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Oral Histories

The SFA oral history program documents life stories from the American South. Collecting these stories, we honor the people whose labor defines the region. If you would like to contribute to SFA’s oral history collections, please send your ideas for oral history along with your CV or Resume and a portfolio of prior oral history work to

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Steven Bel

Sal’s Sno-Balls

Steven Bel was eight years old when he started working at Sal’s Sno-Balls, the neighborhood stand that “Mr. Sal” Talluto opened half a block from Steven’s family home in 1959. Steven met his future wife, Gretchen, there when they were both just eleven. By the time he was seventeen, he had started his own ice-delivery business with Sal’s as one of his clients. At twenty-five, he bought the place. Until recently, Steven worked full-time for Continental Airlines as well as running Sal’s. His sno-ball business increased so drastically after Hurricane Katrina in 2005, however, that he retired from the airline and devoted all of his energies to Sal’s. Steven has several theories for the post-Katrina spike in sno-ball sales. Whatever the reason, he and his employees shave roughly 1,000 pounds of ice daily during sno-ball season (March through October). He drives thirty miles round trip every other day to fetch the ice in 300-pound blocks from Cristina Ice Service in Marrero because, he says, Cristina’s ice is softer than other commercially available ice. And when passed through a New Orleans-style ice-shaving machine, soft ice produces the lightest—and most readily packed—sno. Steven still uses some of Mr. Sal’s original syrup recipes. Flavors like Joker, Sock-It-To-Me, and Crème de Menthe are relics from his era.

Date of interview:

Sara Roahen

Sara Roahen

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The Southern Foodways Alliance drives a more progressive future by leading conversations that challenge existing constructs, shape perspectives, and foster meaningful discussions. We reconsider the past with research, scrutiny, and documentation.


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