Garth was born on October 25, 1943, to Clyde Henry Bowles, a farm equipment salesman and real estate investor, and Verda Roberta Hawker, a nurse, in Riverside, California. He was the third of four children, named Clyde after his father, but always called by his middle name, Garth, meaning “keeper of the garden.” He graduated from Ramona High School in 1961, and went on his LDS Mission to Grimsby, England shortly afterward. Garth did not do well in school due to what was undoubtedly undiagnosed dyslexia; he read with difficulty and struggled with numbers. But he excelled at art and won several local competitions including first place at the Indio Art Festival in 1961.
Some elements resonated with Garth as a kid that would remain in play throughout his life. He was an accomplished builder, and he enjoyed the finer things in life. He revered Jesus Christ and sought to emulate His teachings. He loved birds, peacocks in particular. He loved gems, eventually amassing a gigantic collection and an encyclopedic knowledge of rocks and minerals. And he was gay. The path forward was not abundantly clear, and Garth struggled to find direction.