Family History#2. 1930s &1940s. Great Depression. Peoria, Move To LA. Frank & Rose. the Marinellos. Radio City. Sunset and Vine. KNX. CBS. Tom Breneman. Jane Harker. Warner Brothers. Updated 11/27/2022

Frank LaRocca, brother of Diana’s grandfather and defacto father Ned, was a violinist and music director in Decatur, Illinois in the 1920s.

Decatur Daily Review Aug. 23, 1925
Part of an ad for the historic Avon theater in Decatur, Ill, where Frank LaRocca worked in the 1920s.

Peoria, Ill.

Mildred Marinello.

was a first cousin of Donna LaRocca, Diana/Paige’s mother.

Mildred and Donna lived next door to each other both in Peoria, Ill. and later in Sherman Oaks, Ca. in the 1950s. Mildred was also listed as living with Donna her cousin and her parents home in Los Feliz in the late 1930s. She is listed as a witness at the wedding of Donna to Robert M. Cotterell in 1940 in Los Angeles.

In 1930, the year after the stock market crash of 192, Joseph “Ned” LaRocca lives with his wife “Jeanette” and their daughter Donna as “Lodgers” at 206 Martin, in Peoria. This is the same address the LaRocca family had in earlier census records going back to 1900. In 1930, Leana M Buckler is listed as Head of house. Next door lives Mildred, Donna’s first cousin, and her parents Anthony and Kathryn LaRocca, Ned’s only sister. They too were living with another family. It looks like Frank had already moved out to Los Angeles where he would die only 7 years later.

Early 1930s phone directories list a Frank LaRocca and wife Rose in Los Angeles. The couple reside at 2303 Gatewood.

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

Virginia LaRocca voter’s registration shows that the family was in LA permanently by 1934. Virginia would never be listed as a Democrat again.

Ned and Virginia had performed their vaudeville acts in the Los Angeles area many times in the teens and 20s, so they had familiarity with the area.

The Shoredale and Gatewood houses were in a neighborhood very close to Elysian Park, the LA River and Riverside Drive, well before “the 5” freeway was built.

 Brothers Frank and Ned LaRocca are listed as “music teachers” in the LA phone directory in the mid1930s. 

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

Frank is buried in his home town of Peoria, Illinois.

His find-a-grave page includes an obituary from the Peoria newspaper. It states that brother Ned LaRocca lives in LA and is a harpist in a Hollywood radio orchestra.

The LAT obituary is below.

Los Angeles Times Jan. 7, 1937.

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

A sensational Streamline Moderne building was the new west coast headquarters of NBC radio and opened in 1938. Architect was John C. Austin. Austin was also architect of the Griffith Park Observatory along with Frederick M. Ashley.

*I’m attributing radiocityhollywood.com below for several clear historic descriptions and explanations.

 

The National Broadcasting Company originally used the phrase Radio City to describe their studios at Rockefeller Center in New York City.  When NBC opened their new Hollywood studios at Sunset and Vine in 1938, they placed the words  Radio City prominently on the front of their new building.  However, the area between Hollywood Boulevard and Sunset Boulevard on Vine Street became known as Radio City for tourists and locals alike who visited the many radio studios and radio themed cocktail lounges and businesses in the area.

radiocityhollywood.com

Veteran performing artist Ned LaRocca found a steady paycheck at both NBC and CBS as seen on this document found on ancestry, dated 1942.

Ned LaRocca is employed by NBC and CBS radio in Radio City Hollywood, as seen on this “Old Man’s Draft card” WW2 There are many documents showing Ned with this address.

CBS radio aka “Columbia Square” opens just down the street from NBC, also opened in 1938.

The website radiocityhollywood.com describes vividly what must have been a fascinating “scene,”overflowing with human activity; all the types of people who had a requirement, a desire, or both, to be there, from the employees, their friend and families, tickets holders which includes tourists from near and far, big wigs in the industry, interns, janitorial staff. Professional Radio performers including musicians like Ned LaRocca.


Architect is Swiss-born William Lescase. CBS Columbia Square is the name. The legendary Brittingham’s Restaurant existed in Columbia Square. This building and NBC were major tourist attractions in 1938 on through the 1940s In Los Angeles.

This building is the new home to KNX Radio, where Ned LaRocca performed.

Old postcard when these spectacular buildings were brand new. Ned LaRocca worked at both.
Description on back of postcard.
Radio Room cocktail lounge on Radio Row in Radio City Hollywood 1940s. Bowling alley and coffee shop next door. Lots of neon which Los Angeles was becoming famous for.

