It Really is a Small World

When I was growing up in El Paso, Texas, it seemed to our family as if the whole world was friends with my grandfather, Paul Orion Moore. He had been the President and then Chairman of the Board of Mutual Savings and Loan in the city and therefore had been intimately involved with a growing number of young families getting loans for their first homes after the depression and the war. Naturally, he was well known in El Paso, but we also had numerous experiences when we would be in another city or state, and someone would walk up to “Pop” and greet him enthusiastically. It became the family joke that he could walk into an igloo in the north and an Eskimo would hold out his hand and say, “Why Paul Moore, how are you?” 

Opening of the Paul O. Moore branch of Mutual Savings and Loan in 1981. Ann James Massey's grandfather is the third from the left on the front row.
Opening of the Paul O. Moore branch of Mutual Savings and Loan in 1981. My grandfather is the third from the left on the front row.

It was the same phenomenon with Reuben McDaniel when I was doing his portrait.

However, I was just a young unknown woman when I had the most amazing “it’s small world” incident in a fishing port in France in 1976. It was my first trip to Europe. I was the traveling companion to my grandmother’s cousin Gray Nicholson, and we were on a three-week tour of Paris and France, culminated by a week in New York. After spending the night in the old town of Carcassonne, we stopped in Séte for a break on our way to Nimes. I was having a coke in a little café when a single elderly woman on the tour joined me. As we talked, Mrs. McKay asked where I was from.

Gray Nicholson in New York
Photo © Ann James Massey
Gray Nicholson in New York
Photo © Ann James Massey
Séte in France. Also where I found my source material for the painting and the drawing: 
Fisherman Mending His Net.
Photo ©1976  Ann James Massey
Séte in France. Also where I found my source material for the painting and the drawing:
Fisherman Mending His Net.
Photo ©1976 Ann James Massey

“Texas,“ I replied.

“But you don’t sound Texan.”

Explaining that El Paso is not exactly the heart of Texas and other aspects why El Pasoans do not have a strong accent gets complicated, so I said simply, “I was born in Evanston, Illinois and lived in Ohio until I was almost 6.” 

Surprised, she said “Evanston? I used to live in Evanston (she was from San Francisco). Where did you live?”

“My grandparents lived on Drake Avenue.”

Even more surprised she replied, “Drake Avenue, I used to live on Drake Avenue. Who were your grandparents?”

“Frank and Ruby James.”

My grandparents
Frank & Ruby James circa 1950’s

Astonished, she said “Ann, I used to babysit you when you were a baby!”

© 2022 Ann James Massey, SWA, CPSA, UKCPS, AAPL

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