A century to celebrate, for one Sun Lakes resident

 

To celebrate her 100th birthday, Banning resident Sally Sweetland traveled back to her former home in Valley Village near Studio City in Los Angeles County. There she enjoyed a wonderful day with her family and longtime special friends.

Her son Steve Sweetland, daughter Judy Horrall, grandson Tim Herrmann and great-grandson Adam Herrmann were all in attendance.

Born on Sept. 23, 1911 in a boarding house in Los Angeles, Sally Sweetland has spent a lifetime in a world surrounded by music and love.

Blessed with an angelic voice, Sweetland lives by herself with her music and her memories in a bright and cheerfully decorated condo in Sun Lakes Country Club.  Her daughter Horrall is also a Sun Lakes resident.

Sally Sweetland married singer Lee Sweetland in 1939, and together, they raised four children. Her husband had his own radio show in 1943 and recorded with Capitol Records and Decca Records. He appeared in movies, performed and night clubs in Hollywood and New York and gave concerts.

Meanwhile, Sally had her own singing career, which included performing as a soloist with the Los Angeles Symphony Orchestra and with the Westinghouse Chorus, which was composed of 60 men.  While having had a small amount of formal training when she was young, Sweetland said her soprano voice is a “natural gift.”

In the 1940s, Sweetland did a lot of voice-over work and has dubbed singing voices for Joan Leslie in the movie, “Rhapsody in Blue”; for Brenda Marshall, Martha Vickers and many other stars of that era.  She was the featured soloist on early television programs, including the Perry Como Show, Jack Haley Show and appeared on the famed Ed Sullivan’s Show.

She was the lead singer of groups on recordings with Bing Crosby, Jack Jones, Johnny Mann, Hugo Winterhalter, and almost any other conductor you can mention.

Her husband Lee, who died in 2009, also had a stirring operatic voice and, together, they enjoyed a beautiful marriage of 70 years. They worked together, and Sweetland was quick to point out that they “never had a fight.”  She said they were true soulmates ever since meeting in school.

After the music business began to change in the 1970s when, according to Sweetland, “music became crude and rude,” the married couple began to teach voice. Her husband was voice coach and Sweetland accompanied on the piano. They worked together in North Hollywood until Lee’s passing.

Some of their students were already well-known singers who continued to study.  Among them were Kathie Lee Gifford, Scott Bakula, Alexis Smith, Cathy Rigby, Tom McCoy, John Davidson and Linda Purl. Sweetland’s son Steve has taken over their former students and carries on the family tradition.

Last year, at age 99, Sweetland decided it was time to retire. She had visited her daughter Judy  at Sun Lakes and decided to move there.

She still plays piano, and when asked by a reporter to play something, Sweetland played a complicated concerto. The music was strong, and as her fingers ran over the keyboard, her hands glided likethose of 20-year-old.

Many days the mother and daughter can be seen having lunch in the Sandwedge at Sun Lakes. Sweetland said she enjoys getting out and seeing others in the friendly, atmosphere of the casual room.

When asked of the secret of her longevity, Sweetland replied that she feels there were two factors.

First, although she knows it is currently a controversial subject, she is convinced that her good health over the years resulted from her mother refusing to allow she and her sister to have any of the inoculations commonly given in those days — diphtheria and smallpox. She said that she and her sisten were even denied being able to attend school for a short time because of the decision but her mother held steadfast.

To this day, Sweetland has had no inoculations, she said.  She said she was well into her 80s before she had to consult a doctor.

She is quick to point out that above all else her main “secret” to her long life has been laughter.

She loves to laugh and she laughs a lot.  “It is so important to be cheerful and to find humor in everything we see and do” she said. “We just need to enjoy life and to laugh a lot.”

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