History Column: Three Little Sutterman Girls, Christmas 1954

The Sutterman girls at Christmas. Contributed Photo/San Juan Historical Society and Museum

From the San Juan Historical Society and Museum

Not all of the photographs in the San Juan Historical Society and Museum collections are from the island’s pioneer days or the early days of Friday Harbor’s development as a town.

The snapshot above caught our eye as a classic Christmas image from the 1950s, tinseled tree and all. Posing in pretty dresses are three daughters of James and Elizabeth Sutterman.

On the back of the original photograph was handwritten this description (which may or may not be entirely correct, since we do not know who wrote it years ago):

“Left Betty

Middle Linda Sutterman

Rt. Sharon Sutterman

Friday Harbor approx 1954”

Even though we don’t know if the year was actually 1954, it was still interesting to research what was going on in popular culture that year. Not in any particular order of importance, here are some things we learned.

  • The hit film “White Christmas” with Bing Crosby was new in theaters.
  • The top single for the year on the Billboard chart was “Little Things Mean a Lot” by Kitty Kalen.
  • Bill Haley and the Comets had a hot hit with “Rock Around the Clock.”
  • General Electric introduced color kitchen appliances.
  • “Horton Hears a Who!” by Dr. Seuss was published.
  • The Betsy McCall doll was at the top of many little girls’ lists for Santa. (We wonder if one made its way to the Sutterman house that Christmas.)

The mother of the Sutterman girls, Elizabeth, was born on Lopez Island to Gerald and Mary Hammond. Elizabeth married James Sutterman, son of Emil Sutterman and Ione Smith. James spent his childhood at Roche Harbor, where his father was employed as a cooper for barrel production at the Roche Harbor Lime and Cement Company. Emil was born in Belgium, while Ione was from island families. Her parents were George W. Smith and Mary Esther “May” Chevalier.

There is a lot more that could be written about the extended family of the three girls in this month’s photo, since there are many cousin families here, but we offer it as an invitation to enjoy the holiday season and keep the museum in mind for sharing your island family’s photos and stories from the 1950s and later. Recent history is worth saving, too.

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to all!

Posted on December 2, 2020 at 5:30 am by

Categories: History, People


  1. In the second paragraph there is an error I should correct. The father of the girls was James Sutterman as mentioned further down in the story. I regret the error in calling him Robert. I’m glad people have enjoyed the column.

    Robin Jacobson, San Juan Historical Society and Museum

    Comment by Robin Jacobson on December 12, 2020 at 5:27 pm
  2. Thank you, Robin! I changed the name.

    Comment by Hayley Day on December 13, 2020 at 8:57 am
  3. All thanks go to you, Hayley. I hope it was clear that the error was all mine as the writer. I’m grateful to you for the correction in the body of the story. Happy Holidays!


    Comment by Robin Jacobson on December 13, 2020 at 11:45 am

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