Jim Henry

Jim Henry, as the Canyon Kid, was host of "Kids Corner" in Sioux City, one of the longest running children's shows in U.S. television history.

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SIOUX CITY | Long before there was a "Sesame Street," "Canyon Kids Corner" was a neighborhood that generations of Siouxland children wanted to visit.

And holding court in this televised playground was a diminutive man with a weird accent and a penchant for badges pinned to his vest.

Between 1953 and 1985, Jim Henry, the titular star of KCAU-TV's "Canyon Kids Corner," estimated he played host to approximately 70,000 children on a show that still is considered one of the longest running programs of its kind in U.S. television history.

Following a 32-year run at KCAU, Henry moved to KTIV-TV, where he became host of the station's "Around Siouxland" from 1989 to 2006, before retiring after a 53-year career in front of the camera.

Which is surprising since the only child of Florence and James "Al" Henry couldn't even land a role in a school play in his native Brooklyn, N.Y.

Instead, Henry's flair for entertainment came from his grandfather, Hi Henry, who dazzled audiences by flying hot air balloons, doing a trapeze act while suspended, before parachuting safely to the ground.

Henry enlisted in the U.S. Army Air Corps following his high school graduation. As World War II raged, he trained in bombardier school in Carlsbad, N.M., then came to Sioux City, home to the Sioux City Army Air Base, now called the Iowa Air National Guard 185th Air Refueling Wing.

Following his war stint, Henry returned to New York before landing a job with Weatherwax's, a men's clothing store in Sioux City. Looking for a more creative outlet, he helped found the Sioux City Community Theatre, starring in its first production in 1948.

Honing his performance panache, Henry soon answered a call from KVTV, the forerunner of KCAU, who was looking for a children's show host.

Noting that such stars as Hopalong Cassidy and Roy Rogers were the rage in the early days of TV, station execs went wild for Henry's cowboy-inspired Canyon Kid.

Five days a week, Henry (along with puppet co-stars Sam the Snake and The Old Timer) entertained a television audience as well as some lucky in-studio guests, which included his future wife Karen Henry, who won a half-gallon of ice cream for submitting on "Canyon Kids Corner" when she was 12 years old.

Henry, 89, died Jan. 30, surrounded by family members at an assisted living facility in Midland, Mich.

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Food and Lifestyles reporter

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