Arlene Murphy: City Sophisticate
Arlene Murphy is a city person, that much is clear. When I meet her on a balmy California day and comment on the warm weather, she indicates that while she appreciates the temperate climate, cold weather is OK, too, especially when it’s accompanied with all the amenities of a bustling city.
Born and raised in Pocatello, Idaho, Arlene started off working for the Union Pacific Railroad until junior college, and eventually set out for the University of Michigan to pursue a degree in nursing. Though she ultimately decided against a nursing career, the move was still a success, since it brought her one step closer to moving to Chicago, where she really hit her stride.
“I really enjoyed Chicago,” she tells me. “I worked for a big manufacturing company first, then moved to a little candy company for several years after that,” Arlene says. “While I worked, I finished my bachelor’s degree in the evening, and then took a job in hospital personnel. I stayed at the hospital and eventually worked with the nursing students while I obtained my master’s degree.”
When asked what attracted her most to city life – the shopping, scenery, museums, or something else – she enthusiastically replies, “All of the above! I liked the variety, it was just fascinating.”
She continues, “When I first moved to the city, I shared an apartment with two other ladies right downtown. It was so elegant. We were near the Palmolive Building and I remember seeing its beacon shining and how impressive that was. Now that building is dwarfed by everything else around it! It was amazing to see the city change over the years that I lived there.”
Regarding her Chicago neighborhood, she says, “I lived in Near North, a tight-knit community where I knew my neighbors. We worked for several years to have it recognized as a historical district, which it eventually was.”
Her Near North home was a labor of love. “At that time, rehabbers were buying old houses and fixing them up. I didn’t set out to do that, but I
found an 1880s house that I liked, and it needed a lot of work. I bought it and spent 5 years fixing it up.”
Asked about making the transition from busy urban life to calmer California, Arlene muses, “I had been in and out of here to visit on holidays and I always quite liked it.”
Arlene spent 50 years in her beloved Chicago before relocating to San Jose, where she lived close to her sister Patricia. After several years in San Jose,
the sisters decided to move to Sterling Court to be closer to Patricia’s children.
While her urban landscape has changed, Arlene’s upbeat attitude and thirst for variety remain the same. Now, she does her downtown exploring on Burlingame Avenue and says, “It’s changed a lot here, too. It’s lovely in its own way. I’m enjoying downtown Burlingame and meeting everyone here at Sterling Court.”
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