1958-1962 Donna Cotterell remarries. Ned LaRocca dies. A New Decade.

Donna Virginia LaRocca Cotterell marries John “Jack” Holroyd in Las Vegas on October 3, 1958, per online Vegas wedding records difficult to decipher. Found on ancestry.com.

Patriarch Joseph Ned LaRocca dies of lung cancer (death cert.) towards the end of 1959.

LAT November 18, 1959.

Below are closeups of Ned LaRocca’s death certificate. It looks like he spent about a year in a sanitarium located on Foothill Blvd. in the Tujunga/Sunland area. I have been unable to learn if this was specifically a Christian Science sanitarium, (his wife was a CSP) but I have learned that the Tujunga area was considered to have cleaner air than other parts of the San Fernando Valley.

Ned LaRocca’s grave is in Glen Haven Memorial Park in Sylmar.

 Note the name of last employer: Leith Stevens.

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The 1960s Begin

In 1960 and 62, Virginia LaRocca is listed in the phone directory at 13204 Riverside Drive, about 2 miles from Grant High School at 13000 Oxford Ave.  This is also the address listed on Joseph Ned LaRocca’s death cert. above.

Donna and Jack Holroyd are registered Republicans in 1960 and 62 per ancestry.com voting records. Their listed address is a 6-plex apartment building on Oxford Ave. The building location is easy walking distance to Grant High School.

Diana’s photo does not appear in any Grant High School or Van Nuys High School yearbook during the years she would have attended and graduated from high school. This would have been 60, 61 and 62.

1962 would have been Diana’s graduation year and turning 18 in March.

 

1950s #1 Move to San Fernando Valley. Recording Industry LA. Celebrity Connections. Leith Stevens.

Hereafter known as SFV.

1950

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

Around this year Diana and her family move to 13055 Moorpark St., 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.

This image shows the Hughes Market that stood on that intersection. I believe it is the southeast corner.

From the facebook page “SFV in the 50, 60s, 70s.

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

I first connected the family to 13055 Moorpark St. address by an online city building permit:

The LaRoccas are requesting a house alteration to make more rooms and a seperate entrance for a “rental unit.”

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 Pat and their two children, 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 SFV 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

Patriarch Joseph Ned LaRocca to adapted to the waning popularity of radio programs by working for Leith Stevens as an orchestra manager in the growing LA recording industry.

Ned already had experience with “adapting”to a new mass medium, when his first industry, vaudeville, died out in the early 30s during the Great Depression.

One significant factor that changed radio was the rise of TV in the 1950s. Drama and comedy serials 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

And

The importance of television for the film industry during the 1950s cannot be overstated. It has been argued that television was the primary factor affecting the dramatic plunge in ticket sales, box-office receipts, and company profits in Hollywood between 1947 and 1957.

encyclopedia.com

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

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.”

Secondly, the 1953 score to the Marlon Brando movie “The Wild One.”  This became a successful album released by Decca records and remains Leith Stevens most well-known and well-regarded creation.  J. Ned LaRocca is credited as “Contractor” on the project. Per Discogs.com.

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.”

Besides composing the popular “The Wild One” soundtrack and album, Leith Stevens composed numerous scores used for stock music in radio shows, movies and  TV.

 IMDB says many of his compositions go uncredited. Stevens had a  diverse career; in the 1950s, he composed music used in films and TV series such as the George Burns and Gracie Allen Show, Ma and Pa Kettle, Earth vs. Flying Saucers, Crusader Rabbit (a T.V. series), the Ann Sothern Show, and the Twilight Zone.

More on Leith Stevens soon.

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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