Remember to ‘spring forward’

When our family gets together, we have very interesting conversations.
My husband and my son are veritable encyclopedias of interesting facts and statistics, and always are willing to share them.
I, on the other hand, am more interested in people–remembering their names, what their grandchildren do, and what they said at a particular occasion 20 years ago.
This difference in conversational styles was apparent last Sunday when I mentioned that this Sunday is the beginning of daylight savings time (DST).
It reminded me of the long, long summer evenings when we lived in Edmonton, Alta., 400 miles north of the U.S. border. We sometimes spent evenings strolling on the spacious Parliament building lawn, looking at the beautiful flowerbeds and watching lawn bowling late at night–with no sunset in sight.
My encyclopedic men folk instead began talking about the history of DST. But this time they disagreed.
My son thought that Ben Franklin had instituted DST in the late 1700s, but my husband was almost certain it was started during World War II as an energy-saving device.
Interestingly enough, they both were correct.
It was Benjamin Franklin who envisioned the idea in 1784 during a stay in Paris. He went on to write an essay entitled “An Economical Project for Diminishing the Cost of Light.”
This was the same idea that President Franklin D. Roosevelt had 150 years later when he introduced “war time.”
In between, many different plans for time change were formulated and promoted, but without much success.
DST usually is defined as setting our clocks one hour forward in the spring and one hour back in the fall. It is called “summer time” in some parts of the world.
The main purpose of DST is to make better use of daylight–in Ben Franklin’s case, the purpose was to economize on candles.
But Franklin took it one step further, almost making time change a religious duty. His proposal of DST was consistent with his well-known quotation: “Early to bed and early to rise makes a man healthy, wealthy, and wise.”
Franklin also wrote a book praising the virtue of early rising, entitled “Early Rising: A Natural, Social, and Religious Duty.”
While we can’t ignore Franklin’s contribution to the creation of DST, there are others who also played significant roles. In 1895, New Zealand resident George Vernon Hudson proposed a two-hour difference between winter and summer time.
And in 1905, William Willett proposed a frighteningly complicated time change plan. He suggested moving clocks 20 minutes forward each of four Sundays in April and then switching them back on four Sundays in September.
Imagine the turmoil such a plan would create in our modern, time-driven world!
The idea of DST has been around a long, long time. The Romans had invented a water clock that used different scales for different months of the year. So no one really “invented” it.
But it seems there has been mass confusion and mass controversy about DST from the beginning of time.
Yet, whether we like DST or not, most of us in the U.S. and Canada have learned to make the best of it.
So this Sunday (March 9), remember to “Spring forward.” And enjoy the longer evenings as the world begins to thaw out and bloom!
Write Marie Snider at