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It's That Time Of The Year Again

It's That Time Of The Year AgainTuftslecturer and novelist Michael Downing has written a book exploringAmerica's history of springing forward and falling back with DaylightSaving Time.Medford/Somerville,Mass.

Medford/Somerville, Mass. [03.31.05] Twice a year, Americans reset their clocks and watchesin accordance with Daylight Saving Time, which yields an extrahour of sunlight from April through October. The phenomenon sparkedthe interest of Tufts’ Michael Downing, who began researchingits origins. His findings – compiled into a new book entitledSpring Forward: The Annual Madness of Daylight Saving Time– tell the tale of the convoluted biannual ritual that hasdrawn both cheers and jeers over its unusual 87-year history.

"Thematerial was so contradictory I couldn't find a through line,"Downing – who teaches writing at Tufts and has penned fournovels – told the Providence Journal. "Eachtime I thought I had a way to launch the book, I would come acrosssomething that would change my idea. I thought I'll just keepgoing to the library and something will happen."

What he foundin his research – which included scouring decades of newspaperarticles, editorials, letters to the editor and the CongressionalRecord – was a complex history rife with debate, conflictand confusion.

Congress passeda law in 1918 to institute Daylight Saving Time, but it was repealeda little over a year later. After being reinstituted briefly duringWorld War II, under the name "War Time," confusing stateand local statutes sought to regulate the phenomenon.

Even afterPresident Johnson passed the Uniform Time Act in 1966, stateswere still allowed to adapt their own standards. Thus the entireU.S. – except for Hawaii, Arizona and part of Indiana –now adheres to Daylight Saving Time. The current start date ofthe first Sunday in April was established by President Reaganin 1986.

It was not,however, always a smooth adjustment.

"NewHampshire was so opposed to Daylight Saving Time that in 1921,the state actually began to impose fines for anybody who displayeda public clock that showed Daylight Saving Time instead of StandardTime," Downing told the Manchester Union-Leader.

The entertainmentindustry has also been wary of Daylight Saving Time, Downing says.

"Amongthe others who opposed it were the Hollywood studios. They hatedDaylight Saving Time because it cut into attendance at movies,"he explained to the Union-Leader. "When it was lighterlater, people went outdoors. In more recent times, radio and TVhave both opposed Daylight Saving Time for the same reasons. Tothis day, the Nielsen ratings drop precipitously in April whenwe turn the clocks ahead."

So given hisscholarship on the topic, what are Downing's personal feelingson Daylight Saving Time?

"I livein the Northeast," he explained to the Journal."I'm one of the people who benefits from extended summerevenings."












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