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EMS Classics is a feature column I write for Canadian Paramedicine.

It is my attempt at giving the younger generation who work in EMS today, a snapshot into the history of ambulance service.

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Photo: Gerry Price

EMSClassics.com Column

John Bean and Gerry Price, Associated Ambulance, Calgary, accept a new 1963 Superior Cadillac ambulance from Gordon Sorensen (right).

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Column 47 June/July 2014

Sorensen Distributors

Gordon Sorensen began a regional bus service in Red Deer, Alberta in 1933. In following years he purchased some buses from The Flxible Company in Loudonville, Ohio and in 1947 received a letter from them asking him if he knew anyone who might be interested in selling the ambulances and funeral vehicles that Flxible manufactured. Sorensen knew someone - himself, and soon after was traveling to funeral homes and ambulance services throughout western Canada selling Flxible coaches. The first to place an order with him for a new coach was Dave Dalziel of Prince Albert Funeral Home in Saskatchewan.

In 1952 The Flxible Company received several large orders for their intercity buses and in order to meet the demand they temporarily discontinued the manufacture of ambulances and hearses. Gordon Sorensen had by then proved to be a successful salesman having sold 32 new Flxible vehicles in 5 years so he wasn't about to give it up. He approached Superior Coach Corporation in Lima, Ohio and was granted a distributorship for a vast territory; from Vancouver Island, British Columbia in the west to Port Arthur, Ontario in the east.

In 1956 Gordon decided to go into sales full-time, sold his bus line business and together with his brother Stan formed Sorensen Distributors. They quickly built up a reputation for honesty and good service. By 1960 they had sold 71 new Cadillac and 71 new Pontiac coaches plus more than 300 used coaches. Many of the vehicles were sold on a lease basis making Sorensens the largest in Canada and second largest in North America to lease this class of vehicles.

In 1969 Gordon and Stan Sorensen sold their business to Barry Skinner. Skinner added Pierreville fire trucks to Sorensen's product line. A few years later Sorensen Distributors began manufacturing their own fire trucks in Red Deer and split off the fire division under the Superior Emergency Equipment banner.

Meanwhile, changes were on the horizon for the Sorensen Distributors company. The Cadillac and Pontiac ambulances they had been selling suddenly fell out of favor; replaced with van type ambulances which cost less and had more equipment storage space. For a while Sorensen Distributors sold van type ambulances but Barry Skinner's focus was on the lucrative fire truck market and Sorensens quickly lost their ambulance market share to two new firms: Ambucraft in Innisfail, Alberta and Crestline Coach in Saskatoon. Sorensens also lost the entire British Columbia ambulance market in 1974 when the government in that province took over all ambulance services and began building their own van type ambulances.

Sorensen Distributors, the once strong and dominant supplier of ambulances in western Canada by 1980 was no longer in that business.