1950s #1 Updated 06/16/22: 1950 Census. Gardena. Move to San Fernando Valley. Ned LaRocca & Virginia. Recording Industry LA. Leith Stevens.

San Fernando Valley abbreviated SFV.

The newly released 1950 census gives us

Aerial view of Sherman Oaks in 1950 around the time Diana Cotterell and her family moved to this area.

more information about the LaRocca/Cotterell family unit: listed at a residence in Gardena. Joseph’s occupation, Radio Orchestra Manager, Virginia, Christian Science Practitioner, Donna has an empty box for occupation, Head of House granddaughters Constance S is listed as 7 years and Diana L as 5 years.

An online Gardena phone directory from

With this new information I now have to ask:

When did Diana and family leave Los Feliz? late 1940s?

How long did they live in Gardena?

And when did Diana and her family move to 13055 Moorpark St?

I first connected the family to 13055 Moorpark St. address by an online city building permit dated in Dec. of 1952.

The LaRoccas are requesting a house alteration to make more rooms and a seperate entrance for a “rental unit.” Was the family living in Gardena and waiting for this construction work to be completed in Studio City?

This house was located on the west side of Studio City close to the eastern border with Sherman Oaks. Specifically, off of the intersection of Coldwater Canyon and Ventura Blvd.

The Los Angeles River is nearby as is Sportsman’s Lodge; a classic Hollywood and SFV landmark. Apparently you could fish there.

The family knew about the area for some time because Joseph’s only sister Kathryn Marinello, and her husband Anthony. opened a food store at 13251 Moorpark in 1947.

Entitled “New Business Filings in the Valley” Van Nuys News Oct. 10, 1947

There is a 1947 City document I have been unable to download; indicating a “food store” at 13251 Moorpark St. The building was not owned by the Marinellos.

This 1950s image below the Hughes Market that stood on the intersection of Ventura Blvd. and Coldwater Canyon Blvd. I believe it is the southeast corner.

From the facebook page “SFV in the 50, 60s, 70s. Very close to where Paige/Diana lived with her family for at least a few years in the mid-1950s.

Meanwhile..Diana’s father Robert Morgan Cotterell also moved to the SFV around this time, but further west of his daughters and ex-wife. His current wife Patricia/Pat and their two children, born in 1950 and 1951, (while his first 2 daughters were in Gardena according to the 1950 census) start out in the Canoga Park/Winnetka area on Lurline Ave.  

It’s the first of many moves for them around Los Angeles due to Bob Cotterell Sr.’s career at Douglas Aircraft.

It is unknown exactly why the The LaRocca/Cotterell family moved to the SFV, but we do know that they were part of a massive migration to the area after World War 2, from both inside and outside of Los Angeles.

“The end of WW2 transformed the Valley and vastly accelerated its growth: vast tracts of suburban housing, shopping centers and industrial parks where chicken ranches, orchards and cattle ranches and wheat fields once existed. The 1940s and 50s, when I was growing up, the Valley was full of movie cowboys, beautiful ranches and fine horses.”  

Jerry England at cowboyup.com

“In the five years after the war, the population (of SFV) more than doubled to 402,538 residents-the pastoral San Fernando Valley was suddenly the ninth-busiest urban area in the nation. Valley society was a mix of young suburbanites, older families who had come west to try their luck as engineers, animators, or pioneers in the new field of television, and ranchers trying to hang on in the face of the new hordes.”

The San Fernando Valley: America’s Suburb by Kevin Roderick

 I discovered that Ned LaRocca spent most of the 1950s working as an orchestra manager for composer/conductor Leith Stevens, through Ned’s death certificate.

Ned La Rocca death certificate. Indicates working for Leith Stevens; conductor composer for TV and Movies.

I can confirm two Leith Stevens projects that have a credit as “contractor” for Ned LaRocca: A Doris Day album recorded in 1951 at 1032 Sycamore Street; a studio known at that time as “The Annex.” Found on youtube.

The website careerexplorer.com defines an orchestra contractor is:  “He or she has the job of finding the appropriate musicians for Broadway shows, television episodes and commercials.”

Ned had experience adapting to a new mass medium, when his first industry Vaudeville, died in the early 1930s during the Great Depression.

One significant factor that changed the popularity of radio programming was the rise of TV in the 1950s. Drama and comedy and musical variety shows moved to TV.

In 1950, just under 20 percent of American homes contained a TV set. Ten years later, nearly 90 percent of homes contained a TV—and some even had color TVs. The number of TV stations, channels, and programs all grew to meet this surging demand.

encyclopedia.com

Ned LaRocca also has a credit on Leith Stevens 1953 score to the Marlon Brando movie “The Wild One.”  

This record was a hit; released by Decca records, it remains Leith Stevens most well-known and well-regarded creation.  J. Ned LaRocca is credited as “Contractor” on the project. Per Discogs.com.

Besides composing and conducting “The Wild One” soundtrack, Leith Stevens composed numerous scores for radio shows, movies and  T.V. from the 1930s until his death in 1970.

 IMDB indicates that many of Stevens’ compositions go uncredited.

