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


“A Southern Gothic for the DC area. Loved it.”
- Vanity Fair

“Despite the sweetness of this family’s product, Gifford survived one of the most brutal and heartbreaking childhoods ever to be committed to the page. His ability to translate such sad memories into fine art is a mark of his resilience and testament to the strength of the human spirit..”
- Cathy Alter, author of Crush

PRELUDE

AT THE LAKE, 1979

We were ice cream people.

We ran a multi-million-dollar empire that had thrived since 1938. For generations of Washingtonians, our name was on the tip of the tongue when they thought of ice cream and candy. Presidents lined up for a scoop next to office workers and laborers. At the scarred wooden tables in the various Gifford’s parlors around the DC area, lovers held hands and children celebrated their birthdays, year after year. Come opening time, there was almost always a line at the door. On more than one occasion, when a first-shift worker failed to show and the store didn’t open on time, small mobs broke in and served themselves. Almost everyone left payment on the counter.

In the Gifford’s parlor, watching a waitress balance a tray of sundaes as she approached your table, everything must have seemed perfect. Beautiful, even. Maybe I seemed perfect, too, that boy under his mother’s wing as she swanned past the tables toward the back of the store. What a dream to be the prince of ice cream!

Except it wasn’t.

In 1979, I was five—-too young to understand much about our family business, let alone what was about to happen to it and to us. Today, I’m still not sure I understand.

Gifford’s Ice Cream and Candy Company was founded by my grandfather, John Nash Gifford. He died in 1976, leaving the business in turmoil. His wife, my grandmother Mary Frances, lay dying in a hospital bed. My father, Robert Nash Gifford, struggled for control of the empire against both his father’s last surviving partner and my maternal grandfather, Allen Currey, who maneuvered to take over in my name. In the chaos, my mother, Barbara, signed on with my dad in an elaborate plan to siphon off profits and plunder the payroll and pension accounts.

As a child, I knew none of this. My paternal grandparents were strangers to me—their history hidden, muddled, erased. From my parents I learned only that I was an accident, easily ignored. What little I thought I knew about my family was a lie, and it would take me over three decades to figure that out. The fact was, long before the public end of Gifford’s Ice Cream, my father had decided to kill it...



“We All Scream is an unflinching tell-all about how what one sees, and even tastes, is not always reality.”

Atticus Review

“What begins as a behind-the-scenes scoop on the implosion of a beloved ice cream dynasty transforms into a harrowing tale of self discovery. Gifford writes with a scathing honesty that spares no one – himself least of all. Bittersweet and brilliantly wrought.”

- Nevin Martell, food writer and author of Freak Show Without a Tent.


Praise for We All Scream

"A Southern Gothic for the DC area. Loved it.”

- Vanity Fair


“Despite the sweetness of this family’s product, Gifford survived one of the most brutal and heartbreaking childhoods ever to be committed to the page. His ability to translate such sad memories into fine art is a mark of his resilience and testament to the strength of the human spirit..”

— Cathy Alter, author of Crush


“The story Gifford tells is so much more than of the demise of an American ice cream empire. With its twists and mysteries, some unsolved to the end, it’s a riveting ride.”

— Judith Beerman, The Georgetown Dish


"“An embattled and fought-over ice cream empire gone bust, three generations of a deeply disturbed and troubled family, missing people and millions of dollars gone, and myriad unsolved mysteries. Andrew Gifford’s life is a kind of living ‘potboiler’ of a book, a riveting read. Gifford is a very gifted writer. I was mesmerized. Very highly recommended.”

- Tim Bazzett, author of Booklover