What time is it?

If my research is correct, the idea came from a Canadian. He was born in Scotland, but he emigrated to Canada. Sir Stanford Fleming proposed a worldwide system of time zones in 1879. He advocated his system at several international conferences. He is credited to the instillation of the internal effort that led to the adoption of the present time meridians. It was that concept that led to the adoption of standardized time zones. Standardized time was needed in order for railroads to offer a uniform time schedule. Since trains traveled large distances in relatively short times, a system was needed for passengers and shippers to know when the train would arrive and depart. So, on November 18, 1883 the system was put into place. Prior to that the time of day used observation of the sun. Noon was the time when the sun reached its highest point in the sky and each locale had its own official clock, usually set in a church steeple, a government building or a jeweler’s shop.

The idea of universal time took a while to catch on. Not everyone liked the idea. Some believed that the imposition of standardized time was an expression of government over-reach. The idea that it should be the same time here as it is in another place was seen as a denial of the reality that the sun rises and sets at different times in different places. Some communities in Europe and the United States began to have two clocks - one to display the local time and another to show universal time.

It may seem like this argument was something that took place a long time ago, but the timing of the creation of universal time coincides with the founding of the church I serve. Our church is just slightly - less than a year - older than the concept of universal time. It might even have been a hot topic of discussion among the founders of the congregation.

I raise the point because this morning’s switch to Daylight Savings Time was a hot topic of conversation among members of our church choir this week. Several members expressed a dislike of the change in time and proposed that we pick one or the other time and stick with it instead of adjusting twice each year.

Of course Daylight Savings Time is a different matter than standardized time. But that idea also started in Canada. Germany and Austria were the first whole countries to go to Daylight Savings Time in 1916, the idea was first implemented in Port Arthur, Ontario - which today is known as Thunder Bay. The residents turned their clocks ahead forward by 1 hour on July 1, 1908. Other locations in Canada followed. Regina in Saskatchewan implemented Daylight Savings Time on April 23, 2924. Brandon, Manitoba did so on April 24, 1916. Regina Manitoba was the first place to establish Daylight Savings Time by municipal law.

Those Canadians!

Not everybody is imitating their plan. Well, not everybody. And that is part of what makes it so confusing. Arizona doesn’t ever have Daylight Savings Time, which means that they effectively switch time zones twice a year when the rest of the country makes the change. A bill has been approved by the Florida senate that would make today the last time change in that state. The proposal is for them to stay on Daylight Savings Time year round. It is sort of the opposite of the Arizona decision. Prior to 2006, individual counties in Indiana could choose whether or not to adopt Daylight Savings Time. Some did. Some didn’t. Eight counties in the northwest corner were in the same time zone as Chicago part of the year and in a different time zone the rest of the year. When Indiana went to statewide Daylight Savings Time the eight counties switched from Eastern to Central time year round, just to keep a bit of confusion going. It doesn’t bother me. I’ve lived for nearly three decades in either North or South Dakota - states with two time zones. In fact I’ve never served as ordained minister in a congregation that is in the same time zone as its conference office, a distinction that seems surprising to some of my colleagues who live back east where conferences are smaller.

And, if you check around the world, people do even more interesting things with time zones. The nation of India is on the half hour from Universal Time. When it is noon in London, it is 5:30 pm in New Delhi. And India isn’t alone in being on the half hour. In Australia, Northern Territory, South Australia, Lord Howe Island and the Cocos Islands are on the half hour. Other places on the half hour include Newfoundland in Canada, Sri Lanka, Afghanistan, Iran, North Korea, Myanmar and the Marquesas Islands. Venezuela used to be on the half hour, but changed its time zone to the hour on May 1, 2016. Just incase you think you’ve got all of this figured out, Lord Howe Island in Australia shifts only a half hour for Daylight Savings Time so is offset from the rest of the world part of the year and on the hour the rest of the year.

It doesn’t end there. In Nepal the time zone is offset by the quarter hour. When it is noon in London, it is 5:45 pm in Kathmandu. The Chatham Islands in New Zealand are also on the quarter hour, as is the case of Australian Central Western Standard Time.

All of this is to raise the question from the song by the band Chicago, “Does anybody really know what time it is?”

If you are used to reading this journal first thing in the morning, since I write it first thing in the morning, did you check your clock to make sure you’d switched properly to Daylight Savings Time today. I did. I also have a big note on my desk at work reminding me to change the clock that controls the bell in the church steeple this morning. Of course people don’t really use church steeple bells to tell what time it is these days. But since it rings both at 9:15 and at 9:30, it might confuse the neighbors if I forgot to move it ahead.

Copyright (c) 2018 by Ted E. Huffman. I wrote this. If you would like to share it, please direct your friends to my web site. If you'd like permission to copy, please send me an email. Thanks!