Carole's Childhood

Carole at age eight

Carole's early days were filled with heartache and dreams of stardom. She was born on January 1, 1919 in the small town of Fairchild, Wisconsin. Her birth name was Frances Lillian Ridste. She was named after her maternal grandmother Francis Sentek. Carole's grandparents had come to America from Germany, Poland, and Norway. Her father Alfred Ridste was a railroad worker and her mother Clara Sentek Ridste was a housewife. She had four older siblings - Lawrence, Lewis, Jerome, and Dorothy. Sadly her brother Jerome had died in 1917 after being burned by boiling water. In the Spring of 1919 the family moved to Denton, Montana. Clara began having a relationship with Charles Fenner, a longtime family friend. She filed for divorce and Alfred sued Charles for alienation of affection. The divorce became so messy that Carole and her siblings were put in Foster care for a short time. There is speculation that Charles Fenner may be Carole's biological father. Clara married Charles in December of 1919 but the marriage only lasted eighteen months.

Lewis, Lawrence, Carole, Clara Ridste, and Dorothy in 1920

                                                                                   Three year old Carole

She took the children to San Diego, California where she reunited with Alfred. In 1923 the entire family relocated to San Bernardino and moved into a tiny home at 175 Bryant Street. A few years later Alfred walked out on Clara leaving her to raise the children alone. They were very poor and Carole's older sister Dorothy had to babysit while their mother worked. Carole was a beautiful child with blonde hair and blue eyes. Everyone called her "Baby Doll". She loved dressing up her dolls and planting flowers in the garden. Tragically in 1925 her ten year old brother Lewis died after he was accidentally shot with gun. Carole became star-struck when she was seven years old and told her mother "I'm going to be a movie star". She went to the movies every week and bought second hand movie magazines. Carole covered her walls with photos of Kay Francis, Mary Astor, and the Gish sisters. At the age of nine she impulsively ran onstage during a talent show and began singing "That's My Weakness Now". She attended Sturges junior high where she played on the volleyball team and sang a solo in the school's Halloween recital.

Lewis, Dorothy. Alfred Ridste, Carole, and Lawrence in 1924

                                                Carole (right) with Clara and Dorothy
            
At San Bernardino high school she tried to start an all female football team but was told it was unladylike. Carole was described as being "boy crazy" and admitted she was always getting crushes on older boys. She hated going to school and often skipped classes. Carole said "I always seemed so much older than the other kids my age - they seemed like tots." She was raised a Catholic and attended church every Sunday. Her philosophy in life was "Pass the good deed along"According to family sources Carole was sexually molested by a relative during her childhood. She entered her first beauty contest when she was just twelve. Carole had a womanly figure and used make-up tricks to look older. She won a talent show at the Fox Theater by singing "Yes Sir That's My Baby" and dancing the Charleston. Carole started taking dance classes and performed with a group of local dancers. When she was a teenager Carole had several part-time jobs including being an usher and a waitress.

Three year old Carole                                                                                                                Carole with her grandparents

Carole with Clara, Dorothy, and Lawrence in 1926

 Seven year old Carole                                                                                  Carole (right) with Clara and Dorothy in 1932