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Boomer’s Journal: The annual ‘changing of the clock’

We didn’t have many clocks in the house when I was growing up. It might have been because there was only one clock that was needed. It was our kitchen clock, the official time piece in our home. It hung in the same spot, year after year. Even after a fresh coat of paint or wallpaper, the clock went right back to where it was always hung. Naturally, it was an automatic reflex to look up at that one spot on the wall when any action or inaction in our family was dictated by “time.”

And so, traditionally, the kitchen clock was the first clock to be changed every year when daylight saving time rolled around. Still today, as I take a few minutes to wrap my mind around which direction I need to go in order to manually change ANY clock for daylight saving time, I think of the one year, possibly 1967 or ‘68, that our official family clock was the centerpiece for lessons and laughter.

Mom reading the newspaper during “afternoon coffee” at about 3:30 p.m. Our trusty kitchen clock is on the back wall behind her. Contributed photo

As on every typical day, everything on our farm began with the morning milking. On this particular daylight saving time year and Sunday, things started out typically enough, but soon changed within mere minutes. Since the time change had started around 2:00 a.m., dad set the clock in the kitchen one hour ahead before he went down to the barn. He got up at 6, turned the clock ahead to 7 a.m. and did not tell mother he had done so.

Mom, for whatever reason, always thought that spring was for setting the clock back. Not having seen dad set the clock ahead, mom set the clock back. Now we were at the same time dad started out with in the first place. At this point, it was daylight saving time for everyone but our family. Anyway, that’s what the official kitchen clock now said.

Roughly, one hour later, both mom and dad came in from milking. Dad wondered why milking had taken only 15 minutes. Something was askew.

Mom told him it was because she had set the clock back an hour before she went down to the barn. Dad told her that he had set it ahead. By now, it seemed no one knew how many times the clock had been set ahead OR back…or…how many times it had been set either way. The real question was, “What time is it anyway?”

What we knew for sure, the clock had to be changed because it was obviously wrong. So mom, for whatever reason, decided she now had to set the clock back two hours. One hour to make up for the hour she had gained, and another hour for the hour dad had gained, or lost. Either way, we were gaining lots of time in our day, but they had lost me an hour ago.

Are you still with me? (Me either). Makes my head spin.

Now that mom had set the clock again, we sat down for Sunday breakfast and the conversation of course was about what time it was, although we were pretty certain we were right on track to being on time for church.

Dad always found a lesson in everything, so we had the short version on why clocks were set ahead in the first place, “So farmers had more daylight at the end of the day to get field work done,” dad said. “It gets light out earlier, so we can get an earlier start.” And, “There hasn’t always been daylight saving time,” he said. “It’s going to be so nice having longer days.” But, “Why mess with nature. Why not leave the clocks alone.”

Same conversation, every year, except on this particular year, we really didn’t have a clue what time it was at all. One thing seemed a bit strange because we seemed to have all the time in the world to get ready for church. Plenty of time to get the other morning chores done, like feeding the young cattle and picking eggs. Since it only took a few minutes to get to church in Erdahl, we might even get there before the minister did. After all, he was coming all the way from our sister church in Ashby, and he could have gotten a little long-winded with his sermon. We might even get there before our organist Viola started playing the prelude. Mom said she really appreciated having extra time to get ready for church.

We packed into the car, and as we pulled into the church yard, we were surprised to see people LEAVING. People were filing out of the church doors, not in.

How did THAT happen? (Must’ve been a short sermon).

And so, acting as nonchalantly as possible, we didn’t even get out of the car. Instead, dad kept on driving. He drove right on in-and-out of the church drive, right past the church doors and right on out of Erdahl. By now, we were all laughing. We knew exactly why we were late. We knew it couldn’t possibly be noon yet, or could it? All we knew for sure was that nothing was for sure.

If memory serves me right, when we got home, I think dad made a phone call to “the operator” to find out what time it was. Apparently, back in those days the telephone operator always knew what time it was.

And so, for our family…before Sunday dinner was served, dad again changed the kitchen clock that had already been changed, at the very least, four times. We all hoped and prayed that our official family clock was set correctly to daylight saving time. If all went as planned, the hands of the clock would not need to be fiddled with until fall.

After that particular year, every spring…we all laughed hysterically as mom tried to tell the story about “the year” she changed the kitchen clock to daylight saving time. She always laughed so hard she was never able to finish the story. And every year we laughed just as hard.

Spring ahead. Fall back. I still get confused. But, I have a feeling mom and dad are laughing from Heaven as I reminisce about that one year when time stood still…or went backwards and forwards more times than I can count.

Just like the “running of the bulls,” let the annual changing of the clocks begin. Luckily, today’s technology keeps me in check and on time. Except for the kitchen clock. You know…the one that we still need to change “by hand.”

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