LEWISTON — As the country sets clocks back an hour on Sunday morning, it’s worth remembering that it wasn’t always so simple.

A cartoon that appeared in the Lewiston Evening Journal in 1921 illustrating the fierce debate over what time standard to adopt. File photo

In Lewiston and Auburn, people had a hard time adjusting to Daylight Saving Time, a move made in the United States during World War I – but not by everyone.

“Not in another city in the United States, probably, were the misunderstandings so continual, the confusion quite so complete,” the Lewiston Evening Journal noted in 1921, referring to the Twin Cities.

Its headline trumpeted “Great Confusion” among residents because “clocks seem to have gone crazy and nobody knew just what to do.”

The paper reported widespread irritation, inescapable because local large businesses had gone all in on the time change, while many residents and smaller operations refused to go along.

It pointed, for example, to what a group of business leaders saw as they walked downtown in the early light one spring day.

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“One of them noticed that the clock on the United Baptist Church – a church which has adopted daylight time, by the way – had not been changed, the hands pointing to 6:30. The clock on the B. Peck department store was 7:30; the clock in the A&K waiting room, 6:30; the clock in front of the Lewiston Trust Co., 7:30; the City Hall clock, 6:30; and so on,” the paper reported.

Quite a few people, it noted, carried two watches, one set to standard time and one to daylight saving time so the bearer could choose.

The bottom line was that establishments from schools to courts picked different standards to tell what time it was.

It proved, the paper said, “a real nightmare” for some.

For instance, it said, the textile mills were on daylight saving time.

But Lewiston schools stuck to standard time through a “strange oversight or exhibition of stubbornness by the city council,” the paper reported.

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That meant that “hundreds of husbands” arrived home for dinner an hour earlier than some expected and students came home an hour later than others anticipated.

The rail and trolley lines serving the community didn’t adopt the same time schedules either.

“How many trains were missed in the confusion is beyond all computation,” the paper said.

Mayor Henry Goss of Auburn declared that he opposed the time change and always had.

“No clocks in the city building will be changed,” the mayor insisted.

But the paper found they had been changed — “every last one of ‘em, with the exception of the clock in Mayor Goss’ private office and the one in the municipal courtroom, which, in accordance with state law, would have to be on standard time anyway.”

Eventually, of course, it all got sorted out.

Daylight Saving Time remains controversial in some quarters – its energy savings disputed and its impact on business uncertain – but its reality is no longer disputed.


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