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Golfing in the evening inspiration for Daylight Savings Time

Image Credit: Shutterstock
November 01, 2018 - 11:34 AM

If William Willett were alive today he might be happy to see thousands of golfers still enjoying the benefits of Daylight Savings Time, which ends this weekend

Willett was one of the “fathers” of Daylight Savings Time, promoting the idea in 1905, in part, so he would have more time in summer evenings to golf.

In more recent times the Peace River community of Hudson’s Hope got an anti-Daylight Savings Time resolution passed at the Union of B.C. Municipalities annual convention in September.

“If you go back to why it was that Daylight Savings Time was set up in the first place, take a look at those reasons and see if they are still valid,” Hudson’s Hope’s interim chief administrative officer Chris Cvik, told when asked why his council presented the resolution.

His understanding is that Daylight Savings Time was created to deal with work schedules and provide more light during daylight working hours.

He’s partly right, but more on that later.

First, let’s look at what happened to the resolution, that passed by a narrow 52.3 per cent margin. It was forwarded to the B.C. Attorney General’s office which has killed the initiative.

“Government does not have any current plans to launch a fresh public consultation on Daylight Savings Time,” Union of B.C. Municipalities director of communications Paul Taylor wrote in an email. “When the Ministry last conducted a province-wide public consultation on Daylight Savings Time, a majority of people indicated they are in favour of shifting an hour of daylight to the evening throughout the spring and summer months, and it is more convenient for businesses and travellers if B.C. changes its clocks in conjunction with other provinces and the United States.”

Alberta recently considered a change but opted to wait for other jurisdictions to take action.

And, earlier this week, the European Union rejected the idea of killing Daylight Savings Time in 2019, saying at least 18 months is needed for airlines and others to make the change.

Ironically, it was in Europe where Daylight Savings Time first took hold. And it wasn’t to help out farmers as many people seem to think.

In fact, the first suggestion for turning back the clocks each spring seems to have come from Benjamin Franklin in 1784 when he was an American envoy to France.

In a satirical letter he published anonymously in the Journal de Paris, he suggested the city save on candles by getting up earlier to take advantage of morning sunlight. He went so far as to propose taxing window shutters, rationing candles and waking people up by ringing church bells and firing cannons at sunrise.

It wasn’t until more than 200 years later, in 1895, when the idea next gained traction when New Zealand entomologist George Hudson, who loved to collect insects in the evenings, proposed a two-hour time shift.

But, it was the British outdoorsman William Willet who is mostly credited with the creation of Daylight Savings Time.

Taking an early morning ride in 1905, he was dismayed to notice how many Londoners were missing the joys of early summer mornings. He was also reputed to be an avid golfer who didn’t like his golf game cut short in the evenings because of darkness.

A Daylight Saving Bill was presented to the British House of Commons in 1908 but it failed, along with several other bills that followed. That same year (1908) did see Port Arthur, Ontario (now Thunder Bay) become the first city in the world to adopt Daylight Savings Time, followed by Orillia in 1911.

It was the First World War, however, that saw the concept really take off as Germany became the first country to have national Daylight Savings Time, starting April 30, 1916 as a way to conserve coal. Many other countries followed but the practiced dropped off between wars and after World War Two. It became popular again during the oil crisis of the 1970s.

Today, fewer than 40 per cent of the countries of the world use Daylight Savings Time. Countries near the equator, which have little shift in daylight hours throughout the year, never adopted it.

Even in B.C., it’s not universal. Hudson’s Hope and the rest of the Peace River area of B.C. do not change their clocks at all. So for part of the year they’re on B.C. time. For the rest of the year, they align with Alberta.

The last significant change was in 2007 when Daylight Savings Time was extended by four weeks – three in the spring and one in the fall – in the United States.

It was a compromise between those wanted to extend Daylight Savings Time — golf courses, theme parks, etc. — and those who opposed any change – airlines, some schools.

Canada adopted the same rules.

There are ongoing debates about changing or eliminating Daylight Savings Time due to safety concerns.

One major study in Boulder Colorado found a 17 per cent increase in traffic fatalities each spring when drivers lost an hour’s sleep due to Daylight Savings Time. There is no equivalent drop in traffic accidents when standard time comes back in the fall.

Regardless of whether you’re for or against Daylight Savings Time, the reality is that everyone in B.C. – except in the Peace River region - is expected to turn their clocks back one hour, effective at 2 a.m. Sunday, Nov. 4. The next round of Daylight Savings Time starts March 10, 2019.

To contact a reporter for this story, email Rob Munro or call 250-808-0143 or email the editor. You can also submit photos, videos or news tips to the newsroom and be entered to win a monthly prize draw.

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