If Canyon Kid happened to wish you “happy birthday” oh so many years ago, you might want to say a silent prayer of thanks today.
Jim Henry, the longtime KCAU kids show host, died Thursday in Midland, Mich., leaving an illustrious history of grassroots television. Long before “Sesame Street” started counting, Jim held court every day after school.
With his vest filled with buttons (yup, it was heavy), he’d banter with the Oldtimer, show cartoons and make the pre-teen set feel like it mattered. Captain Kangaroo? Sure, he was good. But Canyon Kid was ours.
Jim loved the guise – he was a kids show host long after others abandoned the programming – and, as a pioneer, enjoyed television. Even after “Canyon Kid’s Corner” came to a close, he stayed in the business, cooking up sure-fire promotions, interviewing celebrities and serving as broadcasting’s unofficial goodwill ambassador.
That New York accent? It stubbornly refused to leave, separating him from a pack of Midwestern-bred broadcasters.
I first met Jim through the Greater Sioux City Press Club. He directed its annual Gridiron shows and was famous for complaining, “We haven’t got a show,” just days before the big performance. Sure enough, he knew how to pull it together and produce an extravaganza second to none.
Because we both trafficked in celebrities, we’d visit frequently, share notes and laugh about a world few have been able to share. Even in retirement (and, like Regis Philbin, Jim never really retired), he stayed current and wanted to know what tidbits I had to offer.
Impeccably dressed, always gracious and fun to be around, Jim could tell stories little kids shouldn’t hear but never abandoned his Canyon Kid guise whenever children were around.
When his vest was enshrined at the Hamilton Applebee’s, he was thrilled others would get a chance to see it – and marvel at the odd collection it contained. When older adults told him they were on his show, he just smiled – knowing he had touched the lives of many.
Reflect for a minute and you probably can remember him saying, “Goodbye, boys and girls.” As strange as it may seem, those words are comforting, even now.