Classic Mornings

Refusing to Fall Back


That almost sounds like a battle cry. Not this time. 

Our studio clock refused to fall back on the Sunday morning Daylight Saving Time ended. It defied the time change. 

But before I continue with the story, I have to mention that’s it’s not one of the old-style analog clocks with the sweeping second hand. We used those years ago. Many are still around in offices and open areas throughout Campbell Hall. 

There was a time when some of the analog clocks simply fell behind rather than back. They’re all connected to a central system, so it wasn’t a matter of just turning a tiny knob under or behind each one to solve the problem. And it was a bit frustrating, particularly if you were accustomed to relying on them. Someone in the news department once humored the situation by placing labels under the clocks with the differing times, as they do in international airports: “New York,” “London,” “Tokyo,” etc. Eventually, the clocks in the newsroom became a bit more reliable. 

The studio clocks are synchronized to the network time. I’m told that they make use of GPS and satellite technology. They’re digital clocks with large red numerals displaying the hours, minutes, and seconds. On a number of the visits we’ve had over the years from fourth graders, the question has been asked: “What’s that?” I explain how important it is that we keep right to the second when we’re switching from the network to local programs or the other way around. The kids are always fascinated once they understand that clock.

Though I continue to be fascinated with clocks, especially old clocks, I stopped wearing a watch during my early days of radio when I realized that radio stations have clocks everywhere. And you’re always looking at them while on the air or off air. Whether it’s a wall clock or a computer’s screen saver or lower right-hand corner, you can’t escape time. 

There are digital timers on CD players as well. With those you’re either counting up or counting down the number of minutes and seconds of a piece of music. And you plan and present programs knowing the duration of the pieces of music down to the second. As I told the students, you’re watching that clock constantly. 

So, when our clock didn’t fall back last Monday morning, it led me to give the incorrect time a couple of times – and to immediately excuse myself for having done so. In effect, I was taking away the hour that listeners had acquired over that weekend. 

I reported the problem. But how do you suddenly just stop looking at the clock? I knew I had to do something to prevent me from giving the wrong time one more time. So, I came up with a low-tech solution: Taping a piece of paper over the hour digits. I’m not sure that the students would have been impressed with that, but you do what you have to do. 

Anyway, all went fine. The listeners re-gained their extra hour. And I learned from one of our engineers later that morning that there’s a well-protected switch by which we enter into or to leave Daylight Saving Time – the studio clocks, that is. 

Maybe it was good timing that this incident of failing to fall back and its battle cry suggestion should have occurred just before Veterans Day. This year’s commemoration coincided with the 75th anniversary of the end of the Second World War. And there was yet another timely coincidence. 

While I was preparing for the Veteran’s Day program, I learned that on November 11, 1945 - the Veterans Day of the end of the War year - American composer Jerome Kern died in a New York City hospital at age 60. He had come from Beverly Hills to New York to discuss a revival of his musical Show Boat. He collapsed while walking in the city on November 5. 

Though Kern didn’t serve in the military, I understand that his song “The Last Time I Saw Paris,” was a morale booster during the Second World War years. It was written in 1940, the year after the Nazi occupation of France began. The words were by his long-time lyricist and friend, Oscar Hammerstein II. 

The song was used in the 1941 film Lady Be Good, for which it won an Academy Award for Best Song. Interestingly, Kern engaged in a battle with the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences and argued against awarding songs that were not written specifically for the films in which they appeared. He was victorious and helped bring about the change in the rule. 

They didn’t take away his Oscar. In fact, it was his second. The first came for the song “The Way You Look Tonight,” written by Jerome Kern and Dorothy Fields for the 1936 film Swing Time

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