1940s Los Angeles. PARENTS’ Marriage. Hollywood Wedding Chapel. Los Feliz. Family. WW2. P.O.W. Divorce. Updated 11/30/2022

Diana/Paige’s parents: 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 Marinelli. Yes Mildred dropped the i from her birth name. 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. 

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 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. (For more see Family History Chapters)

LA Voter’s Registration 1934. Joseph the only Republican amongst his wife, his neighbor and brother Frank and Frank’s wife Rose. Daughter Donna would have been 13 years old. Virginia would always be listed as a Republican beginning in the 1940s.

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

She moved with her parents to Los Angeles around 1934.

 1944 Second Lieutenant Army Air Diana and her sister’s father was Corps Heavy Bomber Robert M. Cotterell, he was captured on May 27th and imprisoned in a German POW camp.

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

LAT Aug. 19, 1944 listed at Arbolada here.

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

City Document dated 1943. Owner of 3834 Evans St., J.N. LaRocca, is having an outside closet built, “in which a hot air heat will be installed.”

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, common at the time, as well as child support for Constance and Diana.

 Virginia LaRocca is named owner of a “double” house at 3710/12 Arbolada Rd. on an LA building permit. This house is only one mile from the home on Evans St.

Donna has a voter registration record with this address in 1944 below.

Joseph LaRocca is listed in the LA telephone directory with this address in 1948.

Arbolada Rd. is a dead end street. It’s high on a hill with an incredible panoramic view of the area. It’s close to their Evans St. home and near Griffith Park.

Antonio LaBianca, father of Leno LaBianca, bought the Waverly house in 1940.  So the 2 Italian families (Joseph’s wife Virginia was not Italian but Mormon with English ancestry) were neighbors at one point, even if they never met.

Below shows the 1944 voter’s registration including the parents of Leno LaBianca: Antonio and Corina La Bianca on Waverly Dr. And right after them we see Joseph and Virgina La Rocca listed at the Arbolada address. Virginia’s listing leaves off “Christian Science” and just says her employment is “practitioner.”

 

The Marinellos and LaRoccas will live almost next door to each other in Sherman Oaks for several years in the 1950s.

Here we see the LaRocca’s in the same voter’s registration log in 1936. D and R seems to be reversed. Virginia became a Republican sometime the 1940s.
LAT May 25, 1938 Mildred “Marinell,” Kathryn’s daughter, did not marry Lewis E. Filman. We can see she is living with the LaRoccas at the Evans address
LAT May 25, 1938 Mildred “Marinell,” Kathryn’s daughter, did not marry Lewis E. Filman. We can see she is living with the LaRoccas at the Evans address

Virginia LaRocca had been a full time Christian Science Practitioner by the 1940s and a Christian Science Reader at some point.  Her income from this is unknown. She had her own phone per listing in LA phone books for many years for this purpose.

The city of Los Angeles experienced a housing shortage during the post-war years. More so than the usual housing shortage that seems to have always existed in LA.

This fact caused me to wonder as to how the LaRoccas could afford the 2 houses, or one right after the other, in the 1940s. 

I didn’t find an exact answer but the next several chapters may shed some light on the upwardly mobile direction of the LaRocca/Cotterell family.

Virginia LaRocca had been a full time Christian Science Practitioner by the 1940s and a Christian Science Reader at some point.  Her income from this is unknown. She had her own phone per listing in LA phone books for many years for this purpose.

The city of Los Angeles experienced a housing shortage during the post-war years. More so than the usual housing shortage that seems to have always existed in LA.

This fact caused me to wonder as to how the LaRoccas could afford the 2 houses, or one right after the other, in the 1940s. 

I didn’t find an exact answer but the next several chapters may shed some light on the upwardly mobile direction of the LaRocca/Cotterell family.

Van Nuys News and Valley Green Sheet Dec. 4, 1942 Mildred would name her daughter Donna Lee, Lee was Diana/Paige’s middle name, Bartlett, born in the early 1950s.

Virginia’s sister Josephine Harker, her sometimes singing/dancing partner back in the days of vaudeville, was listed in a directory at the Evans house around 1940.

And of course their daughter Donna, their son-in-law Robert, and granddaughters Constance and Diana Cotterell.

All these names (except for the young Cotterell girls)  were linked to the Evans address from 1938 through around 1944, per records I have shown or seen.

It’s easy to imagine that Evans house was too small to fit all those family members comfortably. I have seen city documents of the original house plan.

Donna and Robert’s divorce was final in 1947.

3710/12 Arbolada

View from Arbolada Drive is spectacular as is the original building itself.

1944. Birth. 1938 Los Angeles. Address on Birth Certificate. Los Feliz.

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.” Today it is “Los Feliz.”

Diana’s birth certificate says her home address is 3834 Evans. Location is close to the CS Maternity Center Griffith Park Blvd.

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.

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.

3834 Evans St. Home of Ned and Virginia LaRocca

3834 Evans has a steep driveway and large sloped front yard.

Written on a City document about 3834 Evans.

Neighborhood

Neighborhood

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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 and his brother/partner Roy Disney lived in the Los Feliz neighborhood for several years in the days when they first moved to Los Angeles.

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

Ned LaRocca permit to build a garage.

City of LA building permit for garage 1938 Mr. LaRocca listed as owner of 3834 Evans St.

LA Directory 1938. The LaRoccas were on Evans, while Rose, now a widow after Frank LaRocca’s death, is still on Gatewood. In other directories in these years, she was listed as seamstress, cook and factory worker. Rose would return to Peoria in the early 1940s whe she disappears from directories.
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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.

The 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.

Found on ancestry.com