Listening to an old WCCO radio broadcast of the Fridley tornadoes on May 6th, 1965, I found myself a little confused. Not at the fact that they used repurposed military radars in attempt to figure out where rain and tornadoes were coming and going and using movie cameras to animate the radar echoes, but rather at a time announcement by the WCCO broadcaster. “It’s almost 5 minutes past 9, Central Standard Time. 5 minutes past 10, in Wisconsin.” Say what again? Was Wisconsin in a different time zone in those days or what?
It so turns out, that a nationwide uniform time act was still a year away from being enacted, and states and even portions of states either observed or didn’t observe daylight saving time. At that time, Wisconsin observed daylight saving time, and Minnesota did not. If you were heading to a restaurant in Wisconsin for supper, you’d have to leave an hour early to make your reservation. It was also very possible, if you lived on the border, to be able to make two appointments at the same time, if the first one happened to be in Wisconsin.
The antics didn’t stop there. Just days after that WCCO radio broadcast, you had an even better excuse for missing a bus or being late for work in Minneapolis and St. Paul. The two cities couldn’t agree when to start daylight saving time. Minnesota state law designated May 23rd as the day to turn clocks forward, but St. Paul’s City Council decided to make the move on May 9th instead, in line with the majority of the nation. Minneapolis decided to go by state law and fell an hour behind St. Paul on the second Sunday in May.
The hilarity of the situation wasn’t missed on the Minneapolis Star newspaper, as they wrote “Sewage rolled into the Minneapolis/St. Paul Sanitary District plant from St. Paul on daylight time, but left on standard time. If you called a cop, he arrived to take care of your problem on standard time. But if you needed a fireman, he showed up on daylight time. Two clocks were set up at the Northwest Orient Airlines registration desk to aid employees in informing passengers about flight times. Warren Phillips of the United Airlines desk said, ‘We just ask people what time it shows on their watch and give them directions according to that.'”
Having perhaps forgotten that bit of history, the Minnesota legislature just this week is calling for the confusion to resume again…by breaking with federal standards, and once again considering staying with one time year-round. Instead of Minneapolis/St. Paul having 2 different times, it could be Duluth and Superior, Stillwater and Houlton, and LaCrescent and LaCrosse this time around.
If the absurdity of it all didn’t make you fall back in your chair, then rest assured at least your clocks will be. They’ll fall back, mostly on their own, tomorrow, November 7, 2021.
— Brian Klier, Rice County Skywarn