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Reset clocks on April 1 -- no fooling

By JAY HORNING

© St. Petersburg Times, published February 27, 2001


Well, folks, you have another month before it's time to move up your clocks. Daylight Savings Time begins April 1 this year, and that is no April Fool's joke.

It might be in Indiana, however, where no one seems to know what time it is. I read a story in the New York Times the other day about Indiana and its screwed-up method of keeping time. There is an effort under way to change that and bring an end to the Hoosier foolishness that has been going on for 35 years now.

In 1966, Congress passed a uniform time act, decreeing that Daylight Savings Time be observed from the first Sunday in April until the last Sunday in October. Unfortunately, at least for Daylight Time lovers in Indiana, it gave the states the option of exempting themselves from this law. Indiana, along with Arizona and Alaska, did just that.

The result in Indiana is a patchwork of time lines that have resulted in the state's observing three different times at once. Ten counties, five near Chicago and five near Evansville, Ind., are in the Central Time zone and use both Central Standard and Central Daylight times. Five other counties, two near Cincinnati and three near Louisville, are in the Eastern Time zone and use both Eastern Standard and Eastern Daylight times.

The other 77 counties are in the Eastern Time zone but do not change to Daylight Time. Instead, they stay on Standard Time all year long. This all leads to some strange situations.

Imagine, for example, if a high school basketball team in a CST county is playing a team situated in a neighboring county that observes CDT. There have been efforts to remedy this, all to no avail. This year, the uniform time backers seem to be better organized than in the past, and by the time you read this, perhaps the Indiana Legislature will have decided to put an end to this confusion.

I can recall going through much the same thing, but for a shorter period of time, when we lived in Des Moines. There was a campaign to get the city on Daylight Savings Time, and it succeeded, but only to a degree. The City Council, after a boisterous hearing, voted to move the clocks ahead. But its action was sabotaged, at least in the view of DST supporters, by the School Board, which voted to keep the schools on standard time. For the last couple of months of one school year and the first couple of months of another, the city was officially on DST, but kids were going to school on CST. For all practical purposes, most households were on CST.

The next year, there was almost universal agreement on DST throughout the state, but there were problems. My wife's sister lived in Council Bluffs on Iowa's western border, and its big-sister city, Omaha, Neb., remained on standard time. I still remember that when we visited our relatives in Council Bluffs, their clocks were marked either "Council Bluffs time" or "Omaha time." It seems to me it would have been easy to have them all on Council Bluffs time and remember that it was an hour earlier in Omaha, but I didn't live there.

In any case, the problem was soon resolved when Congress passed the Uniform Time Act. Unlike Indiana, Nebraska went along with it.

Now there seems to be hope that Indiana will do away with its long-term confusion over time. Observing each kind of time for six months a year seems like a good compromise to me, although each time we have to change the clocks, I can count on my wife's saying: "I don't see why we can't just decide on a time and keep it there the year 'round." I don't either, frankly, as long as it is Daylight Time.

I am old enough to remember the World War II days when Daylight Time was observed year-round. It was called War Time and was sold as an energy-saving measure.

Wouldn't that be appropriate today, with the energy crisis that seems to be gripping more and more parts of the country?

Don't forget to move your clocks up on April 1. No fooling. Unless you live in Arizona or Hawaii. Or maybe Indiana.

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- You can write to Jay Horning c/o Seniority, St. Petersburg Times, P.O. Box 1121, St. Petersburg, FL 33731. Or send e-mail to jayhorning@aol.com.

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