Posted on May 2, 2020
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.
|Birth Year:||abt 1855|
|Birth Place:||Chicago, Cook, Illinois|
|Marriage Date:||21 Dec 1879|
|Marriage Place:||Chicago, Cook, Illinois|
|Spouse Name:||Anna Rosalia Di Neufrio|
|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:
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.
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.
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.
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 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)
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.
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………
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.
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.
Category: 1940s, LA Locations, Peoria, Illinois, Radio City, CBS, NBC Tagged: #Dick Whittington, 1940s LA, Angels Flight, Ann Sheridan, Avon Theater, Dick Whittington Phographer, Elysian Park, Frank LaRocca, George Truman Harker, Harp, Harpist, Illinois, Jane Harker, Josephine Harker, Josephine Young, KNX, LA History, LA Noir, Los Angeles architecture, Los Angeles History, Mary Jane Harker, NBC, NBC\CBS, Ned Argo, Ned LaRocca Grandfather, Pantages, Peoria, Radio City, Radio Shows, Roxy LaRocca, South Pasadena, Starlet Warner Brothers, Studio 1 CBS, Vaudeville, Virginia LaRocca, Virginia Young, Warner Brothers