The Rinky Dinks of Roberts Street

Roberts Street here in Livingston cannot claim that even one child lives on that street this day and time, but that certainly wasn’t the case in the early 1900's. That was when the Stonecipher family moved into a home built especially for their family by Mr. Burr Speck, grandfather of Mrs. Avalon (Speck) Hunter and Bland Speck, Jr. After the Stonecipher family settled into that neighborhood, their yard was a gathering place for the neighborhood children. The mother of one of the children who came to play at the Stonecipher home gave the group the name "The Rinky Dinks," and that name stuck. Hide and Seek, Leap Frog, Town Ball (when you made a home run, you were "in town"); Marbles, Antie-Over (a form of dodge ball); Cowboys and Indians were just a few of the games played by the Rinky Dinks. The girls in that neighborhood often got together to play paper dolls, but had a hard time playing with them outside on a windy day. Sometimes they would just play stick dolls and would make an entire family out of sticks. The kids in the neighborhood built playhouses and used broken dishes and other discarded items for the play meals they had. At the time the Stoneciphers moved to Roberts Street, there was an alley between the Stonecipher home and the house where J.B. and Klaryce Young lived. The Stonecipher barn was down at the end of the alley and was another place the kids would gather to play. There was a big gum tree nearby where the older kids in the neighborhood had a tree house. The steps going up to the tree house were nailed onto the tree, but were much too high for the younger kids to reach, so they played beneath the tree while the older children enjoyed the tree house. Hunting for crawdads around the nearby town branch was another thing the Rinky Dinks had fun doing.


First row: Mary Ellen Guard (her parents rented an apartment at J.B. and Klaryce Young’s home); Sammye Joyce Young; Anna Dell Looper.  Second Row: Pauline Speck (Lyda and Ray Speck’s sister); Joe Capps; Doak Capps; Bill Stonecipher;  Third Row: Ray Speck (Pauline and Lyda Speck’s brother, father of William M. (Bill) Speck); Sarah Johnnie Young; Janie Stonecipher. At the very back: Frank Looper.  The wagon belonged to Bill Stonecipher. The picture was taken around 1925 or 1926.


The home of Governor Albert H. Roberts stood at the very end of Roberts Street. If standing in the yard of Governor Roberts’ home looking down Roberts Street, the house on the right was that of Walter Boswell and wife Flossie Boswell. The Boswells had a daughter named Daisy who later grew up to marry Carl Copeland. Mrs. Mabel Mullins, a niece of the Boswells, was raised in the their home following the death of her mother, Mrs. Robert Little, when Mabel was around seven or eight years old. The Grider and Zelma (Huffines) Looper family later lived in the Boswell house. The Looper’s children were Anna Dell and Joe Bill. Two nephews also lived with the Griders, and their names were Wendell and Frank Looper. Next door to the Looper family was the home of Dan Phillips and wife Tillie Phillips, their sons, Hillard and Ward. Perry Bowmer and wife Lee Bowmer later moved into the Phillips’ home, along with their children, Gladys and Halsey. The Stonecipher home was next. John Timothy Stonecipher and wife Ida Louverna (Jones) Stonecipher were the parents of nine children whose names were Homer; Mina; Curtis; Helen; John; Walter; Marie; Janie; and Bill. J.B. Young and wife Klaryce Young, their daughters, Sarah Johnnie and Sammye Joyce was the next home, and at the end of the street was Burr Speck and wife Hettie Speck whose children were Bland and Alva Dean. The Burr Speck home was many years later moved from the corner of Roberts Street to its present day location on Henson Street, next door to the old KMA building. Directly across and on the opposite corner from where the Burr Speck residence first stood was the home occupied at one time by Mr. and Mrs. L. E. Garrett and their daughter, Sarah. Mr. Garrett once served as principal of Livingston Academy. H. P. (Pete) Howard and wife Verta Howard, their daughters, Anne and Elizabeth also lived in this home. It is believed to have been built by the father and mother-in-law of Governor Albert H. Roberts, Bailey Owen Bowden and Mary Katherine Sproul Bowden. Governor Roberts and his wife, Nora Deane Bowden Roberts, shared this home with the Bowdens right after their marriage. State Representative J.T. Lansden and wife Mamie Lansden’s home was the next one. The Lansden had one daughter, Mary Blanche. (This home was later owned by W.B. Brown and wife Ruby Brown.) Henson Street ran in between the Lansden home and the Thomas Copeland home. Thomas Copeland and wife Gerthie (Johnson) Copeland were the parents of Lerion, Marjorie, Tommy, and Frances. Dr. Doak Capps and wife Ruth (Eastland) Capps lived in the home that stood at the corner of Roberts and University streets. The Capps’ children were Doak, Joe, Betty Ann, and Bill. The home the Capps’ family lived in was originally built by Sid Harward. Sid and wife Sarah Elizabeth (Clark) Harward (known as Sally) were the parents of Pauline, and two sets of twins, Leon and Lois, and Sidney and Sarah.

University Street had three houses that still remain there today. The first house on that street was the home of Floyd Speck and wife Narcis Speck. Their children were Ira, Pauline, Ray, and Lyda. The second home was Horace Speck and wife Julia Speck. Their children were Mabel and Enloe. The Hubert Patterson and wife Pearl Patterson home was the last one of that street. Their children were Hubert, Jr. and Gloria.

The first day of May was a special holiday for the Rinky Dinks. Even though they had heard the story of the May pole, they really didn’t know what that was all about, so they invented their own way to celebrate. Instead of dancing around the May pole, the Rinky Dinks gathered any type of wildflower that was in bloom at that time, and placed a bouquet in either an old shoe box or an oatmeal box. After dark, the kids would gather with their boxes of flowers and take turns going up to each of the homes on Roberts Street. The box of flowers would be placed near the front door, the one placing the flowers would knock, but before the door could be answered, the one delivering the flowers would run and hide. When it was Janie Stonecipher Stephens’ turn to place the box of flowers on near the door of the Floyd Speck home, in her haste to get away without being seen, she leaped off the porch onto a rail fence. Luckily, she wasn’t injured, just a little shook up from the fall.


Helen Stonecipher Smith stands in the yard of the Stonecipher home on Roberts Street.  In the background, the home of Governor Albert H. Roberts and wife can be seen.  This house once stood where Governor Roberts' law office is now located.

Renting out rooms was something J.B. and Klaryce Young did even after Mr. Young died. Ms. Fannie Brown was a long time resident in the Young home. When the Rinky Dinks were playing together, the mother of one of the children in that group was the person who gave them that name. The little girl’s name was Mary Ellen Guard. She and her parents rented an apartment in the Young home. In the picture included with this story, Mary Ellen is the youngest toddler sitting in the Blue Grass wagon that belonged to Bill Stonecipher.

Roberts Street was the place children could be found roller skating and riding bicycles most summer afternoons. Sidewalks that were nice and wide, and made of concrete, were filled with children playing and have a good time. The street is quiet now compared to those days when large numbers of children gathered to play in the Stonecipher yard. Of the original homes built on Roberts Street, only four of those homes are still there. The only one that remains in the family it was originally built for is the Stonecipher home. Even though many of those who once were called the Rinky Dinks are no longer here, the happy memories of times they once shared live on in the hearts and minds of family members and friends of that group of children. One member of the Rinky Dinks, Janie (Stoneciper) Stephens, had this to say about her growing up years on Roberts Street ... "It was indeed a good life and a good time to grow up."