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.
Known as “Ned,” Joseph Ned LaRocca was a harpist in a family of several brothers and one sister named Kathryn.
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.
Salvatore LaRocca, died at age 52 in 1906, according to records from Peoria listed on ancestry.com. I think Ned was out on the vaudeville circuit by his teenage years, as well as the other LaRocca brothers.
The one with the most success fame wise was oldest brother Roxy.
Roxy was a “famous-at-the-time” vaudeville harpist, known affectionately as the “Wizard of the Harp.”
The LaRocca brothers were all musicians and many of them toured with the major vaudeville circuits like Orpheum and Pantages. None became as well known as Roxy.
Below is a newspaper clipping of Joseph Ned LaRocca 1925. He was to have a future in Los Angeles, playing harp for the radio.
Ned is Diana Cotterell/Paige Young’s grandfather and younger brother of Roxy. Also a harpist like his big brother, he often used the professional name Ned Argo or just plain Argo.
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 was to have a future in performing for radio broadcasts in Los Angeles.
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. The girls’ 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 founder Joseph Smith’s first “plural wives.”
Virginia Young met Ned LaRocca on a Pantages tour where Virginia and sister 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 SLC.
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.
Joseph N and Virginia LaRocca are listed in the 1917 and 1918 Peoria, Ill. directory.
June 30, 1917 Goodwin’s Weekly SLC. Virginia was married by now and singing in an vaudeville act with her husband Ned. Not named here.
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 below from Salt Lake City Tribune Oct. 1, 1919.
Saskatoon Daily Star June 6, 1919
1920 approx. Josephine quit touring with her sister and brother-in-law and moved to San Francisco with her husband George Truman Harker.
They started a family there: Jack Truman Harker born in 1921, and a daughter, Mary Jane, in 1923 .
The whole family together in 1923 in Peoria. Anna, the matriarch, is listed as a “widow of Salvatore”
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.
Ned and Virginia continued to tour vaudeville throughout the 1920s. The couple had a stop over in 1926-1928 in Oakland, California for about 2 years.
Charlotte Observer June 27, 1929. With an act about “Peoria.” They are listed in the 1930 census as living in Peoria. They were only a few years away from permanently relocating to Los Angeles. Vaudeville would soon be dead.
In the mid 1920s, George Truman and Josephine Harker 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 much more of this in the next chapter………
MARY JANE HARKER BECOMES JANE HARKER AT WARNER BROS. STUDIO
Please see my next chapter Family History #2 for an 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 during her approximate 2 years with Warner Brothers studio. 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 in Los Angeles. This film has been shown on TCM a few times. Jane plays “red-headed snob in Humoresque starring Crawford and Garfield.
Harker had small parts in movies with stars such as Joan Crawford, Ann Sheridan, John Garfield, Bette Davis, 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