1950s #1 Updated 11/02/22: 1950 Census. Gardena. Move to San Fernando Valley. Ned LaRocca & Virginia & Family. Recording Industry LA. Leith Stevens.

San Fernando Valley abbreviated SFV.

The newly released 1950 census gives us

more information about the LaRocca/Cotterell family unit: they are listed at a residence in Gardena at 1830 W. 147th.

Joseph’s occupation, Radio Orchestra Manager, Virginia, Christian Science Practitioner, Donna has an empty box for occupation, granddaughters Constance S. is listed as 7 years and Diana L. as 5 years.

This is an online Gardena phone directory from Gardena 1951. It has a listing for Virginia LaRocca, CSP, at this same address but no Joseph is listed. Why no Joseph and Virginia listed together as every other year in directories and voter registrations.?

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

Yes probably

How long did they live in Gardena?

About two years.

When did Diana and her family move to 13055 Moorpark St in Studio City/Sherman Oaks?

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? And did Ned LaRocca move there first while Virginia stayed in Gardena a bit longer?

This house on Moorpark Street 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 venue landmark.

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.

1950 census. Mildred Marinello (seen as Marinell) has married a man named Clifton Barnett. Mildred’s parents Anthony and Kathryn (retail grocery) live at the same address: 13011 Moorpark Street. It’s on the same street as their grocery business and only a few hundred feet from 13055 Moorpark where the Ned LaRocca/Cotterell family moved in approx. 1952.
1954 Los Angeles directory. Ned, Virginia and Donna living on Moorpark St. Studio City/Sherman Oaks

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 new 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.

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.

“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 Steven’s 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 as “stock music.”

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

In 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.

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

So, I can’t tell how much income Virginia might have earned 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 his household.

I’m sure Donna received child support and likely alimony as this would have been normal for the times.

Family History#1: Teens, 1920s, Vaudeville. Joseph And Roxy LaRocca. Peoria. Virginia Young. SLC. The Great Depression. Oakland. Jane Harker. Warner Bros.

Roxy LaRocca is Diana/Paige’s great uncle. He had a harp act in the Vaudeville circuit. Roxy used this as his passport photo. Found on e-bay.

Family Background In Vaudeville:

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.

His Father was Salvatore LaRocca, a harpist from Italy, settled in Chicago before raising a family in Peoria with Rose Ann, born Dunufrio. The couple moved to Peoria when Salvatore was offered the leadership of a local Italian band: Marino’s, according to Find a Grave.

Name:Salvatore Larocco
Age:24
Gender:Male
Birth Year:abt 1855
Birth Place:Chicago, Cook, Illinois
Marriage Type:Marriage
Marriage Date:21 Dec 1879
Marriage Place:Chicago, Cook, Illinois
Spouse Name:Anna Rosalia Di Neufrio
Spouse Age:19
Spouse Gender:Female
Spouse Birth Place:Chicago, Cook, Illinois

Salvatore LaRocca, died at age 52 in 1906, according to records from Peoria listed on ancestry.com.

Known as “Ned,” Joseph Ned LaRocca was a harpist in a family of several brothers. The one with the most success was oldest brother Roxy, shown below.

The oldest brother Roxy, became a “famous-at-the-time” vaudeville harpist, known affectionately as the “Wizard of the Harp.”

The brothers were all musicians and many of them toured with the major vaudeville circuits like Orpheum and Pantages. None were quite as successful as Roxy in terms of fame.

I read literally of dozens of articles from the era about Roxy’s talent on the harp and his many performances. Two examples follow:

WIZARD OF THE HARP
Late 1920s. Vaudeville acts appeared with moving pictures at this time, one popular entertainment form was replacing another; they mingled for a while.

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.

Sacramento paper 1925 Diana/Paige’s grandfather.

Ned was to have a future in performing for radio broadcasts in Los Angeles.

RCA corp. did a study in 1925 and found that 19% of homes had a radio. In 1930, it was 40%. Vaudeville was beginning to slide as a mass-media entertainment form. “Moving pictures” continued to be a reason for the lessening popularity of vaudeville.

Diana Cotterell/Paige’s Young’s maternal grandmother. Salt Lake Tribune March 28, 1915

Ned’s wife, Virginia Young, was born in 1898 in Salt Lake City. Her father was Albert Carrington Young, a doctor. Her mother was named Josephine Young and she died when Virginia and her sister Josephine were still children. Part of the Salt Lake drama and music community, Virginia and Josephine became vaudeville performers. 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 and her sister Eliza hold an interesting place in Mormon history as two of Joseph Smith’s first “plural wives.”

Virginia, seen at right, met Ned LaRocca on a Pantages tour where Virginia and Josephine were performing in “The Wrong Bird,” a very successful Utah production that toured North America. The musical play was written by Margaret Whitney, part of the theater and music circles in Salt Lake.

I hope to post some of these articles soon. These folks had a minor kind of fame in vaudeville.

Marriage in 1915 Paige Young’s maternal grandparents.
Virginia and Joe Ned LaRocca marry in Utah in 1915.

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.

Screenshot from a Mormon heritage website, and below.

Sometimes Virginia’s sister and fellow vaudeville player 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)

Virginia Young LaRocca.
Los Angeles Daily Times Sept. 15, 1919 Wedding notice for Josephine and George Harker. Josephine is Diana/Paige’s great aunt. The sister of her Grandmother Virginia, who inspired Paige’s chosen surname of Young.

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 . Both were born in San Francisco.

In the 1920 Federal Census, Virginia is listed as living in Peoria, Illinois with her husband and his family, and her occupation is listed as “Actress.” Mama LaRocca was still living at this point. Virginia would give birth to Donna Virginia in 1921.

The whole family together in 1923 in Peoria. Anna, the matriarch is listed as a “widow.”

Ned and Virginia continued to tour vaudeville throughout the 1920s. The had a two year stop over in 1926-1928 in Oakland California.

1928 Oakland, California directory. Biogio LaRocca may have been family.
1928 Voter’s registration Oakland California. Joseph is incorrectly listed where his wife Virginia should be written. Virginia still identifies as a Democrat.

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

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, Ned and Virginia, moved to LA during the Depression early/mid 1930s. See next chapter………

Jane Harker

This is the true background of Jane Harker, short lived Warner Bros. pin-up and starlet. IMDB has incorrect information that other websites have copied. She is the daughter of George Truman Harker and Josephine Young Harker. Jane is a first cousin to Diana/Paige’s mother Donna.

MARY JANE HARKER BECOMES JANE HARKER AT WARNER BROS. STUDIO

Please see my next chapter Family History #2 for in-depth history move to Los Angeles in the 1930s, Radio City from 1938 through the 1940s and much more on Jane Harker, model/starlet, who worked with some of Hollywood’s biggest stars. She appears in an obscure Noir film: The Unfaithful with Ann Sheridan. Also starring Angels Flight, one of the last remaining relics of Bunker Hill, Los Angeles. This film has been shown on TCM a few times. Along with Humoresque with Crawford and Garfield.

Halloween Cheesecake. The Signal, Santa Clarita, 1946.

In the 1940s, Mary Jane Harker 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, Errol Flynn, Eleanor Parker and more.

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