Arthur and Anne Lindener, Trish, Lawrence and Scott Woodman
stand a few feet, and one hour, apart.
Saturday, February 6, Beacon Hill, Florida- You thought your life was complicated? Imagine living in a town with two time zones - whew! Why would anybody live in a place where you have to set your watch each time you cross the street?
"It's crazy when it goes through your living room!" says Joanna Raffield, who works at the Beacon Hill Chevron station, which is in Eastern Time, but has three children who go to Wewa Elementary School, in Central Time. The line doesn't really go through her living room - it divides the road in front of her house - but it may as well. "We have two clocks on the wall - one for each time zone," she says.
Beacon Hill is one of very few towns in the U.S. that shares two time zones. Usually, there is a river, state line or wide open space separating two zones, but here in the small Florida panhandle town between Panama City and Tallahasse, it's only 18 feet of asphalt.
Lawrence Woodward, a retired forester, has an explanation to the situation, and it starts in the 1930's, when you still had to take a boat to get from Port St. Joe to Panama City. The Dupont family pretty much owned Port St. Joe, as it was a lumber town for their paper mill, which they headquartered in Jacksonville. A railroad connected Port St. Joe with their offices, and they wanted the entire railroad - and their entire operation - to be in the same time zone. The Apalachicola river, on which the time zone had been placed, cut their operation in two, so they simply asked the federal government to change it to run on the western edge of Beacon Hill, and it was changed, because their name was Dupont.
Eastern / Central - What's the Difference? Around here, Eastern Time is refered to as "Fast Time" and Central is "Slow Time." People who work in Beacon Hill, Port St. Joe and White City ("Fast") get up an hour earlier, get off work an hour earlier, and have an extra hour of daylight in the evening. People who work in Panama City and Mexico Beach, or simply on the west side of Overstreet Road in Beacon Hill are "Slow" and they sleep in an extra hour. They watch the 6 O'clock news at 5 O'clock and the Tonight Show at 10 p.m.
Living on the very edge of a time zone is special, too. Not just in the confusion you face, but in the pace of your day. The sun comes up over an hour earlier in Panama City as it does in Lubbock, Texas, over 1100 miles to the west, and it sets much earlier, but they're in the same time zone. So, if you are a morning person, you should live on the eastern side (the "front") of a time zone, and if you love long afternoons, head west to the back side.
Sitting in the Lookout Lounge, which, according to the jokesters in the place, sits right on the line - you can be guzzling beers double-time, literally. This makes for an interesting New Year's Eve, when everyone crowds over to one side of the bar for each of two celebrations, or so these guys tell me...
People around here get used to the time difference - it's a lot like visiting another country, where you're constantly putting prices into U.S. dollars, - it becomes second nature. "We grew up with it," says one resident. "This is how we think everyone lives."
Naturally, people don't reset their watches when they travel over the line for the day - they just get a feel for which zone they use their watch most and set it there. As a route salesman, Jim Fettinger doesn't care too much about time, but his wife works in Central Time, so, even though they live in Eastern, they set all their clocks to Central - what rebels.
It does get confusing when you have to meet people someplace, or make an appointment. "When you call the doctor's office, they want to know where you're from," says Anne Lindener, who lives on the Central Time side of Overstreet Road.
The police, fire and other organizations that like to keep track of when things happen, have to carefully designate their time zones. "We received the call at 9:40 p.m. and responded immediately, arriving at the scene at 8:46 p.m." a report might read. These agencies might be the only chance for a change, as missed dental appointments and dual living room clocks don't create legislative changes.
The reason for the line being moved in the 1930's has come and gone, and now the situation is getting worse. "Now that the paper mill is closing, we have the highest unemployment in the state," says Woodward. "And now more people who live in Port St. Joe are working in Panama City."
If the natives did get up enough gumption to press to have the time line changed, they would first have to decide how it would change. Some residents like living in Eastern Time, so they would have it moved west, maybe past Panama City, which seems very unlikely. Or they could move it back to the Apalachicola River, putting the town of Apalachicola in Central Time (and its residents in the "front" of a time zone.) But don't set your clock on either of these taking place in the near future. "Things change very slowly around here," says Anne Lindener. "If you want something changed, you raise your kid to be in the legislature."
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