‘My spice in life’

Not surprisingly, this week’s 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks theme is “Love” and today is Valentine’s Day. So it seems a perfect time to write about my maternal grandparents and a Mother’s Day long ago.

Joyce Walker and Warren Tinseth cut their wedding cake, 1952.

It was Sunday morning, 11 May 1975. I imagine my maternal grandfather, Warren Tinseth, waking up at “oh dark thirty” to start a pot of coffee. My grandmother, Joyce, loved her coffee. While the rest of the house slept, Warren held open the front door at 628 Infantry Post Road on Fort Sam Houston for Bowser to run outside to do his business. He stood on the wooden front porch, letting the screen doors shut behind him as he perused the neighborhood and made sure the dog didn’t wander too far off.

Warren took a few steps down to the sidewalk to pick up that day’s edition of the San Antonio Express-News, whistled for the dog and went back inside.

He had plenty of quiet time to read the paper. The kids wouldn’t wake for hours. On any other Sunday, he might skim the headlines on the front of each section and then start reading the one with the most interesting news.

But not this morning. Before he settled into his reading routine, there was something he had to find.

The front page screamed “CIA spy network found in U.S. firms,” but he wasn’t interested in that just yet. The top of the B section had a picture of a custom car with a bunk bed for a roof. Page 1-C had an odd mix of photos of a Silkie terrier dressed in unusual duds, a story from England about motorcycle-riding vicars, and a report from Havana about the state of Fidel Castro’s Cuban Revolution. He moved on.

Then he reached the D section. The nameplate at the top read “The Golden Twins” and underneath was the slogan “Largest classified and real estate section in South Texas for more than 100 years.” He wasn’t in the market for a house or a job. Army quarters served just fine for now and the career helicopter pilot wasn’t quite ready to retire.

He flipped past articles about new developments, floor plans for new apartment complexes, and advertisements for condos and houses touting tax credits and financing deals. Finally, on page 7, he found Category 110 of the classifieds, the Special Notices. The top left quarter of the page sported the headline “Mother’s Day Messages.” He started skimming.

Some of the little ads were as short as one line: “GAYLE I Love You Mommy! Holly.” Some were an inch tall. He quickly realized all the messages were alphabetized by the first word and his eyes skimmed for the J’s.

There it was in the middle column, sixth message down. Just as he had written it:

Mothers_Day_message_to_Joyce_from_Warren SAEN 11 May 1975

My grandfather’s Mother’s Day message to my grandmother.

“Joyce Carol Tinseth; Mother, Sweetheart, Lover, Wife. You have been my spice in life, Warren.”1

Satisfied, he took a sip of coffee and pondered his next step. Should he put the newspaper back together again and see if she’ll find it? Or should he leave this public declaration of love out for her to see?

I imagine he settled on the latter, folding the paper just so, ensuring the special section couldn’t be missed. Maybe he even took a pen and circled it, then set it in on the table in front of her usual seat.


Mother’s Day Messages in the classified section of the San Antonio Express-News, 11 May 1975.

As he went back to his routine and started reading the paper, she shuffled into the kitchen, making a beeline for the coffee pot. He played it cool, trying not to grin. She poured her cup—no cream, no sugar, always black—and made her way to the table.

“What’s this?” she asked, setting down her cup.

He stood up, wrapped his arms around her, and planted a big kiss. “Happy Mother’s Day, JC!”

“Oh, Warren!” she replied, and kissed him back.

TINSETH_Joyce and Warren Infantry Post house edit crop

Joyce and Warren Tinseth at Fort Sam Houston, mid-1970s.

Of course this is a completely fictionalized account of that morning, but imagining it makes me smile. Growing up, I never doubted my grandparents’ love for each other. They found each other as teenagers and stayed together their whole lives. The benefit of having young grandparents is I had them in mine for many years.

They didn’t leave a treasure trove of old love letters—at least not that I know of—but Grandpa said so much about their relationship in those three short lines.

I ran across this classified ad last year and wanted to write about it for their anniversary but didn’t have a chance. When doing newspaper searches, whether online, on microforms, or hard copies, we often look for obituaries, wedding announcements, birth notices, and, of course, news articles. But we shouldn’t forget that we also can find rich, personal genealogical gems in the classifieds!

Have you ever found an ancestor in a classified ad? What did you learn? I’d love to hear about it!

#52ancestors #genealogy


1. “Joyce Carol Tinseth,” Mother’s Day Messages, San Antonio Express-News (San Antonio, Texas), 11 May 1975, Newspapers.com (http://newspapers.com: accessed February 2019), page 7-D, col 3, item 6.