I came across a print of “Shorty’s Stairs” at a furniture consignment store in town. As a longtime local, I’d heard of these stairs before but couldn’t have told you exactly where they were. I’ve often wondered about Shorty and why this landmark was named after him.
Shorty was born George Elden Sorensen in Mayfield, Utah on July 28, 1907. He moved to Park City in his twenties and began working in the mines for $3.75 an hour, a decent wage in the 1930s. Shorty met Ella Ione Prudence at Swede’s Hall, a popular dance joint where small bands performed. They “went together” for two years and married on Christmas Eve 1937. He was 30 and she was 19.
Ella was a 3rd generation Parkite born at 1063 Park Ave. Her grandparents were some of the first settlers in Snyderville, homesteading for ten years on the land where St. Mary’s Catholic Church is now located. Ella’s mother herded cows on the hills of what is now Canyons Ski Resort. Ella was an active member of the Women’s Athenaeum, a club organized by miner’s wives in 1897.
Shorty took many jobs throughout Utah. First he worked on the Provo aqueduct and then for the US Steel Geneva plant. In 1948, he worked at the oil refinery in North Salt Lake and then at the New Park Mine from 1950-1957. During his last year at New Park, he helped dismantle the mine. After that he was hired by Enix Smith Construction and worked there for the next 20 years.
Ella and Shorty lived in the same house in Old Town for 58 years. They never had children but looked out for many here in Park City. When Ella was 90 years old and had been hospitalized, a nurse asked her if she had children. Ella answered, “Not yet.”
Beginning in the 1960s, Shorty and Ella also established the Park City Senior Center. Shorty helped build it and was later the bus driver while Ella served as a cook. They were both very involved until 1985, when Ella said the “millionaires and mega millionaires took over.”
Because Shorty was very active in the community and knew everyone, Ella dubbed him “Main Street’s Sidewalk Superintended.” He was always out and about, and many of the Old Town merchants knew him by name. Every day through the end of his life he hiked down the stairs between Ontario and Marsac to go to the Post Office and visit Main Street.
When Shorty was 90 years old, those stairs on Marsac and Ontario were officially named after him. He died on August 4, 1998, a year after the structure was dedicated in his honor. He is buried in Glenwood Cemetery. Ella lived another 11 years after Shorty’s death and was buried next to him.
Next time you climb those 23 stairs, think of Shorty and Ella, the changes that occurred in our wonderful city during their lifetimes, and remember the way things were.
Obituary of George Elden Sorensen, Park Record, August –,1998.
Obituary of Ella Ione Prudence, Park Record, July 20, 2001.
Sorensen, Ella. Anji Buckner. Audio Recording. Park City, Utah, July 20-21, 2001.