Daylight saving time: Get ready to 'fall back'

For everyone who has been yawning since March 13, prepare to enjoy that lost hour of sleep when daylight saving time ends Sunday and standard time returns.

Why can't we just keep our clocks unchanged? Why do we go through this time warp twice a year?

Some say it's Benjamin Franklin's fault. Some blame farmers, or golfers who felt ripped off when their golf games ended at dusk. Others say it was a way to save energy, which back then meant candles and coal.

If you want to point fingers, perhaps Culprit No. 1 would be the Earth's axis, because if the planet wasn't tilted, hours of daylight wouldn't change so much.

"There's always been controversy about the extent to which it accomplishes its goals," said Dan Phaneuf, a professor of agriculture and applied economics at University of Wisconsin-Madison.

"One study shows energy use actually goes up. The later daylight is associated with doing activities later, which affects air conditioning. One other study showed it didn't change. Their use of energy went up in the evening and down in the morning so it evened out," Phaneuf said.

It might seem like daylight saving time has been a part of Americans' lives forever — though not for the good folks of Hawaii and Arizona — but actually it wasn't uniform until then-president Lyndon Johnson signed a law in 1966 designed to simplify the start and end dates across the country. States could opt out of daylight saving time entirely, and two outliers did: Arizona and Hawaii. (Parts of Indiana didn't observe daylight saving time until 2006, when it became uniform statewide.)

Until then, states, counties and even communities pretty much picked and chose when clocks would be changed, which created quite a few headaches. The year before Johnson signed the Uniform Time Act, Minneapolis switched to daylight saving time two hours before St. Paul, and apparently one office building in St. Paul had nine floors of city employees observing daylight saving time while nine floors of county workers didn't. In Iowa, there were 23 different starting times for daylight saving time.

During World War II, President Franklin Roosevelt decreed the whole country would observe what was called "War Time," making it easier for train schedules, defense workers punching clocks and pickup and delivery for goods connected to the war effort. A 1942 Milwaukee Journal article reminded people of the time change to start at 2 a.m. on Feb. 9.

"At that moment, the patriotic thing to do is grasp the alarm clock firmly in the left hand, using the right hand to turn that little jigger in the back an hour ahead, and zingo! — it's 3 a.m. war time, or victory time, if you please."

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