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We All Scream: The Fall of the Gifford's Ice Cream Empire

3.83  ·  Rating details ·  245 ratings  ·  45 reviews
For more than 70 years, Gifford’s Ice Cream and Candy Company was associated with nothing but pleasure for native Washingtonians and visitors to the nation’s capital. But behind the iconic business’s happy facade lay elaborate schemes, a crushing bankruptcy, two million dollars of missing cash, and a tragic suicide. As the last Gifford heir unfolds his story with remarkabl ...more
Paperback, 282 pages
Published May 1st 2017 by Santa Fe Writers Project (first published February 1st 2017)
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Debbi Mack I not only ate Gifford's ice cream, but I used to serve it as a waitress and behind the counter at the Silver Spring store.

Weekends could be the most …more
I not only ate Gifford's ice cream, but I used to serve it as a waitress and behind the counter at the Silver Spring store.

Weekends could be the most hectic times to work there! :)

Before I worked at Gifford's, I worked as a waitress and fountain girl at Farrell's Ice Cream Parlour in Wheaton. For a while there, I wondered if I was doomed to a life of ice cream service! :)(less)

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Apr 24, 2017 rated it it was amazing
As a second generation DC native I had heard of Gifford's Ice Cream (although my family frequented Swenson's in Tenleytown), but wasn't familiar with the company's downfall and resurrection(s). I looked forward to reading this memoir because stories about the DC area in the 70's, 80's and '90's always draw me in. I enjoyed the local details, but the strong narrative, compelling story and disturbing personalities made this a true page-turner. While the childhood experiences and relationships desc ...more
Richard Sutton
Apr 26, 2017 rated it it was amazing
If you grew up with mean or distant parents, or have experience within the often crazy situations inside a family business... I can tell you with all confidence that you ain't seen nothin' yet. The abuse, cruelty and psychotic behavior displayed by the parents and grandparents of the author of this gritty memoir went so far beyond my own ideas of dysfunction, that it was almost physically uncomfortable to read it. The first couple of chapters were so grueling that at first, I thought the book wa ...more
Apr 16, 2017 rated it it was amazing
There's a kind of dangerous nostalgia that lurks behind all of our history: a tendency to romanticize the past by ignoring, willfully or ignorantly, all its dark corners. Gifford is the "heir" to a past steeped in nostalgia by his community, the grandson of the Gifford Ice Cream and Candy Company, a D.C. staple that has enchanted wage workers to high ranking politicians (even Jackie O) with its butterfat-high, tasty concoctions: but only he knows about its sinister past, because he survived, aga ...more
Jun 01, 2017 rated it really liked it
It's incredible to know that the author even survived the sheer insanity and trauma of his childhood. I've never heard a story quite like this one - his grandfather's family business, one that should have been a happy, feel-good place and Andrew's legacy, ends up being the haven of his deeply disturbed alcoholic father, of outrageous health code violations, of massive illegal activity, and of troubling treatment of employees. Ultimately, it all comes crashing down with the disappearance of his f ...more
Prakash Loungani
Sep 08, 2018 rated it really liked it
David Rubenstein
May 17, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Started this a second time. The first couple of chapters just seemed inauthentically vengeful...but as I re-read it, I saw the truth underlying the experience. Powerfully told, well-described, openly vulnerable, the book tells a story of inexplicable mental and emotional punishment woven through the inexplicable destruction of a successful and popular retail chain. I guess mental illness can exist in successful business people and we are lucky to witness a powerful telling of this tale. I am sor ...more
Aug 12, 2019 rated it it was amazing
The subtitle suggests that this book focuses on the failure of a landmark business. And, it does that. But this is so much more than just the tale of the demise of a local business that many, many people loved. Above all, it is a deeply personal memoir of growing up in the shadow of that business, living through its collapse, and coming to terms with what all of that meant to the author and said about his family. Andrew Gifford's story is dark and very disturbing, and to say that his childhood w ...more
Nov 24, 2018 rated it really liked it
Wow! Andrew Gifford had a childhood of hellacious terror -- and for no apparent reason. Just being able to function normally is a victory. This book was his struggle to make sense of all the things his family put him through and the insanity they perpetrated and finding more questions among the answers. This book takes place not just in my state, but in the city where I live, but it is like something from the Twilight Zone. I am studying for a Master's in Psychology and the only words that come ...more
J Layne
Dec 30, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A sad, sad saga and the little boy, now a man and the author of this book, who suffered so much at the hands of his truly insane parents and grandparents, at least seems to have weathered the storm of his childhood and seems to now have a life of some normalcy. It seems he has reached a place of peace in his life. He doesn’t say that, but he is an author and writes well in this book, and seems to have overcome at least in that way, although he will always be scarred by the strange and horrific c ...more
Caroline Bock
Sep 22, 2017 rated it it was amazing
A riveting memoir --whether you remember the iconic DMV (DC, Maryland, Virginia) ice-cream shops or not, Andrew Gifford's true tale of family deceit, lies, lies, lies, stolen money, abandonment, abuse, and mental illness will grip you. WE ALL SCREAM is worth indulging in.
We All Scream The Fall of the Gifford

