Madelyn Pugh Davis, ΚΚΓ, and “I Love Lucy”

Watching reruns of I Love Lucy is a vivid memory of my formative years growing up on Long Island in the 1960s. My sister and I could recite dialogue. Decades later, I still say I’m “dauncy” when I am in one of those not quite feeling like myself moods. I joked to someone the other day that I’d like to be introduced as the “Maharincess of Franistan.” Other references to I Love Lucy including “Ethel to Tillie, Ethel to Tillie” and the “Friends of the Friendless” pop up in Becque family conversations on a regular basis.

When I came across the book Laughing with Lucy as I was tiding up the biography section of the Friends of Carbondale Public Library book sale, I snagged it. I was elated to find out that the author, Madelyn Pugh [Martin] Davis, and her long time writing partner, Bob Carroll Jr., wrote the “I Love Lucy” episodes I so loved. And then I found out that she was a member of Kappa Kappa Gamma at Indiana University in the late 1930s and early 1940s. Davis died in 1991 at the age of 90.

Money was tight for her family when she was at Indiana University. Davis recounted her story, “In a way, this was probably also fortunate for me because I learned to scrounge around, trying to get summer jobs and scholarships for my tuition. I ran a store at the Kappa house where I bought cigarettes and candy wholesale and sold them retail. I started up a late-night snack business in my room (grilled cheese sandwiches and Cokes). This was back in the dark ages when women college students had curfews and everyone always got hungry after hours when they were studying. But I opened one night and was closed down the next because somebody pointed out that cooking in the rooms was against the fire laws.”

Davis even used a Kappa experience in one of her scripts, “The summer before my senior year, I went on a trip with four of my sorority sisters to Los Angeles. We borrowed Marge Little’s mother’s car (Marge later married Charlie Van Tassel, and their names crept into various Lucy scripts), took turns driving, and stayed in motels. Betty Jo Hanson, one of the passengers whose name also appeared in a script, reminded me recently that we each had one hundred dollars, and it had to last us four weeks. One of the motels was situated right next to the train track, and in the middle of the night a train came roaring by, and the whole room shook. When the Ricardos and Mertzes took their trip to Hollywood, they stayed in a similar motel and had the same experience, maybe just a teensy bit exaggerated.”

At the 1960 Kappa Kappa Gamma convention at the Hotel del Coronado in San Diego, Davis was honored with an outstanding alumna award. Lucille Ball attended the convention event at which Davis was honored.

Lucille Ball with honoree Madelyn Pugh Martin (right) as their plane is met by a Kappa contigent.

Lucille Ball with honoree Madelyn Pugh Martin (right) as their plane is met by a Kappa contigent.

Lucille Ball at the 1960 Kappa Kappa Gamma Convention

Lucille Ball at the 1960 Kappa Kappa Gamma Convention


Photos courtesy of Kappa Kappa Gamma.

(c) Fran Becque,, 2013. All rights reserved.

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