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April Fools Time


For many people, April Fools' Day is a time for mischief and tomfoolery. However, on this date in 1943, mischievous time itself "fooled" many North Dakotans.

"If you did not sleep an hour later this morning, you gypped yourself," lamented the Oakes Times in Dickey County, "because all clocks were set back an hour to conform with Mountain time, and we now join the area west of Bismarck and Montana in the hour of getting up and when we should go to bed."

The time change came about when the North Dakota legislature passed the Standard War Time act on March 17th of that year, stating "the standard war time of this state shall coincide with that known and described as United States Mountain War Time, until the present War Time Proclamation of the President of the United States is no longer in effect."

The President's emergency act was similar to and inspired by one passed in 1918 during World War I, which was to provide a standard time throughout the country. During World War II, this act was developed under FDR's campaign to "promote the national security and defense by establishing daylight saving time." Passed in January, 1942, it was to expire six months after the end of the war or at an earlier date, as the U.S. Congress saw fit.

In North Dakota, farm groups and farm members of the Senate and house pushed the legislation through. Though he opposed the bill, Governor Moses signed it, because it was the desire of the majority.

It didn't make the time shift any easier, though. To top it off, railroads, the great proponent of time zones, still followed their own schedule. So did other specially timed events, such as radio shows.

Newspapers cautioned, "Greatest confusion will come in meeting train schedules, for all railroads continue to operate under the old time. To board the N. P. east bound train at 11:40 a.m., we must remember it will be 10:40 by our time; knock off an hour and beat it for the depot. ...In all your calculations beginning with today, be sure to reckon with the old time as regards radio and train schedules."

It must have made for a very confusing April Fools' Day.

Dakota Datebook by Sarah Walker



Laws of North Dakota, Chapter 206 H.B. No. 220, p. 282

The Oakes Times, Thursday, April 1, 1943