Copyright ©2009 NPR. For personal, noncommercial use only. See Terms of Use. For other uses, prior permission required.

ROBERT SIGEL, host:

From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Robert Siegel.

MELISSA BLOCK, host:

And I'm Melissa Block. Is it just me, or does it seems we're springing forward awfully early this year? Daylight saving time begins this Sunday, March 8th. We'll lose an hour of sleep but gain that wonderful extra hour of daylight at the end of the day. And we won't fall back until November 1st. That means we spend eight months on daylight saving time, four months off. For simplicity's sake, we're going to gloss over the states that don't change their clocks. Well, David Prerau joins us to explain how the daylight calendar has shifted over the years. He's author of the book "Seize the Daylight: The Curious and Contentious Story of Daylight Saving Time." Thanks for being with us, Mr. Prerau

Mr. DAVID PRERAU (Author, Seize the Daylight: The Curious and Contentious Story of Daylight Saving Time): Hi Melissa, happy to be here.

BLOCK: This most recent change kicked in, actually, a couple of years ago. It kicked in in 2007, and it was Congress who said, you're going to move the start of daylight saving time to the second Sunday in March, right?

Mr. PRERAU: Right.

BLOCK: And this year, if I get this right, the way the calendar is falling because March 1st fell on a Sunday, the second Sunday in March is the earliest date it could possibly be, March 8th.

Mr. PRERAU: That's right. Well, you know, every year, obviously, it's the second Sunday in March, so whenever that occurs, and the earliest that could possibly be is the 8th.

BLOCK: But we're going to pay at the other end, and November will be falling back a little earlier.

Mr. PRERAU: That's right, that's right. The period is the same every year. It's about 238 days. So when it turns out that when it starts earlier in March, it ends earlier in November.

BLOCK: When was this all standardized? When was daylight saving time sort of encoded?

Mr. PRERAU: Well, daylight saving time was enacted initially during World War I. It was put in to save energy for the wartime effort by the countries on both sides of the war. And when the U.S. got involved with World War I, we put in daylight saving time in 1918. So that's the first time we had it. After World War I, it was repealed, national daylight saving time was repealed, but it was put back again in World War II for the same reason. And in World War II, we had daylight saving time year-round to save energy for the war. And again, most countries on both sides of the war had daylight saving time.

BLOCK: Mr. Prerau, do you have a favorite strange fact about daylight saving time?

Mr. PRERAU: In the 1950s and 1960s, after World War II, there was no national law about daylight saving time. So any city or town could decide to have daylight saving time, and also could decide on its own when to start it and when to end it. So as daylight saving time became popular, you had the situation where one town wouldn't have daylight saving time; the neighboring town would have daylight saving time. And the third neighboring town might have daylight saving time, but starting and ending at different dates than the second town. And one of the interesting things that happened at that time is there was a bus ride you could take on Route 2 from Moundsville, West Virginia, to Steubenville, Ohio.

And the bus ride was only 35 miles but because of some towns along the way had daylight saving time and some didn't, if you wanted to keep your watch correct during that 35-mile ride, would have to change the watch seven times.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. PRERAU: It was a very chaotic period in the '50s and '60s because of that.

BLOCK: Well, things are a little more straightforward now.

Mr. PRERAU: Yes. Now it has to be statewide under the law. So if some states don't have it - as you know, Hawaii and Arizona, but all the rest do - but it has to be statewide.

BLOCK: David Prerau is author of the book "Seize the Daylight: The Curious and Contentious Story of Daylight Saving Time." Mr. Prerau, thanks very much.

Mr. PRERAU: Thank you.

Copyright © 2009 NPR. All rights reserved. No quotes from the materials contained herein may be used in any media without attribution to NPR. This transcript is provided for personal, noncommercial use only, pursuant to our Terms of Use. Any other use requires NPR's prior permission. Visit our permissions page for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by a contractor for NPR, and accuracy and availability may vary. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Please be aware that the authoritative record of NPR's programming is the audio.

Comments

 

Please keep your community civil. All comments must follow the NPR.org Community rules and terms of use, and will be moderated prior to posting. NPR reserves the right to use the comments we receive, in whole or in part, and to use the commenter's name and location, in any medium. See also the Terms of Use, Privacy Policy and Community FAQ.