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A War Over an Hour

Desiree Cooper

Jim Gates

Full Episode Audio

Dr. David Prerau: People were worried about the effect on trains, trains were the major method of transportation and trains were very much wedded to the clock and a lot of times, the same track was used in two different directions and certainly there were a lot of tracks that were crossing each other.

So they were worried about possible accidents on trains and so they asked the railroad industry what was the time of the week when the least number of trains were running, and they said at 2 a.m. on Sunday morning. And so that was really the main reason why that was picked and I think it's a good choice because most people aren't working on Sunday and so it gives them an extra day to adjust to the time changes before they have to go to work on Monday.

Desiree Cooper: That makes perfect sense to actually change the clocks at a time when it's going to cost the least disruption to the most people, but I understand that there are many cases when it caused huge disruptions in the United States. You talk about one, where in Ohio, it caused all-out chaos.

A lot of bars are open at 2 a.m. on Sunday morning, and when you move the clock to 3 a.m., a lot of them have to close very abruptly, and in Athens, Ohio, in 1997, which was the site of Ohio University, the bars usually were open until 2:30 a.m. But on the night of Daylight Saving Time of course, when it got to be 2 a.m., immediately it was 3 a.m. and the bars had to close a half an hour early.

Well, this made the patrons of the bars very unhappy, losing that extra half hour of drinking time, so they all ran out into the streets of Athens, over a thousand people, and rioted. And they threw liquor bottles and eggs and they shouted "Freedom!" And eventually, of course, the police had to come and quell the riot. And it wound up that 47 people were arrested.

Wow, so it didn't help them to know that they'd get an extra half hour of drinking in the fall?

Well, they weren't thinking very farsightedly at that time, I don't think.

Did it wreak havoc anywhere else?

Yes, a very interesting thing happened in 1965. The St. Paul City Council decided to start Daylight Saving Time on May 9, whereas the rest of the state had, by state law, started Daylight Saving Time on May 23. The reason St. Paul wanted to do it on May 9, was because that was the time that the rest of the country was using, and they had assumed that Minneapolis would follow suit.

But the mayor of Minneapolis and the city council there said, 'No, we're going to follow the state law and change to Daylight Saving Time on May 23.' So the city councils started trying to convince each city council to change and they eventually had a big meeting together, a joint meeting of the two city councils, but nothing happened. When it got to be May 9, the clocks changed in St. Paul, but not in Minneapolis. And one newspaper headline said 'Clock Confusion Confounds Cities.' And it became, as you can imagine two twin cities having different times. A mess.

How long did they actually live with that kind of chaos?

Two weeks. There was one guy who said, by the way, 'I don't have any watch, I'm just going to go to lunch when I'm hungry.' So I think that's the kind of attitude that most people eventually took, they just sort of ignored it and tried to live with it for the time period while it happened.

So I'm curious, how are you going to use your extra daylight?

I figure I'm going to use it to change the 20 or 30 clocks I have around my house.

  • Music Bridge:
    Ephaphatha (Be Opened)
    Artist: Human Bell
    CD: Human Bell (Thrill Jockey)


  • Comment | Refresh

  • By Alyn Smith


    thanks to all its great to read this topic..and i appreciate the concern rose
    thank you all

    By Byrne Johnson

    From International Falls, MN, 03/08/2008

    Thanks to Dr. David Prerau's report on Daylight Saving time. When "Blue Nose" Luther Youngdahl was govenor of MN he refused to sign the special legislation that had been routine signed by other governors for many years that allowed Internationl Falls to have 20 on-sale liquor licences instead of the eight that the population warranted. Lumberjacks in winter and tourists in the summer had been the rationale. The only way that city felt able to get back at the Govenor was to refuse to go on daylight saving time, the only city in the state to do so. We really showed him!

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