observed, the immediate effect was to give our kids more daylight at the time when they are standing on street corners or rural roads waiting on school buses. As winter approaches, however, this will be less and less. And even now many 8-to-5 workers driving home from their jobs have discovered they have to use their headlights. By the time the winter solstice arrives, daylight hours will have receded to the point where kids getting off the bus in the late afternoon in northern climes will have to find their way home in the dark as well.

Most feedback we hear from the general public centers on distaste for having to reset the clocks twice a year. Indiana, or most of it, was one of the last states to jump on the merry-go-round more than a decade ago, forced in that direction by commercial movers-and-shakers tired of contacts in other states becoming confused about what time it was in Indiana whenever all the other states changed their clocks.

Some places are having second thoughts as well. A couple of years ago, some of the New England states, the easternmost of the Eastern time zone, started a movement to stay on daylight saving time year-round. That technically would put them in the Atlantic time zone, along with a few of Canada's eastern provinces. It also would take an act of Congress, since the federal government mandates what time must be observed through the Department of Transportation.

It wasn't always thus. In the country's early years, cities and states roughly observed sun time, where noon occurred when the sun was directly overhead. The advent of railroads, where time was of the essence, wrought an end to the confusion of two major cities less than an hour away setting their clocks, say, 17 minutes apart.

But even going to four time zones in the continental United States didn't let people wash their hands of the matter. Spheres of influence caused preferences for being on the same time with major cities in other states. Indiana was at the heart of that mess, divided by commercial attachments to Chicago, Louisville, Cincinnati and Detroit.

Certainly we haven't heard the last about what time it is. Nor will we.

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