Robert E. Redding, 33
Freemasons have played a key role in promoting the
observance of Daylight Saving Time.
In just a few days, almost all states of the nation will return from Daylight to Standard Time in all of the eight time zones covering the United States, from the Atlantic to the Samoa time zones. This is real progress in time uniformity when we realize that a century ago there was a bizarre patchwork quilt of more than 56 irregularly shaped time zones in the United States.
The process of time observance has been with humanity from the first day in history when the sun rose in the morning and set in the evening, both happening with different patterns throughout the entire world. Historians have tracked this phenomenon since the days of Masonic Brother Benjamin Franklin, who served as United States Ambassador to France in 1776-78. During his tenure, he suggested the French people set their clocks ahead in the summer to make better use of the extra hours of daylight. Franklin’s proposal was ignored.
Thus, Brother Franklin failed in his time to achieve any uniformity of time observance. It is reassuring, however, that other Masonic Brothers have since been more successful. That is the story of this article.
This account leads off with the date of November 18, 1883, when a standardized time regulatory program replaced a befuddling network of local time zones in the United States. This new program was established by the nation’s railroads, operating on 78,000 miles of track, to serve their commercial convenience. Some 35 years later, the Standard Time Act of 1918 was enacted by Congress as a wartime legislative measure which set all clocks ahead one hour during specified months. After passage of this legislation, the Interstate Commerce Commission adopted regulations incorporating the railroad time zone boundaries. The law was repealed in 1919, revived in 1942 for World War II, then repealed again. Theoretically, the nation was back on Standard Time.
The new public yearning for daylight time, however, created a hodgepodge of time observances and demands, with no agreement when to change clocks. The Interstate Commerce Commission, the nation’s timekeeper, was immobilized, and the matter remained deadlocked--until 1961.
That was the year when Fred Ackerman, Chairman of the Greyhound Bus Lines Board, exploded. He couldn’t print bus schedules fast enough to keep up with the time changes. Often, schedules were obsolete in two weeks and so complicated that the average passenger couldn’t decode them. Then, when the passenger missed the bus, he blamed Greyhound.
Mr. Ackerman told the Board of Directors of the Transportation Association of America (TAA), a Washington, DC, organization of transportation users, investors, and carriers, that “there should be uniformity in time, whether standard or daylight, and uniformity in the dates of time changes within each time zone.” This became the Transportation Association’s policy.
A national Uniform Time Conference was called in 1962. A special-purpose organization, named the “Committee for Time Uniformity,” was promptly formed and staffed by TAA. This is where a second Masonic Brother, the author of this article, enters the time scene. At that time, I was Vice-President/General Counsel of TAA.
Under the direction of Robert Ramspeck, former Congressman and Chairman of the Committee for Time Uniformity, a movement was started to change the time pattern of America. Four years of labor were necessary before success resulted. Many business interests were supportive, although it became a bitter fight between the indoor and outdoor theater industries. The Committee steadily expanded its membership and political support, adding the communications industry as a vital supporter. The farmers, however, were opposed to such uniformity. State and local governments were a mixed bag, depending on local conditions. The main task was to convince the media of our cause and to gain Congressional support.
First, what were the facts? Nobody knew. So, the initial project was to survey the entire nation, through telephone operators, as to local time observances. This task was soon achieved. It proved conditions were much worse than imagined. Next, the Committee’s goal was a strong supportive story on the first page of the New York Times. With the general public’s support rallied, the Time Uniformity Committee’s goal was accomplished but only after discovering and disclosing that on the 35-mile stretch of highway (Route 2) between Moundsville, West Virginia, and Steubenville, Ohio, every bus driver and his passengers had to endure SEVEN TIME CHANGES!
Also, imagine driving with your family westbound on a vacation through the rush hour period of Council Bluffs, Iowa, then crossing the Missouri River into Omaha, Nebraska. Guess what? Another rush hour period to be negotiated! Not much of a vacation.
The final result was that with the key leadership of Senator Norris Cotton of New Hampshire, the third Masonic Brother in this story, the Senate passed in 1965, and the House in 1966, the “Uniform Time Act” which was signed into Public Law 89-387 on April 13, 1966, by President Lyndon Johnson. By June 1967, almost all states were operating on daylight saving time simultaneously. In 1966, the Kiplinger Magazine proclaimed this miracle as an exemplary example of how to pass a law in Congress.
Today, Daylight Saving Time begins at 2:00 am the first Sunday in April and ends the last Sunday in October, except for any state that may choose not to go on daylight time at all. This pattern prevails throughout the United States except for Arizona, Hawaii, American Samoa, Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands, and the eastern time zone portion of Indiana.
By the way, for the correct time this very moment, call 1-900-410-TIME.