A Yankee Notebook, Columns

They’ll Never Gain

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by Willem Lange

EAST MONTPELIER – For years and years folks got along with an old grandfather’s clock,

Or just a common old sun dial sittin’ out on a block.

Then the dollar watch it had its day and wrist watch it was fine.

Then along came a man who ruined us all with Daylight Savin’ Time.

Fewer and fewer folks these days remember the late Grandpa Jones. His last big gig was the TV show Hee Haw. He follows me around in the dashboard of my car, and a full round of his great country songs can last me from Glens Falls to Montpelier. His hat and affect were goofy – I can’t look at his photo without smiling – and his songs often lament the death of the good old days and the values that a lot of old-timers claim to miss in these modern times.

I try very hard not to join that bandwagon. It’s been rolling since at least 2000 BCE. But on the subject of our semiannual time changes, I’m firmly on board, playing the tuba.

We got into Daylight Saving Time (hereinafter DST) during, as far as I remember, the Second World War, when it was proposed as an energy-saving measure. More afternoon daylight, it was said, would require less artificial light in our all-important defense plants at the end of each day. Patriotism (or the claim of it) always carries weight here in the States; so we kids walked to school in the morning twilight (schoolbuses weren’t even thought of yet; and if they had been, there wouldn’t have been the fuel to run them) and had an extra hour of light after school to play outside. Plus, apparently the practice did indeed save electrical energy.

The war ended, along with rationing (remember saving lard for munitions, iron and steel for tanks and trucks, newspapers for paper, and brass for cartridges?), but for some reason DST did not. The parts of the country that hadn’t observed it – there are still some – plowed on regardless, and the rest of us tried to memorize the mantra, “Spring ahead, fall back.”

It’s seemed to me for some time now that Congress, where this sort of thing gets decided, has been remarkably inert on this subject. Committees have held hearings, where they’ve listened to aggrieved citizens and traffic safety experts, but if there’s been any sort of consensus, let alone a majority opinion, it’s been well concealed. Like the Titanic, we plow through the seasons with no changes of speed or course.

My friend Bea sometimes sends me validations of folk wisdom with the heading, “It’s science!” Now we have another, that my kids pointed out to me in one of our twice-weekly Zoom calls. Researchers have noticed a 24% increase in heart attacks and an unquantifiable increase in depression just after the spring clock changes. The autumn toll – except in depression – isn’t as severe, mainly because our Circadian rhythms are upset less by an extra hour of sleep than by one hour less. But I can attest – and I’d bet I’m not alone – that darkness in the woods after five o’clock has an oppressive effect on the spirits.

I must admit that the time changes aren’t as onerous as they once were because most of the clocks around the place set themselves nowadays (except for the one on the kitchen stove, which has defied every attempt to get it to show the correct time, ever). Still, wouldn’t you think that with all the hassle of the semiannual shift, and the peer-reviewed studies of the physical, financial, and emotional toll, that Congress would take the obvious action and reach the logical conclusion? Whoops! I forgot. We’re talking Congress here. As Pogo lamented once, decades ago, “I’d write my congressman – if I could write and he could read.”

I’m with Grandpa Jones on this one; and unlike Pogo, I suspect my congressperson can read. It’s worth a try. There might even be a Nobel prize in it.

So why not leave the clocks alone so folks won’t be confused?

Let ’em hit the floor an hour before if it’s daylight that they choose.

I’m huntin’ that man who first thought up Daylight Savin’ Time.

If he will prove why the clocks are moved then I’ll admit it’s fine.

I’ve twisted my old clock around ’til it ain’t worth a dime.

I’m countin’ sheep, losing sleep, get up late, miss my date,

Couldn’t get there in a Cadillac 8.

Try as they will they’ll never gain with Daylight Savin’ Time!

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