It made me think of another memoir that I liked reading a lot-- Rich Cohen's SWEET AND LOW, about his dysfunctional family's iconic pink artificial sweetener business in Brooklyn.
Sweet and Low A Family Story by Rich Cohen

And it made me think of my Pop's small im
Don Lee
Jul 10, 2017 rated it really liked it
I read the book on my Kindle while riding on the Metro. I also had a chance to meet Andrew a few weeks ago right before he gave an official book reading. We had a good conversation, and he shared me some additional thoughts about his book and the reaction from readers and the few relatives he has left.

There were times that his story was so difficult and sad to read, I actually had to stop reading and put my Kindle down before moving forward with the book.

While I'm a native Washingtonian, I never
Sarah C.
Mar 24, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Andrew Gifford's We All Scream is a riveting portrayal of the real life family behind Gifford's Ice Cream. From the opening story on the lake which depicts Gifford's parents sadistically frightening him for their own amusement, we learn what it's like to grow up within the scope of a massive distortion where daily living is subject to random abuses and an overall disconnection from reality. The book becomes even more interesting when Gifford introduces his personal battle with chronic pain and a ...more
Rosemary Hazard
May 23, 2019 rated it liked it
Shelves: biographies
This is a well written book but I just can't give it higher than 3 stars, I like it. Why? Because it is a tremendously sad book, how a young man's entire life was defined by mentally ill, abusive people all around him while carrying a name that is revered in the Washington, DC area. Mr. Gifford gives such detail to his tormented upbringing that you just get depressed reading about it. He had no one to save him from these people. His family's ice cream stores really did have a place of honor in m ...more
Heart wrenching tale of a twisted family who pissed away their wealth at the hands of mental illness, greed and addiction. At the brunt of it all is an innocent, sweet, smart, curious little boy. It was a good, well written book but the take away for me is that this little boy grew up to be a great man. A great man who persevered through the abuse and endless challenges he faced through youth and young adulthood. I wish Andrew the best and hope he has a long life full of love and happiness. You ...more
Catherine C.
Sep 11, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: child-abuse
Absolutely stunning! Struck home even more, I suppose because yes, my father took us to Gifford's on Lee Highway in Arlington, VA for my high school senior graduation. Who would have guessed what darkness existed in this business, with two wildly dysfunctional parents and one traumatized, terrified, terrorized little boy. Things are definitely not as they appear! Don't want to give any spoilers away here but if you're from the metro D.C. area, this book will be of special interest to you. This b ...more
Jul 07, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Disclaimer: I know the author of this book. That being said, I found it to be the most engaging book I've read in the last 3-5 years. I started at 1030 in the morning and couldn't put it down (except when I had to) until I finished at 3am. Part memoir part true crime investigative journalism - it's kind of a category all its own. Truthfully, if I didn't know it was true I would find it all difficult to believe. I couldn't invent a more wild story if I tried. 5/5 stars I will be reccomending this ...more
James Voorhees
Jul 20, 2019 rated it it was amazing
This is the shocking, compelling memoir of the heir to a Washington, DC, area institution. People still remember Gifford's fondly. I do.

But Andrew Gifford tells a story of madness, badness, fantasy, and theft. Andrew's father was the son of the founder, He chose to dismantle the empire and disappear. His mother was mad, in both senses of the term. He flinches as he tells his own story, which is troubling.

