Posted on April 29, 2020
Diana Cotterell/Paige Young’s parents: Robert M. Cotterell was 23 and Donna V. LaRocca, 19, when they were married in 1940. (Donna is listed in the 1940 census as living with her parents at 3834 Evans St., and that she was a “New Worker” in “Dramatics.”)
Below is the Hollywood Wedding Chapel where Robert and Donna were married per the marriage certificate.
The location is on the Sunset Strip, about one block from the infamous and historic Chateau Marmont hotel.
The famed Garden of Allah apartment building was across the street.
This Hollywood Wedding Chapel building was purchased by famous director/writer Preston Sturges in 1940; he transformed it into “Players” restaurant, a movie business watering hole.
Players has its’ own interesting Hollywood and LA history.
Donna and Robert must have been one of the last couples to marry at the chapel before Sturges took over.
Currently this location is a Pink Taco restaurant. Building is the same.
Diana’s father Robert Morgan Cotterell was born around 1917 in Algon, Iowa. He moved to Los Angeles around 1938 to follow his interest in aviation.
From Constance Susan Cotterell’s birth cert. in 1942. Father Robert a Leadman at Douglas Aircraft.
Donna’s parents and Diana’s grandparents, Ned and Virginia LaRocca, were musical vaudevillians who travelled the Pantages, Orpheum and other vaudeville circuits for about the first 10 years of her life. (For more see Family History Chapters)
Diana’s mother Donna Virginia LaRocca was born in 1921, in Peoria, Illinois, hometown of her father.
Donna V. moved with her parents to Los Angeles around 1934.
(Robert Cotterell is listed with the Evans address on his daughter Diana Lee’s birth certificate.)
Recently found article: Robert Cotterell goes from MIA to POW.
Robert Cotterell’s daughter Constance is 2 years old, and Diana only 5 months, on the date the POW announcement was published.
For his part in the war effort, Joseph Ned LaRocca signed up for the “Old Man’s Draft Card” enacted by Congress to show solidarity for the war effort. 1942, living in Los Feliz and driving to and working as a harpist in the NBC and CBS buildings on Sunset & Vine. (More on this in other family chaper.)
From the 1944 birth certificate of Diana Cotterell.
1945 Robert Cotterell is liberated from the German Camp.
Donna LaRocca Cotterell files for divorce against Robert Morgan Cotterell.
1947 The Cotterell’s divorce is finalized. Only 2 months later, the divorce is granted.
Historic Context: Robert and Donna Cotterell were one couple out of thousands who made up a nation-wide spike in divorce rates after WW2.
Statistics show that in 1946 one in four US marriages ended in divorce.
A 1946 article written on the subject in the New York Times said:
“More than half of America’s 1,500,000 war-wed G.I.s have returned. Already one out of every four of these 800,000 men is entangled in divorce proceedings. Experts are predicting that by 1950, 1,000,000 of these wartime marriages-or two out of three-will end in divorce.”
Robert Cotterell remarried in approximately 1949 to Patricia Frick and the couple had two children, in 1950 and then 51.
He had a job after the war working for Douglas Aircraft. The job took his family all over the San Fernando Valley and Laguna Beach.
I would imagine Robert paid alimony to Donna, common at the time, as well as child support for Constance and Diana.
Virginia LaRocca is named owner of a “double” house at 3710/12 Arbolada Rd. on an LA building permit. This house is only one mile from the home on Evans St.
Donna has a voter registration record with this address in 1944 below.
Joseph LaRocca is listed in the LA telephone directory with this address in 1948.
Arbolada Rd. is a dead end street. It’s high on a hill with an incredible panoramic view of the area. It’s close to their Evans St. home and still near Griffith Park.
Joseph and Virgina La Rocca listed above at the Arbolada address.
Virginia’s listing leaves off “Christian Science” and just says her employment is “practitioner.” Antonio and Corina La Bianca purchased the house on Waverly Dr. in 1940, you can see their names above the LaRocca’s. The world knows the story of their son Leno, who was unfortunately murdered in this house in 1969 along with his wife Rosemary, by members of the “Manson Family.“
So the 2 Italian families (Joseph’s wife Virginia was not Italian but Mormon with English ancestry) lived a 5 minute car drive from each other at one point, even if they never met.
Diana/Paige mother Donna was very close to her first cousin Mildred Marinello who lived close to Donna in Peoria, Ill., with her in Los Feliz, Los Angeles, and lived two doors from each other in Sherman Oaks, San Fernando Valley, in the 1950s.
The Marinellos and LaRoccas will live almost next door to each other in Sherman Oaks for several years in the 1950s. Diana and her sister would have grown up with her children.
The city of Los Angeles experienced a housing shortage during the post-war years. More so than the usual housing shortage that seems to have always existed in LA.
This fact caused me to wonder as to how the LaRoccas could afford the 2 houses, or one right after the other, in the 1940s.
I didn’t find an exact answer but the next several chapters may shed some light on the upwardly mobile family.
Virginia LaRocca had been a full time Christian Science Practitioner by the 1940s and a Christian Science Reader at some point. Her income from this is unknown. She had her own phone per listing in LA phone books for many years for this purpose.
Virginia’s sister Josephine Harker, her sometimes singing/dancing partner back in the days of vaudeville, was listed in a directory at the Evans house around 1940.
It’s easy to imagine that Evans house was way too small to fit all those family members comfortably. I have seen city documents of the original house plan.
And of course there was daughter Donna. and granddaughters Constance and Diana Cotterell. Robert was serving overseas most of this time, his name was connected with the addresses as I’ve shown.
All these names, excluding Diana and Constance, were linked to the Evans or Arbolada address from 1938 through around 1947, per records I have shown or seen.
Donna and Robert’s divorce was final in 1947.
View of the area is spectacular as is the building itself.
The LaRocca Arbolada Road house, where the family lived some portion of the 1940s, is very close to the LaBianca “Manson murder house,” on Waverly Drive. However, between the 2 houses is a large plot of undeveloped (!) land, so one has to travel a circuitous route between the two. Perhaps this prevented the two Italian men from ever meeting each other.
Category: 1940s, LA Locations, Robert Morgan Cotterell Tagged: #3710 Arbolada, #Family, 1940s Los Angeles, Chateau Marmont, Donna Cotterell, Douglas Aircraft, Garden of Allah, German POW Camp, Hollywood History, Hollywood Wedding Chapel, Los Angeles History, Los Feliz, Paige Young, Players, post WW2 divorce rate, POW, Preston Sturges, Robert Morgan Cotterell, SFV, Sunset Blvd., Sunset Strip, Waverly Drive, WW2