Return to standard time brings back memories
As the time on watches, in vehicles and on household appliances is adjusted from daylight saving time to standard time — which officially begins on Sunday at 2 a.m. when clocks are turned back to 1 a.m. — the time-change events of 40 years ago may come to mind.
In the fall of 1973, the nation was in the early stages of the Middle Eastern oil embargo that would dominate energy policy for much of the decade.
The energy crisis, as it was commonly known, resulted in higher prices, fuel shortages and long lines at gas pumps. It raised public awareness that energy supplies were not infinite and led to efforts — some more successful than others — to reduce fuel consumption.
One relatively short-lived energy conservation effort was the Emergency Daylight Saving Time Energy Conservation Act of 1973.
When then-President Richard Nixon signed off on the bill on Dec. 15 of that year, the thought was that a year-round switch to daylight saving time would save energy.
“We have taken a number of actions to meet the energy crisis, and more will have to be taken. Many require inconvenience and sacrifice,” the president said at the time of the signing. “But daylight saving time on a year-round basis, which will result in the conservation during the winter months of an estimated equivalent of 150,000 barrels of oil a day, will mean only a minimum of inconvenience and will involve equal participation by all.”
In addition to lowering electric usage, the two-year plan was supposed to offer benefits such as reducing crime, improving traffic safety and giving children more daylight time to play outside.
It didn't quite work out that way.
The nation switched to standard time as usual in the fall of that year but on Jan. 6, 1974, the prescribed switch back to daylight saving time took many by surprise.
Children reported they were frightened by dark early morning waits at school bus stops and parents said they were concerned about the safety of their children.
An Associated Press story from the time contained reports of school crossing guards being issued flashlights and schools adjusting their hours. There was news about a 16-year-old girl in Seymour, Conn., who was seriously injured when she was hit by a car while making her way to school about a half hour before daylight.
Then-West Virginia Rep. Ken Hechler was quoted by United Press International as saying the change was making the nation grumpy.
“Most people don't like getting up in the middle of the night,” Hechler said. “It makes them much grouchier until mid-morning.”
Complaints resulted in Congress modifying the legislation and most of the nation switched back to standard time on Oct. 27, 1974. Daylight saving time rolled around early again the next year, on Feb. 23, 1975.
Most states returned to the more familiar biannual schedule of adjusting clocks in 1976.
Since 2007, most states in the U.S. change clocks to standard time on the first Sunday in November and back to daylight saving time on the second Sunday in March.
Eric Slagle is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-664-9161, ext. 1966, or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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