But he tells it with forthright honesty. At least it appears so. And he unravels many of the
Becky Knapp
Feb 20, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I was fascinated

I was fascinated by the abuse one child could endure and still seem well adjusted enough to tell his story. As a child of abuse I don't if I have the fortitude to do the book. In its own way it is his way of dealing with the PTSD he lives with. I am envious of his strenght.
Mary Kay
Dec 28, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Excellent memoir about a boyhood idealized by others. Gifford writes of his "wonkavisioned" abusive childhood from a distance that still seems personal, despite its post-apocalyptic mood. Conspiracies are indulged and discredited, all in hopes for some semblance of answers. To say I "enjoyed" this book isn't quite right--how can one "enjoy" hearing of another's torment? But I was, definitely, enthralled until its very end.
Jon Gann
Jun 04, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
"Willy Wonka" meets "Mommie Dearest" in a heartfelt, insightful and riveting tale of a Washington icon -- and the emotional and financial damage created in the wake of a family dynasty run amok. I couldn't put it down -- a must-read for all Washingtonians.
Shelley Stout
Feb 04, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Five stars for Andrew Gifford’s memoir about his search for the truth. Having grown up in the D.C. area, our family and friends often visited one of the nearby Gifford’s locations. While enjoying a dish of delicious ice cream, we had no idea what sort of horrors and deceptive practices were taking place out of sight in the kitchen, the factory, or the offices. The author takes us places we don’t want to go, but like a bowl of French Vanilla with chocolate sauce, you dig in until it’s done.
Lynn Clarke
Mar 05, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Almost hated to read it as this was where we went when I was a kid for special treats, the one in Silver Spring and Mr. Curry was a teacher at my high school and never very friendly then. So sad the state of affairs of the family and what the author went thru
Suzanne Spicer
Jul 01, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Great Memoir

Well researched. If you are a native to D.C. Of the 70s you will like the nostalgia. But the story is scary and the fact that the author came out of it without severe mental illness is a testament to his intelligence. I wish him much happiness from here on out. He deserves nothing less
Jan 15, 2020 rated it really liked it
I definitely got caught up in reading about this haunting story. Gifford’s perspective and resilience in light of experiencing generations of mental illness and pain is powerful.
Mar 18, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Fascinating and horrifying, We All Scream is a well-crafted memoir that attempts to peel away the layers of a troubled family mired in decades of abuse, disappointment, and scandal. It is a son's attempt to understand and reconstruct his parents, coming to the realization that, as with life, sometimes there are no answers. The book is at times a detective story, a coming-of-age tale, a personal memoir, and a therapeutic rage at fate. I will never eat ice cream at an ice cream parlor again withou ...more
Gwen Elizabeth
Sep 05, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Wow - compelling!

I read this in one sitting. It reminded me of The Secret History - but real. It had that cool observation of mental illness and secrets being revealed. My heart goes out to the author. He’s definitely one of the strongest people I’ve ever read about.
Daniel Ford
Mar 17, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Riveting and harrowing. A triumphant story of perseverance that ultimately ends with more questions asked than answered, it will keep you turning every page, considering every possibility, and wondering just which versions of the family's many narratives might be true.

Feb 22, 2019 rated it really liked it
Good Lord, what a weird story! I became familiar with Gifford's fairly recently, when Nats stadium opened up ~a decade ago, so it was nuts to get the history. Freaking bananas. Andrew tells a great DC story that's both heartbreaking and maddening at the same time.
Jul 23, 2018 rated it really liked it
Well written and engaging! As with many others I was drawn to this story having experienced Gifford ice cream myself -- peppermint stick, always my favorite, loved going with my family to their Bethesda store, within walking distance of our house. It turns out that after our family moved from Bethesda to Kensington, I only thought I was farther away from Giffords. In reality, we were so much closer, probably just a mile or so away from the West Bexhill house where so much of this nightmare playe ...more
Jan 15, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I never heard of Gifford's ice cream. Being from the Pittsburgh area, Isley's was the ice cream king. Those ice cream shops are also no longer in existence, but I remember going there as a kid and getting their sky scraper cone. So I gave this book a try and found it to be very a very good read. The entire family on both sides were so messed up, we call it mental illness today. They were very dysfunctional, as many families are. It seems like when ever there is a great deal of money involved, pe ...more
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Born and raised in Washington, D.C., Andrew Gifford is the founder and director of the Santa Fe Writers Project, an indie press dedicated to craft writing. He is the grandson of the founder of Gifford’s Ice Cream.

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