What time is it? New time or old time?
By the time you are reading this we will have changed from Central Standard Time to Central Daylight Time, and hopefully we have all our clocks set forward by one hour. A few people may not have gotten the word about the change, and may have arrived at church just in time for Sunday School to be over, and worship time beginning. (As a pastor, I always kind of enjoyed it when in the fall, we went off Daylight Saving Time and a few people would show up for Sunday School when they didn’t intend to!)
I guess my wife likes daylight saving time, because it means that the dark of night comes later in the day, not earlier. In wintertime, the day is short anyway, and in December the sun goes down by 5 o’clock. As we get into February and March, the day has been very gradually getting a little longer, with the dark of night coming a little later. Now, with the adopting of daylight saving time, we get a day that suddenly begins staying light an hour longer. Those who like their daylight at the end of the day will be happy. Of course there are always some people who are annoyed by the time changes. My mother-in-law, Zula Patterson, Nancy’s mother, used to complain about the time in almost every one of her weekly letters. In nearly all of her letters, there would somewhere be the sentence, “I just wish they’d leave this time alone!!”
I don’t really think the idea of daylight saving time originated with farm people. On the farm, especially in the old days, we tended to go more by sun time, not so much by clock time. The day began at sunup, not at something-o’clock. The day began closing down at sundown, whatever the clock said. We used to have the custom of “going to bed with the chickens.” That didn’t mean that we slept in the hen house; it meant that we followed the lead of the chickens, and went to bed at dark30.
There was a time in the 1950s when we started messing with the chickens’ heads, setting timers to turn on lights in the chicken house so that supposedly the chickens would grow faster by spending more hours eating and fewer hours sleeping. That idea didn’t last very long. The timers were taken out of the chicken houses and one of them became my “alarm clock,” turning on the light in my bedroom at 5 a.m. Many an old farmer felt that if you didn’t get up at sunup, you were wasting valuable daylight, and that was a sign you were shiftless and lazy. The old farmer’s wisdom was, “Plow deep, while sluggards sleep, and ye shall have corn to sell and to keep!”
Daylight savings time is based on the idea that we want to stay up later in the evenings, and not to have to get up so early in the morning. Daylight Savings time is based on city life, where people go by the concept of having a “job” that starts at 8 in the morning and ends at 5 in the evening, and after that you have time to do your own thing. That calls for more late hours in the day, and starting the day not so early. I used to have a preacher friend who was invited to attend a civic club meeting at 6 in the morning. He exclaimed, “I don’t think even God gets up at that hour!” True to form, he liked to stay up watching late-night television and to sleep-in in the morning. He probably would identify with the fellow whose friend invited him to go fishing. “Let’s leave at 3 a.m.” To that, he remarked, “3 a.m.??!! I didn’t even know there was a 3 a.m.!!”
Anyway, OK, we set our clocks forward an hour, so now sundown comes at 8 p.m., rather than at 7 p.m. We get up at 6 in the morning, by the clock, although the old farmer knows that it is really 5 o’clock. So, we go to work by the clock at 8 a.m., when it is really 7 a.m., and we get off at 5 by the clock, which is really 4 o’clock, so that gives us four hours of daylight after work instead of three.
We look to the clock to tell us when we are supposed to be at work and when we are off. Old farm families didn’t think like that. They tended to think more like “what work needs doing around here now and when can we get at it and how long will it take?”
My mother-in-law’s background probably explained why she didn’t like “messing with the time.” Rather than changing the clocks, she would probably have thought the businesses should just have their people come to work at 7 a.m. and get off at 4 p.m. Or, if we are going to change to daylight savings time, let’s just stick with it, and not be changing back and forth in April and October! No, wait, it’s March and November now, isn’t it?