A block away, the Columbia Broadcasting System opened it’s new modern studios at Columbia Square.  Across the street, on December 26, Earl Carroll opened his premier nightclub and restaurant, with the glamorous neon sign proclaiming, “Through these portals pass the most beautiful girls in the world.”

The National Broadcasting Company, after moving from New York to San Francisco, opened its’ new Moderne studios at the intersection of Sunset and Vine in Hollywood, California.

The Hollywood Palladium opened two years later between NBC and CBS, with the Tommy Dorsey Orchestra, featuring band singer Frank Sinatra. Across Vine Street, on the northwest corner of Sunset and Vine, sat Music City and Capitol Records, operated by bothers Glenn and Clyde Wallich.

radiocityhollywood.com
San Fernando Valley Times July 1938

The radio industry in Los Angeles, and the world I imagine, was at its’ zenith from the late 30s through the 1940s. This era was short lived. Television would soon replace radio as the mass entertainment medium of choice. (1950s)

Film-noirish look at Sunset & Vine. found on the internet. NBC on the right. 1940s. Capitol Records on the left, before the iconic new location, the “Stack of Records” building, was built at 1750 Vine St. by Welton Becket and Assoc. (Opened in 1956)

Vintage postcard. Famous Earl Carroll theatre across the street.
Back of postcard

The American Broadcasting Corporation set up shop a few doors north on Vine Street.  Up the street was the Radio Room, Club Morocco, Mike Lyman’s and the famous Tom Breneman’s Breakfast in Hollywood restaurant. Even further up Vine, just before Hollywood Boulevard, Clara Bow operated her restaurant, the It Cafe.  Across the street,  south of the Boulevard, was the world famous Vine Street Brown Derby, more restaurants and bars, and at Selma Avenue, the RCA building. Further south, at the end of the block, at the intersection of Vine Street and Sunset Boulevard stood the radio flagship studio, NBC Radio City.

It was a glorious year, 1938, for Hollywood and for radio. And, while NBC called their new studios Radio City, the entire area became famous across America and around the world.

Radio City Hollywood website.

Tom Breneman broadcast his popular show “Breakfast In Hollywood” from his restaurant on Vine off Sunset Blvd. I’ve listened to a few radio broadcasts and Breneman asks the audience members”where are you from?” It seems like the are a combination of locals and out of town visitors.

1940s.

Tom Breneman’s Hollywood Restaurant.
Known as the “Mayor of Encino,” Tom’s family in the 1940s.
1948 Taken from NBC No more Tom Brenamen! Sadly he died suddenly in 1947. KECA TV moved in. Television explosion into American homes would happen soon but not quite yet in 1948.

Ned LaRocca continued to work at NBC and CBS throughout the 1940s and made an important contact with Leith Stevens, conductor and composer.

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

1938, 1939 & 1941 LA phone directory, Joseph LaRocca is listed as a musician and living at 3834 Evans.

1938 Los Angeles directory.

Donna LaRocca had yet another female cousin another. two years younger. Born Mary Jane Harker two years after Donna, she had short lived famed in the 1940s.



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

.Jane Harker was the daughter of Josephine and George Truman Harker. I write more about them in Family History Part #1.

From a Scandinavian ? Hollywood stars and starlets were promoted overseas through these type of magazines.

The information about Jane Harker that you see on websites like imdb is incorrect. I’m attempting to correct it.

I have a lot of material collected about Jane Harker if anyone would like to collaborate on this project contact me.

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Daily Calumet, Chicago. May 18, 1946.

Warner Brothers Starlet Jane Harker in a publicity pinup shot by Hollywood photographer Wellbourne.
Jane Harker in a publicity pinup shot by famous Hollywood photographer Wellbourne.
Name:Mildred Marinello
Birth Year:abt 1913
Gender:Female
RacWhite
Age in 1930:17
Birthplace:Illinois
Marital Status:Single
Relation to Head of House:Daughter
Home in 1930:Peoria, Peoria, Illinois, USA
Map of Home:Peoria, Peoria, Illinois
Street Address:Martin Street
Ward of City:Pt of 6
House Number:208
Dwelling Number:161
Family Number:165
Attended School:Yes
Able to Read and Write:Yes
Father’s BirthplaceItaly
Mother’s Birthplace:Italy
Yes
Household MembersAgeRelationshipAnthony Marinello42HeadKathryn Marinello39WifeMildred Marinello17Daughter

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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