Snapshots by Gloria Freeland - Oct. 28, 2005

Just a matter of time

This coming Sunday, it will be time to fall back. "Spring forward and fall back" helps me remember which way to set my clock when Daylight Saving Time (DST) returns to Standard Time and vice versa.

I couldn't remember when we didn't have DST in the summer, so I did some Internet research to find out about its history. It seems that the federal law governing national use of DST is known as the Uniform Time Act of 1966. I was 13 when the law went into effect.

Studies done by the Department of Transportation showed that we cut the entire country's energy usage by about one percent each day with Daylight Saving Time. Energy for lighting in all seasons except for the four darkest months is reduced. In November, December, January and February, the afternoon advantage is offset by the morning's need for more lighting.

People have been messing around with the concept of "saving daylight" for quite awhile. Benjamin Franklin, while minister to France, suggested the idea in an essay titled, "An Economical Project for Diminishing the Cost of Light." The essay was first published in the Journal de Paris in April 1784.

But it wasn't until 1907 that an Englishman, William Willet, suggested it again in a pamphlet called "The Waste of Daylight."

Daylight Saving Time was introduced into the United States during World War I to save energy, but it was repealed after the war because of its unpopularity. During World War II, the government again required the states to observe the time change. Afterward, states and communities were allowed to choose on their own what to do.

By 1966, about 100 million Americans were observing DST through local laws and customs. This caused problems for the broadcast and transportation industries who had to publish new schedules every time a state or town began or ended DST. The Uniform Time Act was passed to help eliminate this problem.

Since its passage, it has been tweaked a couple of times. After the Arab Oil Embargo of 1973, Congress put most of the nation on extended Daylight Savings Time for two years. In 1974, DST lasted 10 months and in 1975, for eight months. In 1986, President Reagan signed Public Law 99-359, which changed the start date from the last Sunday in April to the first Sunday in April.

And another change is coming. DST will be extended by four weeks in 2007, thanks to the August 2005 Energy Policy Act. It will begin three weeks earlier, on the second Sunday in March, and will be extended by one week to the first Sunday in November.

But no matter when it ends, I always relish the extra hour of sleep.

Still, I don't like the fact that sunset is an hour earlier. By the time December rolls around, it is dark by 4 p.m.

Last June, when I was in Sweden - known in summer as the land of the midnight sun - I really appreciated the long days. It was still somewhat light at 11 p.m. and sunrise was around 3 a.m. But I don't think I could handle the winters when the sun rises at 10 a.m. and sets by 2 or 3 in the afternoon.

But it could be worse. Art told me about a woman from England he knew who worked from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. in a building with no windows. In the winter, it was common for her to not see the sun between late Sunday afternoon until the next Saturday morning.

I know I couldn't handle that. Kansas is just fine, thank you very much!

2005 Index