History Well Told: Garth Milvain

1885 Street, Share your Story

In this, Fort Edmonton Park’s 40th anniversary, we find ourselves reflective. Join us for our History Well Told series and meet some dear departed interpreters of the past.

I remember ˜Uncle Garth.’

For many years during the ˜90s and early ˜00s, the cowboy camp was a fixture on the east end of 1885 Street. The cowboys (Garth, Tom, Billy, Bob, Colleen) were a group of volunteers who had offered their weekend services to ’85 for many years and animated a tent and chuckwagon camp that seemed more home than museum display.

Billy’s biscuits, Bob’s knife-throwing, Colleen’s dresses, and Tom’s ability to do just about anything loom large in my thoughts when I cast them back to my first years as an interpreter on 1885. But Garth (Uncle Garth Milvain was the sobriquet he would use from his chair) and his gregarious amiability always come to the fore.

Interpreters would gather at the camp for coffee and biscuits on weekend mornings, and Garth would always wave off gratitude in as friendly a way as possible. He rejoined that he and his crew were just so grateful for the chance to be there that this expression of baking powder and bean-juice gratitude was poor recompense.

Garth’s invitations to the public taught me a great deal as an interpreter looking for ways to engage with others. A simple ˜come on over and sit by the fire’ was delivered with such gentlemanly ease that it never failed to summon the busiest and most focused patron. They’d sit by the chuckwagon and ask a few questions, shoot the breeze in a calm and pleasant way “ perhaps backlit by the strains of Billy Biscuit’s old cowboy songs or Cousin Bob chopping some firewood.

Robert Elliott Hogarth Milvain passed away in 2009 at the age of 75. 1885 Street has never quite been the same, which is a small tribute to pay to a man who left a long shadow.


Do you remember the Cowboy Camp and ˜Uncle’ Garth? Share your stories!