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January 6, 2014

Moving clocks forward caused local controversy in January 1974

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The Daily Star

---- — Energy conservation became a way of life in the early to mid-1970s. To many that meant turning back the thermostat, putting on a sweater, driving slower, investing in insulation for the home or business, and much more.

Congress had another idea in the beginning of 1974. By implementing year-round Daylight-Saving Time, the lawmakers felt moving the clocks forward would increase daylight hours in the winter months, and thereby reduce lighting and heating demands, crime and automobile accidents.

It had another effect for students, faculty and staff in the Oneonta City School District. It meant going to school in the dark.

This time of year the sun rises around 7:30 a.m. Beginning on Monday, Jan. 7, 1974, the new law meant sunrise came an hour later. For my classmates and I at Oneonta High School, this meant we saw the sun rising in the early part of the first period of the school day.

“Area school officials have apparently taken a wait and see attitude before adjusting to the problems created by the switch to Daylight Saving time,” it was reported in The Oneonta Star on Tuesday, Jan. 8.

“Many school men yesterday reported complaints from parents of school children — particularly from those with small children who ride buses to and from classes — regarding the youngsters being out in the dark morning hours.”

There were discussions of possibly changing the school schedules, to start later, but many obstacles needed to be overcome to make the changes. Schools had to coordinate sending students to classes at the region’s Board of Cooperative Educational Services (BOCES) campuses. Some school superintendents felt no changes in schedules were necessary. Bus drivers who had other jobs would have to adjust. Essentially, it was a situation where everyone “agreed to disagree,” and no changes were made.

The dark morning travels to school still didn’t sit well with some, and they decided to try to do something about it.

For the critics of DST, “They have a friend on the Oneonta Board of Education. Mrs. Eloise Ellis, president of the board, plans to ask board members Wednesday night to initiate proceedings which could result in a return to Standard Time,” the Star reported on Monday, Jan. 21.

Mrs. Ellis was hopeful the board could contact the state and national School Board Associations to urge a reverse on the new law. The Oneonta Board of Education approved the Ellis motion, and decided to send a letter to Gov. Malcolm Wilson to reinforce their position.

The State School Board Association adopted a resolution calling on state and federal authorities to repeal the Daylight Saving Time Law. Executive Director Donald Brossman noted that the action “followed the action suggested by the Oneonta School Board.”

Brossman noted in a letter to Mrs. Ellis that compromise may be necessary on the issue, perhaps extending DST in the spring and fall, saving some energy while assuring daylight travel to and from school all year.

As for the winter of 1974, nothing changed as the days grew longer and the problem soon solved itself. The Oneonta Star offered a suggestion in the meantime in an editorial on Saturday, Jan. 26.

“Why don’t we all leave our porch lights on? This light will help our children when they go to school. In short: Let’s light the way for our youngsters.”

“As for saving energy, how much is worth saving when we balance that against a potential tragedy such as a student getting injured while going to school.”

The experiment with DST on a year-round basis might have saved energy, reduced crime and automobile accidents, but nationally it remained so unpopular that summer-only DST was resumed in 1975.

This weekend: Worcester residents dealt with winter in varying ways in 1914.

Oneonta City Text ColorSwatch/NoneStrokeStyle/$ID/SolidText ColorSwatch/NoneStrokeStyle/$ID/Solid$ID/NothingText ColorText Color$ID/NothingText ColorText ColorHistorian Mark Simonson’s column appears twice weekly. On Saturdays, his column focuses on the area during the Depression and before. His Monday columns address local history after the Depression. If you have feedback or ideas about the column, write to him at The Daily Star, or email him at simmark@stny.rr.com. His website is www.oneontahistorian.com. His columns can be found at www.thedailystar.com/marksimonson.