Carole's Childhood

Carole at age eight

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 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.

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

Clara married Charles in December of 1919 but the marriage only lasted eighteen months. 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". 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 loved watching movies and bought second hand movie magazines. Carole covered her walls with photos of Kay Francis, Mary Astor, and the Gish sisters.

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

Carole and Dorothy

At the age of nine she impulsively ran onstage during a talent show and began singing "That's My Weakness Now". She starting taking dance classes and won her first beauty contest when she was just twelve. Carole had a womanly figure and used make-up tricks to look older. She attended Sturges junior high school but she hated school and often skipped classes. Carole said "I always seemed so much older than the other kids my age - they seemed like tots." She enjoyed playing sports especially baseball and volleyball. Carole even tried to start an all girl football team! 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 childhoodWhen she was a teenager Carole won a talent contest by singing "Yes Sir That's My Baby" and dancing the Charleston. Soon after she started performing with her sister Dorothy in clubs throughout California.

Dorothy, Clara, and Carole                                                                      Helen Ridste, Dorothy, Clara, and Carole in 1933

Three year old Carole                                                                                                                            Seven year old Carole

Carole with her grandparents                                                                         Dorothy, Lawrence, and Carole in 1926