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News Eagle - Hawley, PA
  • Local History: When Hawley fiddled with Father Time

  • HAWLEY - No one can say Hawley, PA does not strive to be ahead of the times. Especially in 1931.
    Before anyone else in the region tried out the controversial "daylight savings time" idea, Hawley was right on top the game and approved changing the clocks ahead one hour.
    It wasn't to last.
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  •  HAWLEY - No one can say Hawley, PA does not strive to be ahead of the times. Especially in 1931.
       Before anyone else in the region tried out the controversial "daylight savings time" idea, Hawley was right on top the game and approved changing the clocks ahead one hour.
       It wasn't to last.
       "Daylight Time Advocated by Business Men" blared a headline on page one of The Hawley Times, April 30, 1931. The idea to be presented to Hawley Borough Council was meant to keep the tourists and campers happy.
       Indeed, Hawley had tourists eighty years ago; the idea isn't new. It took damming a river to create a tourist boom. The new Lake Wallenpaupack, created in 1926 by Pennsylvania Power & Light Inc. was much anticipated by local merchants and civic leaders for a quarter century as an expected gold mine to attract more visitors to the area.
       To help welcome them and organize a plan to market the area, the Hawley Chamber of Commerce was born in 1927. Soon, a community effort was underway selling shares to build a first class hotel in town. That project was suddenly slowed by the Great Depression and afterwards a world war. The hotel is today known as The Settlers Inn.
       The merchants held a luncheon meeting on April 29th at another local inn, the Eddy Hotel (today known as Cora's 1850 Bistro) at 108 Welwood. That's where the daylight savings idea was hatched.
    ••• Tourists missed dinner
       William Lynn, who ran a meat market at 217 Main Avenue with Charles E. Kerber, made the proposal. He explained that daylight savings would "give an extra hour for pleasure and that more important still it was a real accommodation to the tourists who come to Hawley during the summer months."
       He added that the camps, who bring a lot of business to town, are run on daylight savings time, and in his view, the merchants should do all they can to accommodate them.
       Michael J. Monaghan, proprietor of the Erie Garage, voiced his approval. He cited "numerous instances last summer when tourists, traveling on daylight savings time, passed through town when they learned that they would have to wait an hour for dinner because of the differences in time."
       Truckman Clayton Chapman suggested that 99 percent of the summer visitors to Hawley came from locations where daylight time is in force and that they find the change here very confusing."
       Local physician Dr. Arno C. Voigt said he saw many advantages to the proposal if they could persuade all the local industries and institutions to cooperate.
       Lynn and Postmaster George W. Murphy were appointed to a committee to sound out the opinions of local residents and businessmen and present their views to Borough Council Tuesday night (May 5, 1931). The Hawley Times reported that everyone at the meeting appeared to favor changing the clocks.
    Page 2 of 4 -  
    ••• Council hears proposal
        At that time, Borough Council held their meetings in a new town hall, located in what had been a residence on Spring Street, facing down Main Avenue- where Route 6 turns. Council met here from 1931 until October 1952 when the place burned down along with a fire station and a couple neighboring homes.
       Albert H. Lauderburn, who operated Paupac Silk Mill, was Borough President. Other Councilmen were Allen E. Gilpin, George Hittinger, Charles Aten, John J. Sheridan, Dr. Earl V. Cross and Albert H. Crockenberg.  Richard R. Evans was the burgess (mayor) and Godfrey W. Kahleis was secretary.
       "Considerable debate centered about the question the borough should go on daylight saving time," the Hawley Times reported May 7th. Borough Solicitor J. Wilson Ames advised that Council be sure that this was the wish of the people and that it would be advantageous to the majority.
       Ames voiced several objections. He took note that Honesdale was not on summer time and that "Hawley would be the only town in the immediate vicinity adopting the measure."
      Before Council were two lists of names, one group in favor and another opposed.
     Council, however, voted unanimously in favor of the measure and decided to initiate the new time schedule Saturday night, May 16.
       
