Cassville man helps Santa for nearly half a century

Wednesday, December 10, 2014
The Barry County Museum displays the original Santa Claus outfit looked after by Kenneth Corn, who was Santa's special helper for about 47 years. Jason Johnston

Barry County Museum displays Kenneth Corn exhibit through 2014

For nearly half a century, a local resident traveled throughout the Cassville community helping Santa Claus.

Kenneth Corn was Santa's special assistant for about 47 years, said Gary Corn, Kenneth's son. He also helped Santa Claus in the U.S. Army because he was such a big man.

"My dad would never throw candy from where he was [in the Cassville Christmas Parade] because when he [helped] Santa in the Army, he saw somebody in a float or two in front of him was throwing candy, and a little girl got ran over," Gary Corn said. "My dad always said, 'I'll never do that.'"

After the Christmas parade, his dad would hand out candy at the Barry County Courthouse or the Cassville City Hall, he said.

The son of Fred and Martha Chastain Corn, Kenneth Corn was born June 12, 1918, in Barry County. He attended Fairview High School and was a classmate of John Q. Hammons.

He went to Monett High School to play football during his senior year, Gary Corn said. Kenneth Corn then played football at the Junior College in Monett.

He served in the Army from June 24, 1941, to Oct. 31, 1945, and worked in the Special Services Division where he tore down the sound systems at USO shows, said Schrediah Mahurin, museum assistant at the Barry County Museum. After the military, Kenneth Corn worked on the scenery during movie productions in California. In 1950, he opened Kenneth Corn Commercial Art Studio in Wheaton. He married Ethlyn Duncan on Aug. 10, 1950, in Fairview. A few years later, he moved his business and family to Cassville.

Schrediah Mahurin, museum assistant at the Barry County Museum, holds up a paper mache gorilla designed by Kenneth Corn for the premiere of "Mighty Joe Young (1949)" at Glenn Hall Theatre. The museum has a Corn exhibit through 2014. "My dad was kind of multi-talented in the art field," said Gary Corn, his son. Jason Johnston

Mahurin has organized a Kenneth Corn exhibit at the museum with Gary Corn and his daughter, Desiree Corn. The public can view the exhibit, which has about 40 items, through the end of 2014.

Kenneth Corn designed billboards, signs, architecture perspectives, blueprints, election posters and portraits, Mahurin said. He began painting with 10-cent oil paints when he was 5.

Examples of the countless signs that he designed were Crowe's Dinner House, John Hancock Dinner House, Manley Courts and the Fields' Photo Logo at the museum.

In these photos at the Barry County Museum, children sit on the lap Santa Claus. In 1950, Santa's special assistant, Kenneth Corn, opened the Kenneth Corn Commercial Art Studio in Wheaton, and he moved his business to Cassville a few years later. Jason Johnston

He painted nearly 2,200 names of area World War II veterans on a wall in the Barry County Courthouse. He painted a portrait of his daughter, Gail Brown. He painted design proposals for Eagle Rock Boat Dock, Miller Holiday Hotel and Victory Baptist Church. He drew a schematic for Big M Marina boat dock. He made paper mache monsters for Glen Hall's Theatre, which included a gorilla for the premiere of "Mighty Joe Young (1949)."

His dad painted backdrops to baptistries at many area Baptist churches, Gary Corn said. He liked working on something challenging and figuring out how to make it work.

"My dad was very talkative," he said. "I think he would talk to a fence post for an hour and a half."

Gary Corn helped his dad at the studio through junior high and high school. Kenneth Corn discovered he was borderline diabetic in the early 1970s.

Gary Corn graduated from Cassville High School in 1971 and attended Missouri Southern State University in Joplin for about a year before coming back to work for his dad. He now owns the studio at 90 Main St.

Kenneth Corn died June 24, 2001, at the South Barry County Hospital in Cassville.

Mahurin said his motto was, "God owns my business, I just work here."

For more information about the Kenneth Corn exhibit, people may contact the Barry County Museum, located at 15858 Highway 76, at 417-847-1640.

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