La Rocco Family

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Veto, Tony and Stephen LaRocco in Veto's Shoe Repair store 1979
Left to right: Veto, Tony and Stephen LaRocco at work at Veto's Shoe Repair and Western Wear, 2449 W. Main Street, c.1979. Veto began the family business in 1929.

Veto La Rocco first opened his shoe repair shop in Littleton in December 1929, not a very auspicious time to be starting a new business. Sixty years later the shop was still operating and had seen three La Rocco generations and four different Main Street locations.

Veto was born in Paterno, Sicily in November 1897. In 1905 he came to New Orleans with his mother. His father, (also Veto), and an older brother, Andrew, had preceded them to Denver the year before. The elder La Rocco had found work on the railroad. Veto, Jr., grew up in North Denver and worked various jobs until he began shining shoes at the Star Shoe Company on Welton Street. There he learned the cobbler trade. From 1923 to 1925 he had his own shop at 18th and Champa Streets in Denver. He and Lucille Broncucci were married April 29, 1923 in a home ceremony. "Lucy" was born on her father's truck farm near Welby, Colorado September 20, 1903.

For a few years Veto raised lettuce in Evergreen, Colorado as well as working in a shoe shop owned by his uncle, Joe Peluso, on Denver's East Colfax Avenue near Parkhill.

In 1929 his Evergreen lettuce crop was hailed out. Recognizing it was time for a change, Veto purchased the Childs Brothers Shoe Shop in Littleton. It was located in a building owned by Adelaide Culp, the widow of S.T. Culp, at what was then 112 West Main Street (north side) — a building that no longer stands. Childs Brothers had bought the business from Fred Davis. About 1932, when the Culp's daughter, Adelaide Culp Rhea, owned the building, she moved La Rocco and jeweler Henri Grusin over to the south side of Main Street and into another of her properties so that she could build a Safeway store where they had been. In those days, Veto said, they used to stay open until 9:00 p.m. on Saturdays because that was the day that farmers came to town to do their shopping for the week.

Veto La Rocco's third location came about in 1938 when he bought the property next door west of Town Hall from Ernest Hayes of Littleton Gas and Oil. (The history of the building that he bought was described in the Littleton Independent of July 22, 1938. It had been moved there from its original location "across Main Street from the old Presbyterian Church," where it was "built in the 1880s by Jack Crawford and Lou Fauth for a grocery store." Shortly afterward it was moved to the middle of the block between Prince and Nevada where La Rocco bought it many years later. After the move it was used as a saloon. When La Rocco bought it the tenant was the Connett Bakery. It was "one of the oldest buildings on Main Street.") La Rocco quickly razed it and built a modern brick building. The address was 145 (now 2470) West Main. He used one side for his shoe shop and the Connett Bakery used the other side.

That same year, 1938, he bought the building at 2449 West Main. He rented it to several other shopkeepers, including the Gamble's store. Veto didn't move his shoe shop there until about 1957. It remained there until 2001. As it turned out, this location was one door east of where Veto originally opened his shop in 1929.

Veto continued to drive to Littleton from his North Denver home until World War II came, and gasoline was rationed. Then he and Lucille bought the Frank Lidolph house at 1079 West Littleton Boulevard and moved there.

Veto and Tony LaRocco with unidentified shoemaker from New York 1960s
Left to right: Veto Pischiotta and an unidentified shoemaker, both from New York; Veto and Tony LaRocco. The unidentified man won the "$64,000 Question" television show and was hired by Built Right Rubber Heels Co. to make a goodwill tour of the country. Pischiotta was a cousin of the LaRoccos and was also a shoemaker. Photo c.1960s.

Veto and Lucille had three children: Tony, Frances and Vernon. Vernon died September 22, 1951 at age eighteen in an automobile accident near Boulder. He had just entered his freshman year at the University of Colorado.

Veto and Lucy's son, Tony, also began his career in the shoe business by shining shoes-in his father's shop. He spent two years in the U. S. Army, then married Virginia Bransom of Loveland, Colorado in 1950. He worked for the Electron Corporation for several years but returned to the family business about 1962. It was his idea to change its name to Veto's Shoe Repair and Western Wear, and add a line of boots and hats. When Veto turned sixty-five, he decided to retire and turn the store over to Tony. By 1972 Tony's son, Steve La Rocco, was also working in the shop. But Veto continued to come in almost every day to keep his hand in the business and say hello to his many friends. He said in 1975 that his business had not changed much since he began it. "The main thing is the quality of the leather. Cattle used to be toughened on the range. Now they are coddled in feed lots and hides aren't as good. That's why I recommend man-made synthetics."

Veto was active in the Littleton Elks Club and Littleton Lions. He organized and coached local Young America softball teams for many years. Their numerous trophies lined the shop shelves. Veto's wife, Lucille, died January 16, 1966. She had been active in St. Mary's Altar and Rosary Society. Veto lived to be almost ninety years old and died May 17, 1987. The newspaper called him "the grand old man of Main Street." Veto, Lucille and Vernon are all buried at Mt. Olivet Cemetery in Wheat Ridge, Colorado.

Tony LaRocco and his son Stephen, who operated Veto's Shoe Repair and Western Wear at 2449 W. Main St. 1980
Tony LaRocco (foreground) and his son Stephen, who operated Veto's Shoe Repair and Western Wear at 2449 W. Main St. Photo c.1980.

When Veto and Lucy's son, Tony, turned sixty-five in 1992, he turned the business over to his son, Stephen. But Tony was still there, too.

Tony donated the lot at the corner of Windermere and Berry to Littleton for one of the City's pocket parks. A neat little oasis along a busy street, it provides a pleasant place of grass, trees and benches called La Rocco Plaza.  The mini park includes a sculpture named Cobbler's Bench.

Much has changed in the shoe repair business. When the Centennial Race Track closed in 1983, it had a definite effect on Veto's business which had been supplying and repairing boots and other items to that trade. Tony said that most shoes today can't be repaired; they have soles that are bonded to the uppers. It would often cost more to fix a pair of shoes than to buy new ones. Most shoe shops in the south metro area have closed. Early in 2001 Tony La Rocco decided that Veto's would remain open to sell moccasins and a few other items, but would no longer repair shoes. The shoe shine stand was still there, waiting to give even your old shoes a like-new shine for $1.25. But by summer 2001 La Rocco had posted going out of business signs. Veto's Shoe Repair Shop is no longer a fixture on Main Street, but it served its Littleton customers for over seventy years, and served them well.

Bibliography

The Denver (Colo.) Post, Denver Post Publishers, 1895-.

La Rocco, Tony, Littleton, CO, interview by Doris Farmer Hulse, March 6, 2001.

Littleton City Directories, 1932, 1942.

Littleton (Colo.) Independent, The Littleton Independent Publishers. 1888-.

Littleton Museum. Card File: La Rocco; Veto's Shoe Shop.

____. Photographic Archives.

____. Vertical File. Biography: La Rocco.

Simmons, R. Laurie and Thomas H. Simmons. "Historic Buildings Survey, Littleton, Colorado, Littleton Townsite of 1890." Three volumes. Denver: Front Range Research Associates, Inc., 1997, 1998.

Photographs courtesy of the Littleton Museum unless otherwise noted. To order copies, contact the museum at 303-795-3950.

 

Compiled by Doris Farmer Hulse

Updated May 2017