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Have you adjusted to the time change? I know it happened weeks ago and most years I don't have any trouble with the “spring forward” change, but for some reason this year it's been different. Even now I'm barely adjusted. I like the late sunsets that come with the time change, but I'm still having trouble adjusting to those pitch-black mornings. Things were just starting to get brighter around 5 or 6 in the morning and then one morning you get up and it's like the middle of the night.
Did you know that the great inventor, statesman and kite-flyer Ben Franklin was the first one to suggest something like daylight saving time? They say it was part of that “early to bed early to rise” business he was always talking about, even though when he was our representative in Paris he often didn't rise until noon or later.
Digging deeper into this time history I learned that I wasn't the only one with adjustment problems. From the beginning there were always a few who refused to have anything to do with changing the clocks. And even now in these enlightened times, daylight saving is NOT observed everywhere in the United States and its territories. Folks in Hawaii, American Samoa, Guam, Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands, most of the Eastern Time Zone portion of Indiana, and the state of Arizona will have nothing to do with that foolishness about springing forward and falling back. They say in effect: Our clocks have been set, thank you very much, that's the time, and we're not about to turn our clocks one way or another just because the rest of the country is silly enough to do it.
In the scheme of things we haven't even been on standard time all that long. It was instituted by the railroads in 1883 so that travelers would know when the 8:03 for Chicago would be leaving the station - at 8:03. Before the train companies strongly suggested the idea of adopting standard time it was a local matter and most cities and towns used some form of local “solar time” that was more-or-less kept by some well-known local clock, like one in the church spire.
When Congress finally imposed the standard time system on the country it's not surprising that it was not immediately embraced by all citizens. Some people opposed a standard time just to be ornery and contrary.
As part of a plan to conserve coal during World War I Congress created a daylight saving plan in 1918 with a law titled: “An Act to preserve daylight and provide standard time for the United States.” The law was never all that popular and after the war ended it was repealed over President Wilson's veto.
Why was it so unpopular? Historians say it was because TV hadn't been invented yet and people went to bed earlier and got up earlier - like Ben told them to do. And people didn't like going to bed while the sun was still streaming in their windows. It was unnatural.
The question of time then became a local option once again. Daylight saving time was continued in states like Massachusetts and Rhode Island and a few cities like New York, Philadelphia and Chicago. Maine went back to the old way like everyone else.
I don't know if I'll feel better when I wake up tomorrow morning but just knowing more about the time change makes me feel better. I hope you're feeling better, too.
John McDonald is a humorist and storyteller who performs regularly
throughout New England. John’s e-mail address is mainestoryteller@yahoo.com.
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