    ••• Tower of Babel
       It wasn't easy.
       "Comparing the mixture of daylight saving and eastern standard time with the confusion of the Tower of Babel, Harry J. Atkinson, speaking before the luncheon group last Wednesday [May 20] at the Andres Hotel, urged all to stem the tide of resulting errors and save the nation," the Hawley Times reported, page one, May 21st edition.
       Atkinson, who was president of a local box and lumber company, was also active at the Hawley Presbyterian Church. The Andres Hotel was on Keystone Street opposite the Ritz Theater.
       "The whole earth was of one language and one speech," said Atkinson, referring to Genesis 11:1-9. "and because of the tower the Lord confounded their languages so each spoke a different tongue and they were scattered and all was confusion and babel."
        He continued, "In Europe they still have something like 47 major languages and 437 dialects... In America we are fast approaching a confusion because of daylight saving time. Go to Honesdale, leave Hawley at 9:45 a.m., daylight saving time, spend 15 minutes on the road and arrive in Honesdale 45 minutes before you start. Spend 15 minutes coming from Honesdale and you arrive an hour and 15 minutes after you start.
       "The average city ticket agent in New York will confuse and tell the customer the wrong train time.
    Page 3 of 4 -    "If the city man wants to go to work at 8 a.m., can he not get up an hour earlier and not monkey with the clock? Our fathers got up at 3 and 4 a.m. and commenced work an hour later. Are we so soft we must set the clock an hour ahead and use 'syrology' in oder to get up, causing a babel and confusion of tongues worse and more confusing than in Europe? Are we so decadent we cannot get up in the morning unless we set the clock ahead?
       "In this confusion and babel of time, this decadence, the beginning of the downfall of our nation? The confusions arising from the babel of hours is overwhelming us with flowing tide of errors. Let us take concerted action, dam that flowing tide and save the nation."
       At the conclusion, Atkinson invited attorney Victor A. Decker to back up his address. Decker had helped Atkinson in arranging the luncheon Decker, however, smiled and said that Atkinson had covered the subject so thoroughly that there was nothing left to say.
    ••• No complaints at Council
       At the June 2, 1931 Council meeting, Borough Council was expecting a flood of complaints about the daylight saving time schedule adopted the month before. Indications prior to the meeting were to the effect that the hall would be crowded with citizens to register their protests. Council was surprised, however, that not a single person appeared before them to comment on the subject.
       A thought might have crossed a few minds that if Council had set their clocks ahead an hour, those who hadn't bothered might have missed the meeting.
       Councilmen discussed routine business and waited for more than an hour in case anyone showed up, but no one did. "In view of this fact it was decided to permit the present schedule to stand until September when it is changed in all other towns," the Hawley Times reported. Council felt no choice but to consider their previous action establishing daylight savings as meeting the approval of most of the Hawley citizens.
       Editor James Spence of the Hawley Times ran an editorial defending Council for their decision in light of the naysayers declining to attend and make their voice heard. Hearing the condemnation against the measure, the editor noted, "the casual observer listening in would possibly reach the conclusion that life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness was being seriously jeopardized by council's action."
       Objections had been raised from the humorous, that an extra hour of daylight would give too much time to do yard work, to sound reasons. The Hawley Times, was taking a neutral position, Spence wrote.
    ••• Idea was dumped
    Page 4 of 4 -    "Hawley's experiment with daylight savings time was pronounced dead and ordered buried at midnight this Saturday, September 5, when eastern standard time takes up its rule," the Hawley Times announced,  September 3rd.  Council had met that week and acted on the motion of Councilman John Sheridan to end the experiment.
       Considerable debate had occurred in town that summer with those against the measure seeming to be in majority. Gradually one by one the various manufacturing plants in Hawley were changing back to eastern standard time until by September practically every place in the borough had abandoned it. For a while even the noon whistle had converted to daylight savings to comply with the borough fathers.
    ••• Returned in 1946
       Folowing the Great Depression and Word War II, Hawley would give daylight savings another whirl.
       Hawley Lake Wallenpaupack Chamber of Commerce was pushing for it in early 1946. The Hawley Times gave a lot less ink to it this time around, but on April 28, 1946, Council met in special session April 23rd and agreed to adopt daylight savings time.
       Chief Burgess Michael T. Pierche ran an announcement urging Hawley citizens to regulate their business and affairs by changing their clocks one hour ahead. Daylight savings took effect April 28 and continued to September 29.
       Meanwhile Honesdale Chamber of Commerce was backing "fast time" to bring Honesdale in line with other nearby boroughs and cities. Wayne County farmers, however, took a stand opposing it. Honesdale Council voted it down on April 10th but reversed course and adopted the new time schedule on April 28, 1946.
       Erie Railroad had agreed to run trains an hour earlier while keeping standard time, for the summer.
        Daylight saving time finally became widely adopted across North America in the 1970's as a result of the 1973 Energy Crisis.
    Sources:
    The Hawley Times, Wayne Couny Citizen/ Wallenpaupack Historical Society archives

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