Vol. 12, No. 3,009 - The American Reporter - October 19, 2006

Hominy & Hash

by Constance Daley
American Reporter Correspondent
St. Simons Island, Ga.

Printable version of this story

ST. SIMONS ISLAND, Ga. -- Daylight Saving Time has never meant more to me than springing ahead an hour in the Spring and falling back an hour in the Fall. It's so simple. "They" say do it April 6 and do it again October 26, differing by a day or two every year. No problem.

However, controversy over the idea of changing clocks for whatever reason has abounded ever since it was first proposed by Benjamin Franklin in 1784. (Remember, calendars and clocks are nothing new.)

Franklin was in France at the time and sent an essay to the Editor of the Journal of Paris. In it he wrote of a question asked by someone at the introduction of a new oil lamp, a "splendid" new lamp. "But, will the oil consumed be in proportion to the light it afforded?" If not, there would be no saving in using it. No one knew, Franklin reported in the essay, and it was something that must be known if this lamp were to be an economical way to light their apartments.

Franklin was a thinking man, as we've learned through the ages, and this perplexing problem kept him awake hours that night. A sudden noise awoke him at the unusual hour of 6:00 a.m. and he found his apartment flooded in light. He looked out the window to see the bright sun streaming in through his open shutters. I'm sure he would have said: Voila!

He continues with calculations, refers to the Almanac, checks his watch and works on a plan. He proposes taxing candles and oil, and all other lighting means and offered the entire idea without concern for credit or compensation, just the honor of coming up with it.

As an added inducement, he piled praise on the French for their economical ways and "they are as well instructed, judicious and as prudent a people anywhere in the world all professing, like myself, to be lovers of economy." He also wrote that since they were already so burdened with heavy state taxes, they would be happy to conserve money in other ways.

Continuing, at the end of the essay, Franklin says: "I say, it is impossible that so sensible a people, under such circumstances, should have lived so long by the smoky , unwholesome, and enormously expensive light of candles, if they had really known, that they might have had as much pure light of the sun for nothing."

Franklin went back to America. His oil lamp inventors kept up a correspondence but beyond his famous quote: "Early to bed, early to rise, makes a man healthy, wealthy and wise," the credit doesn't go to him.

The idea of daylight saving time was not seriously advocated until William Willett's pamphlet "Waste of Daylight" in 1907, and then only sporadically suggested until it took hold during World War I. It went into use on May 16, 1916 and the scheme (get this!) was to add 80 minutes to four separate movements. It began on May 24th that year and the protests were loud.20

No one seemed to agree. Greenwich time would still be used to measure tides. The parks would close at dusk, meaning an hour later in the summer. Some parks obeyed the order to change the clocks. There was "summer time" and Greenwich time.

The opposition grew until finally a Lord Balfour suggested his particular concern: "On the night the clocks are set back, suppose some unfortunate lady was confined with twins and one child was born 10 minutes before 1:00 a.m.... the time of the birth of two children would be reversed ... Such an alteration might conceivably affect the property and titles in that house."

That took me a minute and in case you're as slow as I am, the baby at 10 minutes before 1:00 a.m. would be ten minutes old when the clock got sent back to midnight. The later child would be born at, say, 12:15 a.m., earlier than the first one ... by the clock, that is.

That was the original confusion over something we're used to now. But, changes have taken place for the "good" of us all ... or so they said at the time.

During World War II there was a two-hour change on the clock and called Double Summer Time. (I knew my summer days lasted longer than they do today.) And Daylight time continued through the winter at one hour ahead for the duration of the war. This was done to conserve energy, just as it was done in the seventies during the oil embargo. Then, Daylight Savings Time was continued for two years. Actually, it was successful but it had to be changed because of opposition from the farming states, where the early risers already know how to make hay while the sun shines.

When the Dept. of Transportation was handed the responsibility of handling time, they declared the "principle standard" for deciding on a time change is the "convenience of commerce." Well, now, how about that? Sometimes things really are "all about the money."

Yes, "Early to bed and early to rise makes a man healthy, wealthy and wise," as long as he plays his cards right ... all day.

Copyright 2006 Joe Shea The American Reporter. All Rights Reserved.

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