July 11, 2006 > Murry Hughes
by John Fisher
80 years of age, that is; not 80 mph. Even this doesn't give a clue to the personality of Murry Hughes. Stereotypes usually fail to reveal much that is meaningful and in this case, those younger than Murry may be impressed with a man of 80 riding motorcycles. He shrugs it off as ordinary.
Murry started riding in 1969 at age 43. Ordinary? His current motorcycle, a 1971 BMW, was purchased in '82 and now he says it is difficult to find parts for it. Although the bike remains in good condition, he notes,"It smokes in the morning when I start it." Murry rides it to work, three days a week at Avis car rentals in Fremont.
Born in South Carolina., May 17, 1926, his father was a Methodist minister. In those days, ministers moved every four years. "It was all rural churches, in the coast area of South Carolina. I was just a country boy," he smiled. "I graduated from North High School in North, South Carolina in 1943." There were 13 members of his graduating class and yes, the town is named "North"!
After graduation, Murry joined the Navy. When his military service was completed he enrolled at USC, "the real USC, the University of South Carolina," he says with a laugh. "I majored in mathematics and minored in French." Married to Patricia Spencer since 1950, he graduated from USC in 1951, "with help from my wife."
He found work at Sonoco Products Company as an industrial engineer and was transferred to Los Angeles in 1953. "Can you imagine this country boy, going from a community with a population of 500 to Los Angeles?" he asked. It wasn't complete cultural shock, since he had spent two years in the Navy. In 1959 Sonoco transferred him to Fremont to open a new plant located at Union and High streets in the Irvington district. When the business moved to Hayward in 1964, Murry followed, working there until 1968.
Although Murry worked for other companies, some out of state, he never sold his house in the Mission San Jose district. Self-employed for a time, he has worked for Avis close to a decade. He notes, "Next year I'll get my 10 year pin working for Avis."
Co-workers have been appreciative of Murry's contribution to the business. His calm and friendly demeanor is an asset and proves age is not a barrier to a productive life. "You know what they did?" he asked. "John Williams (a co-worker) called the governor of South Carolina and the governor sent me a birthday card for my 80th birthday!"
Murry and his wife reared four children. One daughter lives in Fremont, the other in Apache Junction, Ariz. Two children have passed on. Active in the Irvington Presbyterian Church, his wife was the organist and also played for other churches in the area.
Co-workers say that Murry never has an unkind word about anyone. It's been said, "You can take the boy out of the country, but you can't take the country out of the boy." Indeed, Murry's country charm still comes through. "I enjoy life," he says. Married 56 years and gainfully employed at 80, communities can use all the country boys like Murry they can get.