Family History#2 Great Depression. Arrival In LA. 1940s Radio Row. Radio City. Sunset and Vine. KNX. CBS. Tom Breneman. NBC Building.

Part of an ad for the historic Avon theater, where Frank LaRocca worked in the 1920s.

Frank LaRocca was a violinist and music director in Decatur, Illinois.

Decatur Daily Review Aug. 23, 1925

My research shows that Frank, along with his wife Rose, moved to Los Angeles in about 1930. The couple resided at 2303 Gatewood.

  1934, Frank’s brother Ned, his wife Virginia LaRocca and their 9 year old Donna, joined Frank and Rose in Los Angeles. The family moved into a house located at 2234 Shoredale Ave. about two blocks away from Frank and Rose on Gatewood.

(Per LA phone directories seen in the LAPL and voter registration ancestry.com)

This neighborhood is very close to Elysian Park and the LA River and was well before “the 5” freeway was built.

 Brothers Frank and Ned are listed as “music teachers” in the LA phone directory in the mid-1930s. 

1937: Frank is admitted to Methodist Hospital with peritonitis/perforated duodena. After one week in the hospital, Frank dies, having contracted pneumonia two day previous.

He was buried in his home town of Peoria, Illinois. Per Frank LaRocca’s LA death certificate I purchased.

  In the late 1930s, A “Radio Row,” was forming along the section of Vine Street between Hollywood Blvd. and Sunset Blvd.

1938: NBC Radio aka “Radio City” opens their new location in a sensational Streamline Moderne building on Sunset and Vine.

1940s NBC building on Sunset & Vine Architect John C. Austin Note the “RADIO CITY NBC” moniker
Austin was also the architect for the Griffith Observatory.



Ned LaRocca is employed at Radio City NBC and Columbia Square CBS in early 1942

  There is a need for music, of course, in all types of radio shows: comedy, drama, singing, symphony, advertisements, theatrical presentations, news, public service announcement, etc.

Nearby Hollywood and Vine had the Pantages Theatre (1930) and El Capitan (1926).

1940s. Tom Breneman broadcast his popular show “Breakfast In Hollywood” from his restaurant on Vine off of Sunset Blvd. I’ve listened to a few saved radio broadcasts and Breneman asks “where are you from?” it seems like a combination of locals and tourists.

Tom Breneman’s Hollywood Restaurant and hotels.

Night shot of Sunset & Vine. NBC on the right side. 1940s

Still from footage shot in front of the Radio Room 1940s.

1948 Taken from NBC No more Tom Brenamen! I don’t know when it became a TV station KECA but it must be 1948 is quite early in the entrance of Television into American homes and the revolution that occured with Television set purchasing and viewing at home in the 1950s.

CBS radio aka “Columbia Square” opens just down the street. It’s the new home to KNX Radio.


Architect is Swiss-born William Lescase. CBS Columbia Square

 A veteran performing harpist, Ned LaRocca was able to find a steady paycheck at both NBC and CBS.

He was at the right place at the right time with the right qualifications.

He probably felt lucky as I’m sure it was a competitive environment during the Great Depression.

This article dated July 7, 1938 from the San Fernando Valley Times. Note the mention of future Warner Bros. starlet Jane Harker, niece by marriage to Donna LaRocca’s Father Ned.

Ned LaRocca continued to work at NBC and CBS throughout the 1940s and made an important contact with Leith Stevens, conductor and composer. Stevens would give Ned employment in the growing LA album recording industry when radio changes: it went from offering popular entertainment programs to “music listening radio stations.” Radio comedies and dramas went to the new popular medium of Television.



Salt Lake City Tribune July 19, 1945. Paige Young’s 2nd cousin. Name would eventually get shortened to Jane Harker.

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Studio 1 CBS Close up of harpist in the Wilbur Hatch Orchestra 1940-41 Photo by “Dick” Whittington Studio

Could the harpist in this photo be Ned LaRocca?

From the book “Commercial Los Angeles 1925-1947” Photos by the “Dick” Whittington Studio. Photo is distorted from the original. Collection of the author.

Old postcard when these spectacular buildings were brand new. Ned LaRocca worked at both networks in radio and later early TV.
Description on back of postcard.

*Thank you Raul Morena for his online video “Great Tour of Radio Row in Hollywood.” His website is Eyes of a Generation*

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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