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,” and “Ned Argo” 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 back 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 had moved to Peoria from Chicago when Salvatore became leader 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.”

The ad at lower left advertises the bill Roxy is on at the Colonial Theatre. It’s the Keith Vaudeville circuit.

WIZARD OF THE HARP

I read literally of dozens of articles from the era about Roxy’s talent and performances on 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; the 1920s were the heyday of radio and at this point vaudeville was beginning to slide as a mass-media entertainment form. “Moving pictures” added to the lessening popularity of vaudeville.

Sacramento paper 1925 Diana/Paige’s grandfather.
Diana Cotterell/Paige’s Young’s maternal grandmother.

Ned’s wife, Virginia Young was born in 1898, was from Utah and 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 holds an interesting place in Mormon history as one of the first of Joseph Smith’s “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 was touring North America. I have saved dozens of articles on Virginia Young and her sister Josephine. They toured together on vaudeville and eventually had their own act with Virginia’s husband Ned Argo LaRocca. I hope to post some of these soon. These folks had a minor kind of fame in vaudeville.

Salt Lake Tribune March 28, 1915.

From a Salt Lake paper. 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)

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.

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 .

Mary Jane Harker was a first cousin to Donna LaRocca, Diana’s mother.

In the 1940s, she 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, to mention only a few.

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

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

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

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

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

Please see my next chapter Family History #2 for the family’s history in Los Angeles in the 1930s and 1940s.

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1938-1944 3834 Evans St. Grandparents Home. Address on Diana Cotterell’s Birth Certificate. Hyperion Studio. Marshall High.

3834 Evans St. Home of Ned and Virginia LaRocca

We do know that by 1938 Ned LaRocca and his wife Virginia, Diana’s grandparents, were living at 3834 Evans, along with their daughter and Diana’s mother, Donna Virginia LaRocca. It’s also the address recorded on Diana’s birth certificate in 1944.

Front yard of 3834 Evans St. with a huge beautiful tree. 2016

Ned LaRocca permit to build a garage.
City of LA building permit for garage 1938

 3834 Evans is located just a few blocks from the famous John Marshall High School.  

Disney Hyperion Studios in the foreground of this 1931 photo. Marshall High in the background. Ned and Virginia LaRocca would be living right around the corner from the High School by 1938. photo findingwalt.com

This studio is where Snow White, the first full-length animated feature, was produced. Its’ success made Walt Disney enough money to build a larger studio in Burbank, which was up and running by January of 1940.   The Burbank Disney studio is still the location of Disney to this day.

Walt Roy Disney lived in the Los Feliz neighborhood for several years in the days when they had first moved to Los Angeles.

A Ralph’s now stands at the old Hyperion location.

View at Los Feliz Blvd and Rowena looking east. 1930s. Close to 3834 Evans St, the LaRocca’s home from about the late 1930s to the mid-40s. Found on the internet.

This 1942 registration card of  Joseph Ned LaRocca’s was nicknamed the “Old Man’s Draft Card.” It was required by a Selective Service Act (after Pearl Harbor) and used to acquire information. It was likened to a “snapshot of American males age 45-64 years old.

Found on ancestry.com

This document shows us that Joseph Ned LaRocca lived at 3834 Evans St and that he worked at NBC and CBS on Radio Row, Sunset and Vine.