1940s PARENTS Marriage Hollywood Wedding Chapel. Honeymoon. WW2. P.O.W. Divorce. Arbolada Rd.

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. Marinelli signature listed on next to last line. Mildred is the daughter of Joseph LaRocca’s only sister Kathryn LaRocca Marinelli. Mildred and Donna are first cousins.

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.

Diana’s mother Donna Virginia LaRocca was born in 1921, in Peoria, Illinois. 

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

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

Below is the Hollywood Wedding Chapel where Robert and Donna were married as stated on the marriage certificate. The location is about one block from the infamous and historic Chateau Marmont hotel.  The famed Garden of Allah apartment building was across the street.

Located a stone’s throw to Chateau Marmont. Found on the internet.
Hollywood Citizen Nov. 15, 1940 Miss Penny Pepper????????

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.

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

Currently, 8225 Sunset Blvd is a Pink Taco restaurant. 

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

1944 Mother Donna Cotterell is listed as living at 3710/12 Arbolada address on her voter registration this year. Seen on ancestry.com

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.

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.

1944. Birth. Los Angeles.

The woman who most of us recognize as Paige Young, Playboy Playmate of November 1968, was born Diana Lee Cotterell on March 16, 1944, at the Griffith Park Maternity Home located at 1933 Griffith Park Boulevard.  Her birth certificate records the area as “Hollywood.”

Diana’s older sister Constance Susan Cotterell was born at the same maternity center in 1942. It was designed as a “birthing center” for mothers of the Christian Science religion aka Church of Christ Science.

The birthing center was well established by 1931 and continued in that capacity for decades.

It became a senior center in the 50s or 60s and was demolished in 2016 on the day of my visit.

1933 Griffith Park Blvd.

Diana’s birth certificate says her home address is 3834 Evans. Location is close to the CS Maternity Center where she was born: 1933 Griffith Park Blvd.