THE STRUGGLE FOR DAYLIGHT SAVINGS TIME

Lake of the Woods Museum Newsletter
Vol. 13 No. 2 – Spring 2003

by Lori Nelson

Some sprang forward and others flatly refused to budge on May 1st, 1914 in the Town of Kenora.

In answer to the question; How would you like to get up an hour earlier in the morning and retire just that much sooner in the evening during the summer months? In other words, how would you like to take advantage as much as possible of all the glorious sunlight that this favoured section of the continent affords?; there was a resounding “yes” on the part of some, and a stubborn “forget it” on the part of others.

The notion of daylight savings time had been embraced by the residents of Fort William in 1911. In the west, Regina was also considering the change. And right in the middle was Kenora.

In April of 1914 the question of daylight savings time was raised at a council meeting resulting in the passing of a resolution in its favour. It was resolved by council that during the months of May through September, all companies, corporations, and persons adopt “local time”, one hour in advance of standard time. The idea was to extend the length of the evenings so that all citizens could enjoy the extra hour for recreation and enjoyment. Although council had no authority to enforce the change, they hoped that everybody would follow along voluntarily.

“Local time” was to begin on May 1st and townspeople were instructed thus: Before you retire Thursday night just put the hands of your watch and clock ahead one hour, and you have accomplished all that is required in the daylight savings proposition. The next morning you will go to work as if nothing had happened and you will notice little difference till the evening, when you will hardly know what to do with the increased stretch of time between the hour you quit work and when darkness begins.

 

The Rat Portage Lumber Company was one of the businesses who refused to make the time change when it was first proposed.

Council had proceeded with the resolution after receiving petitions and other information indicating that the majority of citizens were in favour of the change. But even the little pep talks like the one above published in the local newspaper, and the positive reaction of other communities failed to budge some. From the talk about town it seemed Keewatin was not willing to support the time change.

The Keewatin Lumbering and Manufacturing Company had polled their employees and with the exception of the office staff, all were opposed. Employees at the Lake of the Woods Milling Company were divided as were the merchants in Keewatin.

All speculation about who would and who wouldn’t support local time was settled by May 2nd. All businesses and most offices in Kenora made the change. Many factories like the Rat Portage Lumber Company and the CPR shops didn’t. All the schools supported it and, with the exception of the Baptist Church, all churches did as well.

A week later a few more supporters had been added to the list, but there was still opposition, primarily from Keewatin, and it was felt that the success of local time was entirely dependent upon whether Keewatin would get onside. The merchants there were ready to make the change if the Lake of the Woods Milling Company (employer of 309 people) would.

Imagine the confusion created with the two communities running on different times. The ferry schedule was completely thrown off. Since most of its patrons were from Keewatin, the schedule had to stay the same to accommodate them, except on Saturday nights, when Keewatin people came to Kenora for shopping and the theatre. Then the schedule changed to bring them into town when the stores and the theatre were open.

With men working at the mills on standard time and children attending school on local time, some households were operating on both time systems.

In spite of the conflicts, it was generally felt that the longer local time was in effect, the more evident would become its advantages. Not so.

Three weeks into the time change, the Retail Merchants’ Association met, and while they had originally been unanimously in favour of local time, they realized the futility of continuing with it when it was not being observed by all. They decided that on May 22nd, they would set their clocks back to standard time. Their decision settled it for the rest of the community. Everyone was back on standard time by the end of the month.

The Rat Portage Baptist Church was the one hold-out among all the Kenora churches by not accepting daylight savings time in 1914.

It was two years before the suggestion of switching to daylight savings time was raised again in the community. The local newspaper played a part in setting the stage for its eventual adoption. In March 1916, the headline Daylight Saving Now Popular was followed by a report that Winnipeg was going to be turning their clocks forward in April and turning them back in September. The article mentioned that it had been tried in Kenora in 1914 but, through lack of cooperation, had fallen flat. And then… “Kenora is soon to be the only town or city of importance in the west which has not adopted daylight savings during the summer months.” Then in April, these encouraging and timely statistics were published. By turning the clock forward during the summer months, a clear gain of 183 hours of extra sunlight could be enjoyed. To the gardener this meant 20 extra days of 9 hours, to the sportsman 20 more holidays during the year.

Finally Fort William residents sent out this message through the local media : May all the sensible people who follow our good example live long enough to add another decade to their enjoyment of this mortal life.

Good sense eventually prevailed in Kenora. Daylight savings time was adopted by council in 1919 and this time was supported by all.

Today we set our clocks one hour forward on the first Sunday of April and set them back on the last Sunday of October. In the meantime, we’ll be enjoying one more hour of daylight each day. 203 more hours to boat, fish, play baseball, or garden. Seems like a good idea.

Did you know?

Kenora’s Huskie the Muskie was built as a special roadside attraction during the building of the Trans-Canada Highway in the 1960s.  The name Huskie was chosen because it was submitted with a slogan: Huskie the Muskie says, “prevent water pollution”

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