Ransom R. Lewis Jr. was an outstanding member of the Class of 1919. Known to his friends as “Whitey,” the Frederick, Maryland native was active in the Agricultural Club, President of the Frederick County Club, a member of Sigma Phi Sigma fraternity, and had even earned his wings as a pilot in the Navy before graduating. Yes, the future looked bright for the agricultural education major indeed.
But, according to the 1919 yearbook, Whitey had one fault his classmates would never forget. “Whenever anyone touches or tickles Whitey, he always lets forth a turkey gobbler’s gobble mixed with a jackass ‘hee-haw.’” Young Whitey was incredibly ticklish, much to the chagrin of his classmates and professors who likened his tickle-induced convulsions to a “shimmy dance.” Even worse, his tickling problem was killing his search for love. It was hard for poor Whitey to cuddle up with a lady when even the gentlest touch resulted in gales of laughter. Very unromantic indeed. But what was he to do?!
Desperate and at the end of his wits, Whitey Lewis wrote to Aunt Mae, an advice columnist who worked for the Reveille, the college’s yearbook. Lucky for us, their interesting exchange has been immortalized in the yearbook for all time:
Dear Aunt Mae:
I have great difficulty with the pretty creatures because I am ticklish. When my lady love tenderly places her biceps around me I jump from her fond embrace, and she thinks I am repellent. What shall I do?
Tickled to death, your,
Dear St. Vitus,
Your trouble is surely a serious one. You should either get a new girl with a tender touch, or wear tickle-proof pads over the parts affected.
Who was the mysterious Aunt Mae? Probably a fellow student and staff writer for the Reveille but we don’t know for sure. “Letters to Aunt Mae” was a segment in the “Wit and Humor” section of the 1919 yearbook and never appeared again in later yearbooks. Aunt Mae wrote humorous advice to dozens of shy, lovelorn, and troubled students all across campus. In all, there are twenty questions and answers that take up seven pages in the yearbook!
We don’t know if Whitey’s tickle problem was ever solved, but he did remember his time at UMD fondly enough to become a life-long supporter of his alma mater. He and his wife, Hazel, spent the rest of their lives on a dairy farm in Frederick and were highly active in the alumni association. After Whitey’s death in 1975, Hazel established a memorial fund in his name that supports Maryland athletics to this day!
All University of Maryland yearbooks are available online via the University Archives website at http://www.lib.umd.edu/univarchives/yearbooks. To see the rest of the “Letters to Aunt Mae” in the 1919 yearbook, click here: