This is Living Stories, featuring voices from the collections of the Baylor University Institute for Oral History. I'm Louis Mazé.
Numerous expressions exist about how much the devil loves to take advantage of the idle hands and minds of mortals. But while some people find trouble in their free time, or simply waste it, others use it in positive ways.
Frank Curre of Waco ended up with some downtime in June of 1945, when the escort carrier he was serving on was sent to the docks at San Francisco because of engine trouble. While the carrier was being overhauled, Curre took a step that would last forty-nine years:
"And I was standing on the fantail one day, and the skipper come down. We got to talking, and while we was talking, I said, ‘Man, I wish I could go do something I'd like to do.' He said, ‘What is it you'd like to do?' I said, ‘Well, I wouldn't do it earlier, but,' I said, ‘I'd like to go home and get married.' He said, ‘How you know she'll marry you?' I said, ‘Well, about three months ago I mailed her a letter and told her I didn't know when I'd get home, and it's a possibility I may not make it home. But if I get home again, we're getting married.' And I said, ‘I ain't had a negative reply yet, and I've received lots of letters.' So he give me—says, ‘Go up and tell the yeoman give you a ten-day emergency leave home.' Said, ‘You're going to have to fly.' So I flew home, we got married, and I took her back to San Francisco with us."
Madison Cooper Jr. used his spare time to knock everyone's socks off in Waco, as Mary McCall of Dallas explains:
"For years, in secret, he wrote a novel, a two-volume novel called Sironia, and, of course, a lot of people in Waco thought they recognized Waco (laughs) residents. He told me that it was strictly fictional. Well, I doubt that. I think writers probably write what they know about. And it became a best-seller. And, oh, he went to New York; he was interviewed. He really had a wonderful, exciting experience. And all of it was for the purpose of putting more money into his Cooper Foundation."
Baptist missionary John David Hopper, from the Baton Rouge area, served in Eastern Europe for nineteen years and learned multiple languages in order to talk with locals. Hopper recalls that, in his free time, he studied Esperanto, an international language created in the late 1800s to make communication possible between people who had no other language in common:
"I thought that's a great idea, so I became a member of the Esperanto Club. I met the Esperantists in Vienna and in Budapest and down in Bulgaria, and I had [a] good time. They always are friendly because you come in and you speak Esperanto with them, and they'll take you and show you their city. They'll invite you in their home. They have a meal. And I began to make Christian contacts as well.
"And I'm a radio amateur. I had my radio amateur's license in Vienna. So on Sunday afternoons their Esperanto group was on there from all over Europe and from South America, if the conditions were right. And we just talked to each other for an hour, an hour and a half, and knew each other by our first names, all in Esperanto.
"So that was just a fun thing. That wasn't serious. It was just a fun thing. And I still have my books, in literature and some world literature, all of it in Esperanto. I have an Esperanto Bible that I keep. And every once in a while, I'll pull it down and read a Psalm or read, you know, passage from that."
When—or if—free time presents itself, we should all consider doing something that will change the future for the better.
Living Stories is heard every Tuesday on 103 point 3 FM Waco, NPR. For program transcripts or more information about the Institute for Oral History, visit baylor.edu/livingstories.
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