We all have heard ”Rags to Riches” stories and now I find that there is one of those persons in our city.
It is a man raised in Pleasant Hill. His family had a 150-acre farm in an area close to Enterprise Road. They had no electricity except for a battery-powered radio until 1943 when the REA lines reached their timber-framed home.
The person I refer to is Carl Sorenson.
Carl, as a youngster, worked on the farm and worked stripping bark from Cascara trees and selling it as a laxative to make his own money. When electricity was turned on a whole new world opened for Carl. He was fascinated and decided he wanted to build his own radio.
He discovered there was a vocational school in Eugene and enrolled, necessitating his hitchhiking to and from Eugene three days a week for two years. This school gave him an early start in electronics and his certification as a radioman.
He also attended Aircraft Mechanics classes at the old Eugene Airport for six months, making trips in a 1932 Chevy truck. This school gave him an education in sheet metal skills. All this training while still a teenager in high school.
Two months before graduation from high school, Carl enlisted in the Navy and was rated as a Radioman and assigned to the USS Springfield with temporary duty at a Tech School in Hawaii. It is obvious that his training in the vocational schools gave him an advantage for his future.
After two years of active duty he was discharged from the peacetime Navy and placed in the Navy Reserve. As a civilian Carl then worked in the building of Dorena Reservoir, but one week after the North Korea attack on the South he was recalled into the active Navy where he worked on ships’ installations of electronic equipment for communications, gun directors and other components requiring his skills.
Carl, always looking for opportunities, got a job working on the same equipment at night for contractors that were building the items for the installation that Carl worked on during the day. The ”moonlighting” job for three years gave him the idea and funds to start his own company after discharge from the Navy.
The new company he named Pacific Ordinance & Electronics, later shortened to PacOrd Co. To support his fledgling company he also worked at night making crystals at a radiation lab (atomic energy) for one year in the San Francisco area.
Now he had enough capital and contracts to get his fledgling company really moving. He expanded his operation to 15 employees and in 1960 opened another office in San Diego with 30 workers. In 1963 he expanded again to Seattle with 30 more technicians and also Portland and Astoria.
In 1964 the company expanded in Norfolk, Virginia and the Brooklyn Navy Yard in New York. Eventually the company had over 200 employees and sometimes hit 300. Carl was a real ”workaholic” sometimes; quite often he was busy installing equipment alongside his workers, he just couldn’t stay in the office, and he wanted his hands dirty too. He admits that he wishes he had more business administration training; it would have been a tremendous help for him in organizing and operation of his far-flung business.
In 1976 Carl felt burned out and accepted an offer from a large corporation and sold his company.
As an aside to this story, Carl met a pretty little gal named Jenenne after he returned to Pleasant Hill following his first Navy enlistment. She was still in school and several years younger than Carl. He was sweet on Jenenne but she had other plans.
Both married others; Jenenne married Dave Shoop, a Creswell native, and they had a happy family of four children. Dave passed away about five years ago. Carl also married and had four children. His wife Patsy died in 2014.
After Carl sold his business and retired, he had purchased about 500 acres in Pleasant Hill and there he cut logs and build a beautiful log home. Finally it was time to downsize and he and Patsy moved to the Villas at Emerald Valley, where I first met them.
After both their mates had passed away, somehow Carl and Jenenne got together and renewed their friendship and married. What a wonderful relationship they now have.
Carl last month celebrated his 90th birthday with a grand party. Jenenne is not well at present and under doctors’ care to determine her illness. We wish her well and a speedy recovery.
This article started as a ”Rags to Riches” story, and I believe Carl demonstrated that being industrious and ambitious as a dollarless teenager can and did lead to a very successful career. He is rich in so many ways, not just monetarily, but with a lifetime of accomplishments.