Carole's early days were filled with heartache and dreams of stardom. She was born in the small town of Fairchild, Wisconsin on January 1, 1919. Her birth name was Frances Lillian Ridste. She was named after her German grandmother Francis Sentek. Her father Alfred Ridste was a railroad worker and her mother Clara Sentek Ridste was a housewife. Carole 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.
Lewis, Lawrence, Carole, Clara Ridste, and Dorothy Carole at age three
Articles about the Ridste family
Clara married Charles in December of 1919 but the marriage only lasted eighteen months, Then 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 often watched her while their mother worked. Carole was a beautiful child with blonde hair and blue eyes. Everyone called her "Baby Doll". According to family sources Carole was sexually molested by a relative during her childhood. Tragically in 1925 her ten year old brother Lewis died after he was accidentally shot with gun. From a young age Carole dreamed about becoming a movie star. She loved watching The Gish sisters and covered her walls with photos of Kay Francis and Mary Astor.
Lewis, Dorothy. Alfred Ridste, Carole, and Lawrence Carole (sitting) and Dorothy
An article about Lewis's death
Carole at age six Dorothy, Lawrence, and Carole
Carole with her grandparents Helen Ridste, Dorothy, Clara Ridste, and Carole
Articles about Frances "Fannie" Ridste