Fat City Snowballs
The Origin of Fat City naming
Dear Mr. Ellis:
Having lived in Greater New Orleans from 1970-1984, which included stints in Harahan, Metairie, the French Quarter, Uptown, and Gretna before relocating to Tampa, I love visiting websites related to the area. Those years were among the happiest of my life. I particularly loved living Uptown and in the Quarter. Recently, I Googled "Fat City Snowballs" and was directed to a number of sites that made reference to the fact that that portion of Metairie known as Fat City was named after a defunct and nearly forgotten snowball stand that once stood in the area. I want to make my small but significant contribution to the local history by shedding light on some of the details of that snowball stand and the two brothers who owned and ran it in the early seventies.
I met Denis DeVun in the Summer of '72 when we were both beginning our senior year as sociology majors at LSUNO. We became fast friends and rented an apartment together just off campus. During that summer Denis invited me to visit and hang with he and his younger brother David at their snowball stand in Metairie. After all these years I just can't place the exact location (Hessmer, Severn?) , but I very distinctly remember driving over one evening and seeing the sign on top that said "Fat City Snowballs." I suppose this referred to what would likely happen if one should overindulge on their colorful, tasty treats. I think "Bubblegum" was my favorite. I also remember being inside the rather cramped enclosed stand with Denis and David, watching Richard Nixon and Sammy Davis, Jr. embracing on the small black and white television that was tuned to the '72 Republican Convention in Miami that they had for entertainment when business was slow.
After graduating, LSUNO became UNO in December, 1973 (I'm looking at my LSUNO B.A. in Sociology diploma as I type this). I went to work as a Group Leader at Coliseum House; a newly opened inpatient psychiatric facility on Coliseum Street, across from Touro Infirmary. Denis took a commensurate position at DePaul Hospital. Several years later Denis earned his masters and opened a private psychotherapy practice on Houma Boulevard, near East Jefferson Hospital. As I remember it, he was instrumental in contributing to the expansion and revamping of the psychiatric unit at "EJ." I had an abortive graduate school experience at UNO in Urban Planning in '77 and held several jobs during the following years; including store manager for Security Sporting Goods' third store located in the Oakwood Shopping Center in Gretna. After moving to Tampa in 1984 I subsequently earned both my masters and doctorate (over a period of years) and am now in a private psychotherapy practice of my own.
In early 1985; less than a year a year after moving to Tampa I called my dear friend Denis, who had been like my brother for over twelve years. At that time he informed me that he had been diagnosed with AIDS and had been given about a year and a half to live. In his typical stoic style (in retrospect, a defense) he informed me that he would sell his practice and select a suitable friend to adopt his beloved Doberman, Zak. He actually lived two years after that and I was notified by a mutual friend when he passed in April, 1987. All of our late night talks under the influence of various substances about religion and existential philosophy became instantly moot. My dear friend had passed over into the Great Beyond, whatever that might be.
A couple of years ago a Google search revealed that David was- and may very well still be- a radiologist at Oschner, and their youngest brother John a beloved veterinarian across the lake in Mandeville or Covington. It doesn't surprise me that both his brothers became doctors. Denis spoke about law school, and probably would have gone either that route or medical school. I would like local historians to know, however, that Denis and his brother David are truly responsible for the name "Fat City" that has for years identified a certain segment of Metairie. As I think of my old friend some twenty-three years after his death, I think he would have liked to be remembered for that, among all the other reasons those who knew him still remember him today. Maybe some day someone will erect a plaque somewhere in the heart of Fat City in recognition of Denis and John DeVun, but probably not. Either way, Rest in Peace, my friend.
Michael Trusty, PhD, NCC, LMHC