This morning, we all switched our clocks back to Standard Time, a concept that came to be used during the 19th century to regulate weather observations and train schedules. Prior to that, each town had someone who would note the precise instant that the sun reached its zenith, and that became noon. However, as the world turned under the sun, the concept of astronomical time led to some interesting variations as the sum moved across the landscape. Noon in Norfolk, VA is decidedly not noon in San Francisco.
It took telegraphs and railroads t start setting what we know as Standard Time. Railroads run on schedules, and if every little whistle-stop has a different time standard, that is no way to run a railroad.
Here in th Deep South, we synchronized our clocks by the mill whistle. Alexandria had a whistle that would blow at noon and 5:00 p,m. Natchitoches had one that would blow at 5:oo, Jena had one that would blow at 5:00. If you didn't want to wait until 5:00 to set your watch, many banks had time services you could call. In Alexandria, our bank had such a service, and the number was 442-4411. It is amazing that I can remember that after all these years.
Nowadays, our computers and mobile devices synch themselves from the central server, so wondering what time it is, your device can tell you, accurate to the thousandth of a second. But, what I've noticed since I retired, is that I go to bed about three hours past sunset, get up about an hour before sunrise, and eat in the middle of the day when I get hungry. I still wear a wrist watch, but I really don't care what time it is.
And one of the benefits of my move to Arizona is I don't have to contend with the silliness of moving my clock forward or back twice a year.
Been a long time since I thought about the call to the bank for the time.
And I think Opelousas blew at noon.
And I remember the fire department card in every house that had the whistle codes for location of the fire so volunteer firemen knew where to report to. A morse code of intersections of sorts as I remember it.
Communication sure has evolved.
Ah yes, whistles and phone numbers. Days long past now... Although WWV and WWVH are still up and running. To hear these broadcasts, dial (303) 499-7111 for WWV (Colorado), and (808) 335-4363 for WWVH (Hawaii). Callers are disconnected after 2 minutes. These are not toll-free numbers; callers outside the local calling area are charged for the call at regular long-distance rates.
And church bells to play along with the mill whistles.
Good article and a nice summation of the problem. My only problem with the analysis is given that much of the population joined the chorus of deregulatory mythology, given vested interest is inclined toward perpetuation of the current system and given a lack of a popular cheerleader for your arguments, I'm not seeing much in the way of change.
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