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
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 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, Carole, and Lawrence

Carole and Dorothy

At the age of nine Carole impulsively ran onstage during a local talent show and began singing. Soon after she won her first talent contest by singing "Yes Sir That's My Baby" and dancing the Charleston. She started taking dance lessons and performed with her sister in clubs throughout California. By the time Carole was twelve she was winning beauty contests. She attended Sturges junior high school where she was a decent student but often skipped her 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".

Helen Ridste, Dorothy, Clara, and Carole

Three year old Carole                                                                                                   Eight year old Carole

Carole with her Grandparents                                                                        Dorothy, Lawrence, and Carole