The Daylight-Savings Plan
Arguments For And Against The Proposal To Set The Clock Forward An Hour During The Summer
II - Don't Change the Clocks
By The Rev. E. W. Annable
[Munsey's Magazine, April 1918]
It was something of a shock to me when I read of the proposal to set the clock forward one hour during the summer months, for the sake of more daylight and higher efficiency. I enjoy daylight, and I believe in efficiency, but at a season of the year when we have sunshine from about five in the morning until seven at night, I fail to see any adequate reason for a change in our daily time-table.
We haven't heard any farmer asking for such a change. A day is a day to him out there on the farm. He already works from "kin to can"—that is, he begins as soon as he "kin" in the morning, and he works as long as he can.
The roosters begin to crow out on the farm, regardless of the clock. The calves commence bleating for breakfast about the time when the sun looks over the eastern horizon. The pigs start squealing a friendly summons to the farmer to tumble out of bed and hustle up the grub. And so he turns out and starts the day.
The sun is his clock in doing his work; and if this fails him, the stock will remind him of feeding-time. We know a farmer friend who owns a mule which, about eleven o'clock in the morning, will raise voice and tail in a series of euphonious brays, to remind the boss that it is time to eat; and if his demand is not heeded, he goes on a strike at once.
It is not until the farmer wants to go to town that trouble will begin, if the clock is set forward an hour. It will mean that he must cut off one hour from the far end of the day's work, if the town is working upon the basis of the new time. We are daily reading of increasing demands for a general effort to raise larger and better crops. If one hundred thousand farmers, who used to work till six 'clock, old time, have to cut off one hour from two days in the week, in order to get into town in time to attend to business and go to the movies, or to church or lodge, there is likely to be a chance for Mr. Hoover to protest. You can figure out the loss of time for yourself. But how are we going to prevent that loss if we set the clocks forward one hour during the farmer's busy season?
Then there is the farmer's wife. She is interested in this matter. So far as the farm is concerned, her day is much like that of her husband. It lasts from the time when she feeds the chickens in the morning, and hurries on breakfast for the men-folk, until the last dish is wiped and put away after supper. She knows by the sun when dinner should be ready. The gathering in of the hens and turkeys, in the late afternoon, reminds her of the approach of evening, and she says to her daughter:
"My land, where has this day gone?"
But if she is going to town that evening, then, if the clock has been set forward, everything will be in confusion. Her schedule must be advanced an hour because of the change in time; but turkeys don't come home by the clock, nor do chickens go to roost because its hands have been set forward. They have a habit of doing as they have always done. She will have to cut one complete hour out of the day's work to be able to go to town with her husband, and that is no small matter with her. The stores will be closing an hour earlier than they used to, and she must come to their terms if she wishes to do her errands.
Under the present arrangement the farmer and his wife get to town when the day's work is fairly done, shop a bit, visit a little with the neighbor farmers, perhaps go to the movies, and then bundle the family into the rig or auto, and get back home in time for a good night's rest. This idea of setting the clock forward is going to raise the mischief with them.
THE MAN WITH A SMALL GARDEN
Then there is the man who lives in a country or suburban town. He is no farmer, but he thinks he is. He likes to get out an hour earlier in the morning, during the spring and summer season, and putter around in the back end of his lot. He puts in a few seeds, sets out a few tomatoes and cabbage-plants, and incidentally cultivates a fistful of choice blisters, about which he loves to brag to his less fortunate friends.
It makes him feel good to get up at five o'clock—present time—and in the cool of the morning paw in the dirt before breakfast; then eat, and catch the seven five train for the city, all glowing with healthy exercise. But if we set the clock forward, he will have to get up at what is now five o'clock in order to get his train, which will still be running at 7.05 A.M., but with that time exactly one hour earlier. If he wants that extra hour to work in the garden, he must get up at what is now four o'clock. Will he want the clock set forward? Somewhere he must get the regulation amount of sleep, and he does not intend to go to bed with the chickens in order to do so.
Setting the clock forward will compel him to readjust all his habits. No, he doesn't want his schedule changed. There is always plenty of daylight in his office now. If he wishes, he can keep right along with his work until six o'clock (old time), with never a thought of artificial light.
Then his wife must be reckoned with. Goodness knows, her morning is all too short now, what with the meals to get, and the children to hurry off to school. Seven thirty, old time, would mean six thirty, new time. Why, even now she can't get those children started before the first bell is ringing for school. And an hour earlier! Folks must be crazy!
And the children understand the present situation. They hear their mother call them to "get right up this minute," but that is all right. Mother always calls that way. They know they are perfectly safe to take another snooze, and so, naturally, they roll over and take it. And mother fusses around, and finally gets them out of bed, and they get up with a rush, if they are boys, jump into their clothes in about three shakes, give their hair "a lick and a promise," gobble their breakfast, and get to school in plenty of time to have a lot of fun. But to set the schedule forward an hour would be for mother to invite a cyclone, a tornado, and an earthquake all at once.
