Park Warden Alumni Society of Alberta Thank you to the Whyte Museum of the Canadian Rockies for granting permission to the Park Warden Service Alumni to post this interview on our website
Oral History Project – Winter 2013
Telephone Interview with Lou Comin
Interview conducted by Christine Crilley-Everts
April 8, 2013
Lou and Cheryl Comin – 2002 in Canyon British Columbia
Place and Date of Birth: Lou was born in 1947 in Blairmore, Alberta.
Occupations: Spending time in the outdoors with his dad and working for an outfitter in the mountains started Lou on his path to the warden service. After completing Forestry School, Lou spent two seasons with the Alberta Forest Service. Then in 1973, he was hired on in Jasper as a seasonal warden. After getting a permanent position as a district warden, the Comin family moved to Riding Mountain National Park where they stayed for three years at the Vermillion River warden station, 30 miles from Dauphin, Manitoba. They then headed north to Nahanni where Lou worked as the Chief Park Warden for six years. They returned to Riding Mountain a second time, where Lou served as the area manager in the Wasagaming townsite. Lou then worked briefly at Grasslands before it became a national park. His last 12 years with Parks were spent working as the Chief Park Warden in Wood Buffalo. Lou retired in 2002 and received a Governor General’s award for his contributions to public service.
Additional Information: Lou and his wife Cheryl both speak fondly of the comradeship within the warden service. In 1985, Cheryl wrote in Ann Dixon’s book, Silent Partners – Wives of National Park Wardens, “All in all we really enjoyed the lifestyle, and a really close family life. The comradeship of other wardens, teachers and natives and the outdoor experience will be hard beat.” (Dixon, Ann. Silent Partners: Wives of National Park Wardens (Pincher Creek: Dixon and Dixon Publishers, 1985) 140) For Lou the job was also an opportunity to truly make a difference. For him it was a great organization, whose success was due in part to the recruitment of like minded individuals, as well as, the support it received from other departments, such as public works. In Cheryl’s words, “We’ve had just a great time with Parks. We’ve lived in the greatest places and met the greatest people, it was really, really good. It couldn’t have been better!”
(0:39) I was born in the Crowsnest Pass, in Blairmore, Alberta…in 1947. (In response to the question, “What is your place and date of birth?”)
(1:01) My dad was a coal miner so we stayed there until the mine shut down. (In response to the question, “Did you grow up in the Crowsnest?”) Then we moved to Canmore…in grade seven and then I went to high school there. I finished school there and then I worked at the mine for a few years and then I went to forestry school.
(1:47) Cheryl. (In response to the question, “I should ask what your wife’s name is?”) Yeah, we actually met in grade seven when I moved there. (In response to the question, “Did you and Cheryl meet in Canmore?”) Then we went together and got married. DePencier. (In response to the question, “What was her maiden name?”) Her dad ran the Legion in Canmore. Your dad was Keith eh? Keith probably knew Ted…He was also a bartender at the Cascade in Banff.
(2:40) You know, actually it probably started in the Pass. (In response to the questions, “Was it growing up in Canmore that made you interested in the warden service? Or how did you get involved in it?”) My dad and I spent a lot of time out fishing and doing stuff like that. Then in Canmore, I think in grade nine or ten, I had a lot of interest in horses and I ended up working for a horse outfitter up in Marvel Lake. Floyd Smith. (In response to the question, “Who was the outfitter?”) I worked for him for a couple of summers. The warden at the time, at Bryant Creek was Ed Stewart. We got to know him and I just thought he had the greatest job on earth! All he had was this district he rode around in and he looked good riding his horse. All decked out in his uniform with the Stetson hat and all, leading his pack horse. So that was what set me onto that kind of a course. Later on you find other reasons for being a warden, but that was the main one. Yeah, I went one year in Edmonton and one year in Hinton. (In response to the question, “Did you go to the forestry school in Hinton?”) Then I got a job after forestry school. There were a lot of jobs at the time, but I didn’t get any jobs with Parks. I ended up working for the forest service, the Alberta Forest Service for a couple of years until I was successful in a seasonal warden competition. My dad thought I was crazy, I had a nice house and a fulltime job…and I left for a seasonal job in Jasper. Cheryl and I were married and we moved into an old construction trailer at Pocahontas. We were at Pocahontas from April to December of 1973. I was based kind of in central, northern Alberta, out on a station called Salt Prairie. (In response to the question, “Where did you live with Alberta Forestry? Where were you based out of?”) That was north of High Prairie. I was stationed there and then they moved me down to a place south of Grand Prairie, called South Wapiti, another district. In a way yeah, because you are quite independent out there. (In response to the question, “Was it sort of similar to having a warden district?”) Out in South Wapiti especially we did a lot of cruising and we did it with pack horses and a tent camp…It was kind of good. I think so, yeah… (In response to the question, “Do you think that experience helped you get on seasonally in Jasper?’)
(7:06) I think I started in Jasper in about 1973… (In response to the question, “What year did you start in Jasper?”)
(7:26) Oh yeah! (In response to the question, “Did Cheryl enjoy the outdoor life?”) She liked it, she came out on trips with us. She was a nurse, a registered nurse, she still is. When we were in Jasper she drove from Pocahontas all the way into town to work.
(7:49) Yeah, we have two boys. (In response to the question, “Do you have any children?”) One, Wade, the oldest boy is an environmental enforcement officer for Environment Canada. And my other son Ryan is a heavy equipment operator. Wade is in Whitehorse and Ryan is actually down here in Creston right now. (In response to the question, “Are they in BC?”) He’s got his own place, 20 odd acres. Wade has two boys, Kole and Kaine, 13 and 15, and Ryan has a boy, Darien who is 11. (In response to the question, “Do you have any grandchildren?”)
Cheryl, grandson Darien and Lou