What Time Is It?

November 6, 2011 by staff 

What Time Is It?, When you turned back by one hour your clocks, watches, microwaves and thermostats this morning, most of the nation did the same. It wasn’t always so simple.

In fact, for decades, the fight over “fast time,” “summer time,” “Wilson time,” “war time,” “Bolshevik time” or “standard time,” “slow time,” “God’s time” — the varied names for it depended on how you viewed the issue — roiled Congress, the state legislatures and city councils. The result was a confounding patchwork of conflicting times.

Though the original arguments for daylight saving time centered around saving energy during wartime, it quickly became a pitched battle between urban lifestyle vs. rural realities. City office workers liked getting an extra hour of sunlight during the summer to enjoy the lakefront, attend a baseball game, go golfing or spend time with the family. But farmers argued they couldn’t shift their work so easily. They couldn’t work as efficiently in the dew-laden fields in the early morning, but hired hands wanted to be home at the new dinner time to be with families. The shift effectively shortened the working day. The dairy men reported that the milk truck arrived to pick up the morning’s production an hour too early: the cows simply wouldn’t produce. If those cityfolk want to enjoy more daylight, they argued, why do they need to mess with “God’s time”? Just get out of bed when you needed to and leave “sun time” alone.

The nation rallied around President Woodrow Wilson’s appeal to patriotism, though, and daylight saving time was adopted nationwide in 1918. From the beginning, though, exceptions popped up. The first year, it fell on Easter Sunday. Lest the faithful miss the most important Mass of the year, the Archdiocese of Chicago decreed Mass schedules would remain on standard time that day, even as the rest of the nation switched.

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