Of course, it would not be quite so bad with girls. But be very sure, mother doesn't want the clock changed, unless it is just during vacation, for then it would make little difference.
DISARRANGING THE SUMMER EVENINGS
But we have to look at the other end of the day as well. It sounds very fine to say that men in offices and shops and stores would quit work an hour earlier, according to the proposed change. This is all right if those who are stopping work at that hour have only themselves to look after. But the proposition is changed nearly as badly for father and mother in town as for the farmer and his wife in the agricultural district.
One hour earlier will land father home in the edge of the heat of the day. It is nothing to him that he is out that much sooner, if he has had to sacrifice the morning hour in his much-prized garden. He can't work a garden in the late, hot, summer afternoon, even if the conservation of garden-stuff is urged by the government. Those burning, slanting rays of the declining sun forbid any such thing.
Besides, the evening hour has been devoted to watering the garden, if he has one, and sprinkling the street; but now he can't do that either. It is too early and too hot. Neither can he cut the grass—his task for one evening each week—for the same reason. He can't go over to his neighbor's and sit on the steps and swap yarns. He hasn't had his supper yet. It is too soon to go auto-riding, if he has a car, for the folks haven't had a chance to get tidied up yet, and will not until after the evening meal. Moreover, his wife isn't at home. The new routine has not yet been brought to time so that the afternoon is properly adjusted. Nobody knows where the children are at that time of day. Their mother is inclined to think the old supper-hour is good enough. The children aren't ready to eat yet, anyway, or they would be at home, for meals always bring them. Both mother and father are quite ready to protest against setting the clock forward.
So far as that is concerned, big sister might have something to say, if she would only speak up. There has been a young man coming around lately, in the edge of the evening, and there have been pleasant moments there on the porch, in the half light of the closing day. She knows all about this, and thinks of the little attentions and glances that she has received, and the accidental touches of the hands.
Sister knows that that young man isn't going to come around there in broad daylight to sit on the porch with her. She also knows that a little later in the evening, according to the new time, ten o'clock will be on hand at nine o'clock, and the young man cannot stay as late as he used to; nor can they go out to walk with the same abandon as to time, knowing very well that "half past ten is not so very late." It's no fun to hold hands by daylight, either, if matters have progressed that far. Neither sister nor her "best ever" wants the clock set forward.
And then there is the neighborhood to be considered. Think of the fine old times we have had under present arrangements! Father worked in the garden in the morning, and now he has just finished cutting the grass, and is all ready to sit down and visit. Mother is dressed up in something cool and fresh. The children have played hide-and-seek until they are tired, and now are cluttering up the front steps, or are sprawled out on the grass, telling of the narrow escapes of the day, and of all the things they have done.
And now night has fallen upon the city. Some of the neighbors have come over to sit on the porch with father and mother. Father and the rest of the men are telling about their gardens, and mother and the women are comparing notes on the latest pattern in knitting.
Then they all begin to tell of old times and old friends. The baby of the family comes and climbs up in mother's lap, and, after a few shy glances around, cuddles down and quietly goes to sleep. The older children are listening to the talk of their elders. By and by one of the neighbors says:
"Well, we must go home."
"Oh, don't hurry," mother says; "it's only nine o'clock."
And so they sit a little longer in the growing darkness; and you can hear the baby breathing more deeply in its sleep; and the talk kind of dies out, and it fades away all down the street, where other neighbors are enjoying themselves as we have been. Presently those at our house go home; and mother takes the baby in and puts it on the bed, still sound asleep. Then she routs out the rest of the youngsters, and sends than off up-stairs.
Then husband and wife sit there alone for a few minutes, not talking very much, but just resting in the cool, quiet darkness—good comrades, good chums, traveling together the path of life which lengthens toward the sunset. Mistakes have been made, perhaps, but they've got along pretty well, considering, and they are glad to be there together, with all their little folks asleep within the house. And the benediction of the evening hour falls upon the two.
The lights begin to wink out in the houses down the street, and occasionally a door is shut. The stars shine a little more brightly. The night breezes begin to rustle through the leaves of the trees about the house. A bird suddenly pipes out in its sleep, up there in the branches. The cricket orchestra is playing away in even time, out there in the grass. The sound of a belated auto, coming in from an evening run, is heard on the cool night air; and away off there can be heard the occasional barking of some lonely dog.
Then, one by one, the clocks of the neighborhood begin to chime out ten o'clock—present time—and then there is absolute silence for a moment.
"Well, I suppose we must go to bed," one says to the other, half regretfully.
The two get up quietly and pull the extra chairs in off the porch, and the door is shut and locked; and soon the house is dark and silent for the night. What a pleasant evening they have had! Why spoil it by cutting off an hour?
I say, don't set the clock forward!
© J. Fred MacDonald, 2013
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THE HEADLONG FURY
A Novel of World War One
By J. Fred MacDonald