Sunrise, sunset: A short history of daylight saving time
BY JULIE DELCOUR Associate Editor
Sunday, March 11, 2012
3/11/12 at 3:44 AM
Even if it cuts off its nose to spite its face, Oklahoma's a place whose people and politicians (or at least some of them) pride themselves on opting out of such federal fare as Obamacare, federal mortgage pay-backs and pork-barrel projects.
So, where's the red-faced, jowl-quivering, fist-shaking, states'-rights outrage over daylight saving time, a quasi-mandate politicized, pilloried or praised nationally for decades? Why do Oklahomans sit still for Uncle Sam deciding what time of day it is?
Most don't care as long as they have their extra hour in the sun. Several thousand bills were filed this legislative session but only one, a carryover from 2011, (that went nowhere) tried to save that hard-earned hour of sleep we lost this morning.
Meanwhile, in Utah, one lawmaker has everyone's bowels in an uproar pushing a bill to abolish DST, which would put Utah out of sync with neighboring states except Arizona. So far, detractors have scorned the legislation saying it's more impractical than empowering.
Contrary to popular belief, DST is not a do-it-or-die federal mandate. If states don't want to participate they can pass a law opting out. It wasn't always that way. In the mid-1960s, 100 million Americans observed daylight saving time according to their local customs and laws, a real patchwork quilt of dysfunction.
Time for change
One 35-mile stretch of highway between Steubenville, Ohio, and Moundsville, W. Va., took travelers through seven time changes. That ridiculous example, pointed out on the front page of the New York Times, was the tipping point for Congress to pass the Uniform Time Act of 1966, establishing the hours and months daylight saving time would be observed.
Nearly everyone accepted the change, which ended such peculiarities as the 18-story building in St. Paul, Minn., where nine floors observed DST and nine floors did not.
There still are U.S. areas where DST is not observed, including Arizona, Guam, Hawaii, the Virgin Islands, Puerto Rico, American Samoa and, up until 2006, six stubborn counties in Indiana. Seventy countries have daylight saving time but three of the most populous, China, India and Japan, do not.
DST still has its controversies. In Russia in June 2011, President Dmitry Medvedev abolished DST. After doing without DST for several months, however, many Russians missed it. Vladimir Putin, Medvedev's successor, who won in a landslide victory recently, has announced that the return to a seasonal time switch was possible if public discussion confirmed a need for it.
Once upon a time
Oklahomans observed DST or "war time" during World War I and World War II. Americans considered it their patriotic duty to save fuel for the war effort. The change did not win converts in rural areas where farmers ignored DST and continued doing what they'd always done - going to bed with the chickens and rising when the rooster crowed.
After World War II, Oklahoma Gov. Leon Phillips quickly ruled out extending DST.
In 1954, the Tulsa City Commission unanimously rejected a proposal by oil-field drillers to switch to daylight saving time. At a 1954 hearing, City Attorney Harry M. Crowe Jr., joined in protests, saying that a change would mean "just another hour for my kids to stay up."
More persuasive was Earl Snyder, owner of two drive-in theaters, and Horace D. Ballaine, attorney for area theaters, who urged the city to stick with standard time. A starting time of 9 p.m., Snyder complained, would harm his business. Ballaine argued that aside from his clients' interests, it made no sense for Tulsa to change to DST when outside areas remained on standard time.
The U.S. now has observed daylight saving time consistently for nearly 50 years. Briefly in the early 1970s, during the energy crisis President Richard Nixon put the country on year-round DST but that was rescinded after too many school-bus accidents on dark mornings. There are still detractors, however, who think DST is a waste of time. Is it?
Waste of time?
In 2008, two California professors studied the six counties in Indiana that had used DST until 2006. Findings were published in a New York Times article entitled, "What's the Point of Daylight Time?" The study showed that DST actually increased residential electricity demand by about 1 percent. Questions about cost-benefits continue from those who wish the U.S. would forget all about DST. On the other side, are those who argue daylight saving time should be year-round.
Polls regularly reflect that Americans like having that extra hour of daylight later rather than sooner in the day. It makes them feel better, less cheated. Not even Oklahomans would opt out of that.
Original Print Headline: Sunrise, sunset
Julie DelCour, 918-581-8379
Custumers enjoy a drink and watch the sunset on the back deck of the Blue Rose Cafe. Polls show most American like having an extra hour of daylight in the evening courtey of daylight savings time. TOM GILBERT/Tulsa World file