Dorothy L. McLean of Lothian, Md., wants to know, "When did daylight saving time start?"

Her husband says it started "while Franklin D. Roosevelt was in the White House," which narrows it down to parts of two decades. "His sister's husband says it started even before FDR." Dotty says it was "much later."

She adds, "I don't remember daylight saving time when I was a kid growing up on Sherrier Place. I don't remember it when I was in high school. A friend of mine doesn't remember it when she was in high school, either. Has age dimmed my memory? Who is right?"

Your brother-in-law wins the argument, Dotty. Daylight saving time has been with us for a long while.

As far as I can ascertain, the first reference to it came from Benjamin Franklin's fertile mind in 1984, but there is no evidence that anybody who read his article took him seriously.

However, by the beginning of the 20th Century, support for daylight saving time has spread to Britain and several other countries.

By the time World War I began, DST was an idea whose time had come. Known variously as "fast time," "summer time" and "daylight saying (or slaving) time," it was adopted in many countries as a fuel conservation measure during WWI.

After the first war, some countries continued to use DST, some didn't. In the United States, some states kept it, some didn't.

"Local option" also gave many cities and counties the right to decide the matter for themselves, and during the two decades between the wars, confusion reigned. Local time differences were almost as bad as they had been in the previous century, before the railroads taught us to use "standard" time.

During World War II, the use of daylight saving time again became widespread as a conservation measure. But as soon as that war was over, unanimity vanished again and confusion returned.

In the District of Columbia there were constant battles between advocates of daylight saving time and advocates of "God's time." Congress, which in those days enacted legislation for the District of Columbia when it wasn't preoccupied with more important measures, faced the issue fearlessly in the mid-'40s: it left the decision up to the District Commissioners, who vacillated but eventually proclaimed daylight saving time.

It was not until 1966, when Congress passed the Uniform Time Act, that a more standardized system emerged. However, those states that are partly in one time zone and partly in another are still permitted to exempt themselves from the observances of DST. So it is obvious that one's recollection of daylight saving time depends upon his age and the place where he grew up-and perhaps also on the tricks that memory plays on those of us who are no longer in high school.