More on Virginia Young LaRocca,

Diana’s grandmother. She started out life as a Mormon in Utah, but somewhere along the way became a Christian Scientist. She is listed as “Chr. Sci.pr.” (Christian Science Practitioner) in Los Angeles telephone directories in the 40 and 50s, and listed with her own telephone line. Read about her early years as a vaudeville performer in the family history chapters 19 teens and 1920s

Christian Science practitioner is an individual who prays for others according to the teachings of Christian Science. Treatment is non-medical, rather it is based on the Bible and the Christian Science textbook, Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures (1875) by Mary Baker Eddy (1821–1910), who said she discovered Christian Science in 1866 and founded the Christian Science church in 1879. According to the church, Christian Science practitioners address physical conditions, as well as relationship or financial difficulties and any other problem or crisis.

wikipedia

A 1955, an LA telephone directory lists a Ned J. LaRocca at 4414 N. Ethel and a Virginia Young LaRocca with the same address.

Donna Cotterell is listed with the 13055 Moorpark address. 13055 Moorpark is on a corner with Ethel St.

4114 Ethel St. doesn’t seem to be an “real” address;  I don’t find a record of it anywhere besides the phone directory. This could be a result of the house modification for Donna, Diana and Constance.

1957 Virginia Young LaRocca is listed in the phone directory at 4414 N. Ethel State 4-7052 North Hollywood. Cr. Sci. Pr.

The Christian Science Church won the right to accept insurance for their practitioners, but I have been unable to find exactly what year.

I can’t tell how much income Virginia made from her vocation as a CSP.

Evidence of 2 seperate address for what was really one house.
1950s directory. Notice Donna’s middle name Virginia is used. She still uses the name of ex-husband (common practice then as now.) who is listed right above her name, at a Canoga Park address where he lived with Mrs. Patricia Cotterell and their two children.

It is probable that grandfather Ned LaRocca was the primary breadwinner of the household.

I’m sure Donna received child support and likely alimony as this was the norm of the era.

1940s #2 PARENTS’ Marriage. Hollywood Wedding Chapel. Honeymoon. WW2. P.O.W. Divorce. Arbolada Rd. Updated 6/10/2022

Robert M. Cotterell was 23 and Donna LaRocca 19 when they were married in 1940.

Certificate of marriage for Robert M. Cotterell and Donna Virginia LaRocca. Mildred K. Marinell signature listed on next to last line. Mildred is the daughter of Joseph LaRocca’s only sister Kathryn LaRocca Marinell. Mildred and Donna are first cousins.

Below is the Hollywood Wedding Chapel where Robert and Donna were married as stated on the marriage certificate. The location is on the Sunset Strip, about one block from the infamous and historic Chateau Marmont hotel. 

Located a stone’s throw to Chateau Marmont. Found on the internet.

The famed Garden of Allah apartment building was across the street.

This Hollywood Wedding Chapel building was purchased by famous director/writer Preston Sturges in 1940; he transformed it into “Players” restaurant, a movie business watering hole.

Players has its’ own interesting Hollywood and LA history.

Hollywood Citizen Nov. 15, 1940 Miss Penny Pepper???

Donna and Robert must have been one of the last couples to marry at the chapel before Sturges took over.

Currently this location is a Pink Taco restaurant. 

Diana’s father Robert Morgan Cotterell was born around 1917 in Algon, Iowa. He moved to Los Angeles around 1938 to follow his interest in aviation.

Donna’s parents Ned and Virginia LaRocca, were musical vaudevillians who travelled the Pantages, Orpheum and other vaudeville circuits for about the first 10 years of her life.

Diana’s mother Donna Virginia LaRocca was born in 1921, in Peoria, Illinois, hometown of her father. 

Donna LaRocca moved with her parents to Los Angeles around 1934.

 1944 Second Lieutenant Army Air Corps Heavy Bomber Robert M. Cotterell was captured on May 27th and imprisoned in a German POW camp.

Recently found article: Robert Cotterell goes from MIA to POW.

Los Angeles Citizen News July 29 1944

His address is listed as 3712 Arbolada as seen in the cutout below.

 (Robert Cotterell is listed with the Evans address on his daughter Diana Lee’s birth certificate.)

LAT Aug. 19, 1944

Robert Cotterell’s daughter Constance is 2 years old, and Diana only 5 months, on the date the POW announcement was published.  

1945 Robert Cotterell is liberated from the German Camp.

Public military record found online.

1947

Donna LaRocca Cotterell files for divorce against Robert Morgan Cotterell.

Los Angeles Times September 16, 1947

1947 The Cotterell’s divorce is finalized.

Los Angeles Times Novemeber 6, 1947

Historic Context: Robert and Donna Cotterell were one couple out of thousands who made up a nation-wide spike in divorce rates after WW2.

Statistics show that in 1946 one in four US marriages ended in divorce.

A 1946 article written on the subject in the New York Times:

“More than half of America’s 1,500,000 war-wed G.I.s have returned. Already one out of every four of these 800,000 men is entangled in divorce proceedings. Experts are predicting that by 1950, 1,000,000 of these wartime marriages-or two out of three-will end in divorce.”

 Robert Cotterell remarried in approximately 1949 to Patricia Frick and the couple had two children in 1950 and 51.

 He had a job after the war working for Douglas Aircraft. The job took his family all over the San Fernando Valley and Laguna Beach.

I would imagine Robert paid alimony to Donna as was common at the time, as well as child support for Constance and Diana.