A little thematic music. Nothing to do with the subject matter at hand, but I am listening to it repeatedly while writing, and it was in the U.S. Top Ten in the week in question. If you get nothing else out of this post, you’ll get a nice silky earworm.
Ah yes, January 1974. The Nixon Presidency is dying by a thousand cuts; OPEC is squeezing America with an oil embargo; and a recession is just starting to hit the U.S. with a one-two punch of high unemployment and high inflation.
(Oh, and let’s not forget the “toilet paper shortage.”)
Americans did get one added bonus in the first week of that troubled year: An extra hour of daylight in the evening.
And of course my grandfather, with his fondness for miniutiae, wrote it down:
Of course, you and I just set our clocks ahead two weeks or so ago. All my (adult) life, Daylight Saving Time has been an early March jawn, coinciding more or less with the first glimmers of warmer spring weather.
When I saw this entry for the first time, I thought I’d photographed March 6, 1974, and mis-labeled it as January 6.
But you’ll see that the next day’s entry features “Elaine’s Birthday” … and, as we’ve previously mentioned here, my Aunt Elaine’s birthday falls in the first week of January. So that locks in the date as correct.
Wikipedia confirms that, as a response to the oil embargo launched in the fall of ’73, the U.S. experimented with year-round Daylight Saving Time for a period starting Jan. 6, 1974, and ending April 27, 1975. That explains why my grandpa’s calendar entry specifically mentions “Daylight Energy Saving Time.”
Of course, Congress couldn’t resist futzing with the great plan, and the planned year-round experiment was cut short in late October of 1974.
Daylight Saving Time then resumed on its normal schedule in late February 1975. It has continued on that annual schedule since then — except, of course, for the parts of the country that don’t observe DST. But, we won’t go down that rabbit hole right now.
(The safety of students traveling to school in the dark was one of the major arguments against the DST experiment. The National Bureau of Standards later reported a statistically significant increase in deaths of school-aged children in January and February 1974, though no firm link could be drawn to the DST shift. Are there elderly parents somewhere in America still stinging from their losses as a result of an abandoned and largely forgotten national experiment? Middle-aged brothers and sisters who still wake up in the middle of the night thinking, “Jesus Christ, why’d they have to turn the clocks forward?” It is a curious and provocative thought, and it makes me wonder about stories untold.)
My grandparents were out of the work force in January 1974, and both of their kids were grown and married.
So the Great DST Experiment didn’t really hit them where they lived — except to the extent that it might have saved them a few bucks heating their humble old home in the first cold months of the year.
As for the specific marking of 30 degrees on the clock … well, that’s pure, uncut Bill Blumenau for ya. That’s my grandpa the draftsman, or my grandpa the precision-minded German.
Or maybe he was just punchy from that hour of sleep he lost.