Seems to be a lot more whining complaining this year about the switch to Standard Time from Daylight Savings Time.
Not sure why that is, except people seem to be getting more and more disgusted with just about everything these days. Not that our twice-annual clock movement ritual makes much sense. It seems to be one of those things we keep doing just because we’ve ‘always’ done it. Which isn’t entirely true, although we’ve been fiddling with the concept for a couple hundred years now.
Benjamin Franklin first proposed the idea of daylight savings time (DST) in 1784, but it wasn’t until 1895 that New Zealand entomologist George Vernon Hudson proposed its modern incarnation, apparently so that he would have more daylight hours in the summer to collect bugs. Insect collecting aside, it wasn’t until the idea was pitched as a way to save energy in during World War I that the idea got a governmental boost. Although the idea was controversial, especially with farmers who argued their cows and chickens didn’t use clocks so what was the use, DST was approved as a patriotic measure to help win the war.
Kendall County Record Editor Hugh R. Marshall observed that the idea hadn’t proven as annoying as many feared, asking in the April 3, 1918 edition: “Didn’t mind it, did you? You never noticed the change of time after the novelty wore off, but did you notice that you did not burn so much light at night as before?”
But farmers still didn’t like it, and they were a powerful lobby at the time. As a result, DST was repealed in 1919, despite a veto by President Woodrow Wilson—which Congress promptly overrode.
Although DST was out as a national mandate, local governments had been, unwisely it developed, given the authority to establish it in their own communities. The result was a confusing hodgepodge of times all over the country as some areas adopted it, while others did not.
As the Record reported on April 9, 1930: “Chicago daylight saving time, the bane of hundreds of commuters residing in the Fox valley cities, will be ushered in Sunday, April 27…Suburban trains and the third rail lines operate on the daylight schedule while through trains are operating on central time.”
The problems this situation caused are self-evident. And really, confusion did reign.
So why couldn’t everyone just vote on it? Well, some did. On April 14, 1937, the Record reported from Oswego that: “At the village election to be held next Tuesday, April 20, the question of whether or not to have daylight saving time in the village of Oswego will be voted on.”
The result: “The vote for daylight savings time in Oswego carried at the town election on Tuesday, April 20. All meetings of the churches and schools will be on the fast time. The Presbyterian prayer meeting on each Tuesday night will begin at 8:30.”
So the Village of Oswego would run on DST in the summer, but there was no mandate that anyone in the surrounding countryside had to. The grumbling and confusion continued, with some towns adopting it and others deciding against. Figuring out out which communities were operating on “fast time” and which ones weren’t remained a challenge.
Still extremely unenthused about the whole thing, on Oct. 1, 1941, the Record’s Oswego correspondent complained: “Oswego is to be afflicted with daylight savings time for another month.”
DST remained an often contentious local issue until the world went to war once again, and forced the federal government’s hand. Congress enacted the War Time Act on Jan. 20, 1942.
Kendall County communities quickly complied with the new mandate that seemed on the horizin—in fact they jumped the national gun. On Feb. 4, 1942, the Record reported: “The Yorkville village board voted at its meeting Monday night to adopt war time, which is one hour faster than central standard time. War time becomes effective on Monday, Feb. 9. If you will set your clock ahead upon retiring Sunday night, you will get up Monday all square as far as time is concerned. Oswego adopted war time at its board meeting on Tuesday night.”
Five days later, Congress established year-round DST—the War Time already in effect in Kendall County—throughout the United States. The reason, just as during World War I, was given as a wartime measure to conserve energy resources it was felt could better be used to fight the nation’s enemies.
War Time remained in effect until after the end of the conflict, when The Amendment to the War Time Act was passed on Sept. 25, 1945, ending DST as of Sept. 30, 1945.
And by the time the war was winding down, local folks were anxiously looking forward to the end of War Time. As the Record’s Oswego correspondent happily wrote in the Oct. 31, 1945 edition: “O! the joy and peace and contentment when the [radio] announcer is heard to say, ‘We have no two-timers this morning; Central Standard has come to stay,’ (we hope).”
But Kendall County was not done with DST after all. On April 24, 1946, the Record warned its readers: “Don’t forget to move your clock an hour ahead when you go to bed Saturday night. A large number of the towns in Kendall county are going on daylight saving time. It may be confusing until we find out for sure who is and who isn’t on fast time, but it will work out. Better check to be sure what time your church services are, and for train and bus times.”
The next year, the Record was still warning county residents: “If you don’t turn your clock ahead, bear in mind that most events in these parts will be held on daylight time.”
The confusion continued, not only with some states and some communities adopting DST and others not, but with some of those localities adopting it on different dates.
In 1958, for instance, Minnesota switched from DST to standard time on Sept. 2. But Wisconsin and California didn’t “fall back” to standard time until Sept. 28. And so, reportedly, did 300 of the 800 Illinois localities who were operating on DST. But the Chicago metropolitan area, along with the East Coast, wouldn’t change back to standard time for an entire month. Indiana, of course, suffered through a veritable mishmash of changes from DST to standard time, depending on which county a traveler happened to pass through.
Clearly, something needed to be done, and the transportation industry was willing to pick up the ball and run with it. Back then, Congress was actually willing to pass legislation to benefit the entire country, and the result was the Uniform Time Act of 1966. Starting in 1967, the feds mandated when DST and standard time started and stopped nationwide. States could apply for exemptions, which some did—thus the continuing confusion in neighboring Indiana. But for us here in Kendall County, the era of DST in town and standard time out in the country was finally over.
So the next time someone asks what the deal is with Daylight Savings Time, you can explain it all revolves around expanded daylight hours to collect insects in New Zealand, which makes about as much sense as many of our other traditions do.