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The Long Way Home

What a winter. The Sierra mountains in California and Nevada have seen snowfall that would cover a six-story building. Ski resorts have had to close because the snow is up to the bottom of chairlifts. Those of us on the North Shore had a second year of a whole lot of snow.

Complaining about the weather helps us cope, I suppose. In a couple months we can complain about the humidity, black flies, and tourists. But coping isn’t the same as changing things. We can’t change the weather.

However, we can do something to resolve another complaint. Twice a year, lives are disrupted, some like mine for several days, with the inconvenience and annoyance of Daylight Saving Time (DST), springing ahead and falling back.

Prior to 1883 the USA had 144 different local times. This created a great deal of trouble for fledgling railroads trying to serve a growing nation. It was pretty hard to write and post departure and arrival schedules with any time consistency.

In November 1883, Canadian and US railroads got together and created four time zones, standard time, across the continent: Eastern, Central, Mountain and Pacific. These allowed railroads to best coordinate schedules. Then they lobbied Congress to get the Interstate Commerce Commission, an agency it created in 1887, to create five standard time zones. This was the Standard Time Act of 1918.

Port Arthur ON, now part of Thunder Bay, was the first city in the world to adopt DST on July 1, 1908.

Congress passed the Uniform Time Act in 1966, standardizing DST. Jurisdictions could opt out, but could not opt for year-round DST. Hawaii and Arizona opted out and their residents don’t cope with spring ahead or fall back. Until 2006, some parts of Indiana did not recognize DST, creating untold challenges to local communities and industries.

Some histories of DST credit the legend Ben Franklin with first proposing DST in 1784 to help the new country economize on candle usage.

At times when DST was implemented for brief periods, like World War I, it was intended to conserve energy. Benjamin would have approved.

It’s always good to see who benefits and who doesn’t when you try to make sense of the insensible.

DST has been supported over the years by the retailing, sporting, and tourism interests. Adding an extra hour of daylight after the 9-5 workday was thought to inspire folks to spend more money on these interests.

DST has been opposed by agriculture, evening entertainment, and even some religious entities. It seems that cows don’t care what the clock says when it comes to giving milk.

Health may be negatively affected with semi-annual clock changes. Some studies show that circadian rhythms are disrupted, sleep deprivation worsens, and there may be an increase in heart attacks and automobile accidents.

In 2022, legislation authored by Florida Republican Senator Marco Rubio passed the Senate in a voice vote. Titled the “Sunshine Protection Act,” it would make DST permanent across the country. It died in the House.

The most compelling argument for reverting to standard time in the fall is that it provides more sunlight in the morning to enhance safety for school children. I’d say it’s the only reason to “fall back.”

To protect our children, start school an hour or two later. Not only would there be more light as they transit to school, the kids will be more rested. Have you seen a seventh grader at six in the morning?

I don’t care if we have Daylight Saving or Standard time. Pick one and stop the twice-per-year insanity.

Steve Fernlund
Steve Fernlund
Typically these “about me” pages include a list of academic achievements (I have none) and positions held (I have had many, but who really cares about those?) So, in the words of the late Admiral James Stockwell, “Who am I? Why am I here?” I’m well into my seventh decade on this blue planet we call home. I’m a pretty successful husband, father, and grandfather, at least in my humble opinion. My progeny may disagree. We have four children and five grandchildren. I spent most of my professional life in the freight business. At the tender age of 40, early retirement beckoned and we moved to Grand Marais. A year after we got here, we bought and operated the Cook County News Herald, a weekly newspaper in Grand Marais. A sharp learning curve for a dumb freight broker to become a newspaper editor and publisher. By 1999 the News Herald was an acquisition target for a rapidly consolidating media market. We sold our businesses and “retired” again, buying a winter retreat in Nevada. In the fall of 2016, we returned to Grand Marais and bought a house from old friends of ours on the ridge overlooking Lake Superior. They were able to move closer to family and their Mexico winter home. And we came home to what we say is our last house. I’m a strong believer in the value of local newspapers--both online and those you can wrap a fish in. I write a weekly column and a couple of feature stories for the Northshore Journal. I’m most interested in writing about the everyday lives of local people and reporting on issues of importance to them.
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