Francine Yerich was born to Frank and Sophie Yerich in the small mining town Aurora, Minnesota; the elder of two sisters. Her younger sister was named Deanne. In 1941, her family moved to Cleveland, where she began to write short stories and take an interest in acting. At the age of nine, she appeared in her elementary school the Hodge School’s production of Cinderella as the stepsister Griselda, at which point she wished to become an actress. At the age of twelve, her family moved back to Aurora, where she continued performing in class plays. She wrote, produced, directed, and starred in a three-act play Keen Teens or Campus Quarantine, charging five cents admission; the whole town attended. While studying journalism and drama at Aurora High School, she worked as the feature editor of her school newspaper, and she won all of the school’s declamation contests with her dramatic readings. She was a baton twirling majorette for the school marching band and active in the 4-H club, where she won several blue ribbons for cooking in both county and state fairs.