Grass Valley Sally
Bonnie Wayne McGuire
Like a beautiful song that touches and inspires the hearts of all who hear it, that's how I remember Selma Ingelborg Sapp. She was a daring, artistic, funny, generous and tireless person who made the time and effort for whoever needed help. As husband Tim put it, "She scared me, because I didn't know what she'd do next."
Selma was born February 15, 1916 in Doris, CA to Selma and Charles Peterson. She was the youngest of four children. She grew up there and eventually married. The marriage produced daughters Sunny and Jetty before it collapsed.
Life really began for Selma when she and Tim Sapp met at a social and began dancing together. They both loved to dance and did so for fifty years. They were married in Reno, Nevada October 15, 1947 and settled down on a cattle ranch in Calaveras County. Their son Timothy was born two years later. Of their beginning together, Tim remarked that they started with eighty pregnant cows and when beef prices rose to a record high, they sold out and moved to Grass Valley. Before long they bought an old tractor and went into the road building business. The pay didn't pan out, so they moved to Susanville where they bought a restaurant that Selma operated for a couple of years, and then they returned to Grass Valley. She was always deeply involved with whatever Tim did, so when he suggested that they buy an old log truck that caught his eye...she said," Don't you think we ought to think it over and learn to drive it first?" Tim learned to be a truck driver, but the old junker almost broke them, so they ordered a new Peterbuilt in 1956. That's around the same time we became friends with them. Mel ordered a new one too. Mel's arrived first, so Tim went to Connell Motors in Stockton where he found one ready to go. By then, little Timmy was in the first grade at school. With the help of Lowell Robinson they put a big log on their truck and entered it in the Fourth of July parade. Timmy rode on the top. Up until then, Selma's creative talents were mainly bookkeeping and making her home and garden a showplace, but now new vistas opened. For about nineteen years she created a float for the parade and made the costumes for all the girls. Her floats earned her the grand trophies until the final one which she did as a memorial for their dear friend John Shoemaker, who operated Black Bart's Cafe and Bar in Grass Valley.
From The Union's Centennial 1864-1964 issue (left). Tim points a gun at John (as Black Bart) while Selma feigns shock. Click here for the rest of the story.
When former rodeo bull rider Guy Mitchell became a singer, Selma and Tim went to Reno to take in his show. They were impatiently waiting in line, and Tim loudly remarked, "Since when does the Harold's Club not let celebrities in?" The surprised doorman queried who that might be, and Tim replied, "Well, the one and only Grass Valley Sally!" She had a big hat on and looked like a beautiful star. They were promptly ushered in and given a front row seat. When the singer came on stage he said, "Ladies and gentlemen, it's a pleasure to announce that we have a celebrity with us. I want you to meet Grass Valley Sally!" Sally stood up and bowed to the applause. From that time on Selma became Sally to most of us who knew her. Many years later a woman interested in old songs came looking for the original Grass Valley Sally, and was directed to the Sapps. She gave them a copy of the song written in 1947 by Cliff Sundin and Frank Nicholson.
Meanwhile, Sally and Tim were buying bigger equipment. She did the bookkeeping and even set chokers when needed. One day a logger took them to look at some timber at the Sixteen to One mining property in Alleghany, and asked if Tim could build a road down the steep hill to get the logs out. It was frightening, but he managed to do it. The mine owner was impressed. "Anyone who can do that can run this mine!" Soon a contract was drawn up and Sally and Tim became half owners of an unproductive mine that was in debt. With the help of Hollywood investors, Sally and Tim learned to be miners and ran it until the Lezak Mineral Group took over in the 1980s. One of the young miners, who learned with them later commented, "It was a ball. You guys, and the crew, made us all good workers."
Sally and Tim moved back to their home in Grass Valley, where Sally was an avid bowler for about thirty years. At left is her good friend Madge Purcell at the 1979 championship bowling tournament in Tuscon, Arizona. In 1996 Sally was disabled by a stroke. She passed away the following year, and Tim asked me to write this memorial, to which I've added a couple of things, that was published in the Union newspaper (10/30/97). At that time Sally's demise was preceded by her son Timmy. She was survived by her husband Tim, daughter Sunny Quarton of Valley Springs, eight grandchildren and nine great grandchildren.