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  early bus depot at Park Hotel

Forth Junction Project
Michael Dawe

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Sorensen Station name a fitting tribute
reprinted from Red Deer Express June 16, 2010
On Monday, June 14 Red Deer City Council voted to name the new downtown transit terminal/parkade 'Sorensen Station' in honour of Gordon L. Sorensen.

It is a fitting tribute to one of Central Alberta's transportation pioneers, who is also remembered as a hard working and highly principled businessman.

Gordon Sorensen was born on April 23, 1904 in Detroit, Michigan. He moved with his family to a farm near Erskine, Alberta in 1911. In 1928, he was married in Stettler to Julietta Clark. They were to have two children, Audrey and Cec.

Gordon went into the fur business. However, in May 1933, he started bus service from Lacombe to Castor with an old eight-passenger Studebaker. Unfortunately, the venture proved to be a bust.

Gordon was not a person who gave up easily. On June 15, 1933, he started a bus service from Red Deer to Sylvan Lake. The move proved to be a success. Gordon found himself transporting more people to summer camps in one day than he had with the entire six-week Lacombe to Castor run. In August 1933, he extended the route out to Rocky Mountain House.

Gordon found that there was a strong demand for parcel service. Although he only charged 25c per package, parcel delivery provided much needed income.

Gordon also worked as a relief driver for Greyhound. While he was on those trips, his brother Stan took care of the Rocky Mountain House service. Greyhound paid Gordon 3c per mile, but with trips as long as 400 miles per day, the extra work was worth it.

Gordon soon needed a bigger vehicle for his regular route. He bought a five-passenger Chevrolet sedan, cut it up and put it on a Chev truck chassis. Thus, he had a 14-passenger bus. Later in 1937, Gordon was able to purchase a 17-passenger International Bus. The new vehicle provided much better service, but the cost made money very tight for the next few years.

A big boost came with the start of the Second World War and the opening of the Penhold Airbase. Gordon was soon running 16 trips per day from Red Deer to the base. He also opened a bus depot and coffee shop on Gaetz Avenue.

The Sorensens initially lived above the depot. However, they soon built a house on 55 St. that remained Gordon and Julietta's home for the rest of their lives. The property is the site of the new housing unit being built by the Central Alberta Women's Outreach. Appropriately, it is being named Julietta's Place.

In 1945, the Sorensen's built a new bus depot on 52 St. Gordon bought a portion of Red Bus Lines out of Drumheller and was soon running routes across Central and Southern Alberta.

With school consolidations under way, Gordon started a school bus business. He built up a fleet of 37 school buses and had 50 employees. He sold the business in 1957 and it continued on as Prairie Bus Lines.

Gordon also started a bus, ambulance and hearse dealership. After Gordon sold the business, it became Superior Safety Equipment, one of Red Deer's leading manufacturing industries.

Despite the challenges of running a growing set of businesses, Gordon and Julietta were active in the community. Gordon was active with the Elks and Masonic Lodges. He was very active with the Lions Club and served as the Lions District Governor in 1945. He was later made a life member of the Club. He and Julietta were also honoured for their volunteer service by being named Chief Elk and Elk Woman by the Blackfoot First Nation at Browning, Montana.

On August 31, 1956, Gordon bought the city bus service from Dan Donaghy, who had run it since 1947, first with an old army van and later with second-hand buses. Gordon initially only had one City bus. However, over the next 10 years, he built it up to a fleet of 14 buses operating on regular schedules.

In 1964, Gordon had a serious heart attack. He consequently sold the highway bus service. This was later amalgamated into Greyhound Bus Lines. In 1966, the city bus service was sold to the City of Red Deer. Thus, the Red Deer Transit Department was born.

Gordon Sorensen passed away in November 1981. Julietta passed away in April 2004. They are buried together in the Alto Reste Memorial Gardens.

Gordon Sorensen and CHCA

Gordon Sorensen on CHCA television in 1960 for a Lions Club fundraiser for the Canadian National Institute for the Blind.

Photo courtesy of the Red Deer and District Archives\



Evolution of Transit in Central Alberta
History of Red Deer Transit

       News article: Newest city ghost unveiled downtown (Red Deer Express May 2012)
       News article: Ghost unveiled
(Red Deer Advocate May 2012)
       News article: Classic bus cruises city streets
(Red Deer Advocate June 2011)
       News article: Transit to retire last low-floor vehicle
(Red Deer Advocate Feb.2011)
       News article: Parkade named Sorensen Station
(Red Deer Express June 2010)
       News article: Downtown parkade to be named after transportation pioneer Gordon Sorensen                                                                                                                
(Red Deer Advocate June 2010)
       News article: Rare GM public bus saved by city bus man
(Red Deer Express Dec.2009)

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