Family History#1: Teens, 1920s Vaudeville. Joseph And Roxy LaRocca. Peoria, Ill. Virginia Young. Salt Lake City. The Great Depression. Jane Harker. Warner Bros.

Roxy LaRocca is Diana/Paige’s great uncle. Roxy used this as his passport photo. Postcard found on e-bay.

Family Background:

Census records, military records and local directories show that Joseph Ned LaRocca (Diana/Paige’s grandfather) was born in 1894 in Peoria, Illinois and grew up there.

Known as “Ned,” he was a harpist in a family of several brothers, oldest brother Roxy show above and below. The brothers were all musicians and many of them toured with the major vaudeville circuits like Orpheum and Pantages.

Ned began touring in vaudeville about age 14.

The LaRocca brothers supported their widowed mother in Peoria, after their professional musician-harpist father, Salvatore LaRocca, died at around age 40. 

Salvatore LaRocca, was from Italy and settled in Chicago before raising a family in Peoria with Rose Ann, born Dunufrio. The couple moved to Peoria when Salvatore was offered the leadership of a local Italian band.

The oldest brother Roxy, became a “famous-at-the-time” vaudeville harpist, known affectionately as the “Wizard of the Harp.”

I read literally of dozens of articles from the era about Roxy’s talent on the harp and his many performances. Here is just one example from 1925.

WIZARD OF THE HARP

Joseph Ned LaRocca, Diana Cotterell’s grandfather and younger brother of Roxy, often used the professional name Ned Argo or just plain Argo, for his harp act. The ad below from 1925, performing for broadcast radio.

Sacramento paper 1925 Diana/Paige’s grandfather.

RCA corp. did a study in 1925 and found that 19% of homes had a radio. In 1930, it was 40%. Vaudeville was beginning to slide as a mass-media entertainment form. “Moving pictures” continued to be a reason for the lessening popularity of vaudeville. Ned was to have a future in performing for radio broadcasts in Los Angeles.

Diana Cotterell/Paige’s Young’s maternal grandmother. Salt Lake Tribune March 28, 1915

Ned’s wife, Virginia Young was born in 1898 in Salt Lake City, was also a vaudeville performer. Her grandfather was Brigham Young and grandmother one of his many wives: Emily Partridge Young. If you google Emily Partridge Young, you will see she and her sister Eliza hold an interesting place in Mormon history as two of Joseph Smith’s first “plural wives.” Virginia, seen at right, met Ned LaRocca on a Pantages tour where Virginia and her sister Josephine were performing in “The Wrong Bird,” a very successful Utah production that toured North America. I have saved dozens of articles on Virginia Young and her sister Josephine. They toured together in The Wrong Bird and eventually had their own act with Virginia’s husband Ned Argo LaRocca. I hope to post some of these articles soon. These folks had a minor kind of fame in vaudeville.

Marriage in 1918 Paige Young’s maternal grandparents.

The married couple form a vaudeville act and tour the US in the late teens and most, if not all, of the 1920s. Ned continues to use the name Ned Argo or Argo.

Sometimes Virginia’s sister and fellow vaudeville performer Josephine, is part of the act. The girls went by the name “The Virginia Sisters” as seen in the ad from The Daily Oklahoman Oct. 25 1919.

(When this was published, Josephine had already been married one month to San Francisco businessman George Truman Harker)

Los Angeles Daily Times Sept. 15, 1919 Josephine is Diana/Paige’s great aunt.

1920 approx. Josephine quit touring with her sister and brother-in-law and moved to San Francisco with her husband George Truman Harker. The couple had a son, Jack Truman Harker in 1921, and a daughter, Mary Jane, in 1923 .

Josephine married George Truman Harker a year after her sister married Joseph Ned LaRocca. The marriage ceremony of Josephine and George took place backstage at LA’s Pantages theatre.

Ned and Virginia continued to tour vaudeville throughout the 1920s.

Charlotte, NC June 27, 1929

In the 1940s, Mary Jane Harker was known as Jane Harker, Warner Brothers starlet. Harker had small parts in movies with stars such as Joan Crawford, Ann Sheridan, John Garfield, Jack Carson, Errol Flynn, Eleanor Parker and more.

This is the true background of Jane Harker, short lived Warner Bros. pin-up and starlet.

I will be working on a video about Mary Jane Harker soon. She is misidentified on the internet.

Halloween Cheesecake. The Signal, Santa Clarita, 1946.

In the mid 1920s, The Harker family moved to South Pasadena, an affluent area then as now.

After Vaudeville died out in the early 1930s, the Great Depression was already in full swing.

Roxy LaRocca retired about this time to the LaRocca family hometown of Peoria, Illinois, where he started a magazine stand.

Frank and Rose, Ned and Virginia, moved to LA during the Depression early/mid 1930s.

Please see my next chapter Family History #2 for their history in the 1920s, move to Los Angeles in the 1930s, Radio City from 1938 through the 1940s and more on Jane Harker, model/starlet, who worked with some of Hollywood’s biggest stars. She appears in an obscure Noir film: The Unfaithful with Ann Sheridan and footage of Angels Flight. This film has been shown on TCM a few times. imdb has Harker’s filmography correct, but the biographical information described is someone else. A “Jane Ellen Harker” for starters. It’s wrong.

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