History Column: Three Little Sutterman Girls, Christmas 1954

Posted December 2, 2020 at 5:30 am by

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!

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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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