For those who made the trip to watch the broadcast, the show was one of the best entertainment values in the Hill Country: two hours of free music and stories. While the studio audience sat on hay bales and munched on barbecue and homemade pie, Doc Toler kept the lively, old-fashioned radio program moving through an hour of warm-up and an hour of live broadcast on KFAN (910 AM,107.9 FM) out of Fredericksburg.
Doug Cornwell, wholesale sales director at New Canaan Farms, says although everyone enjoyed doing the weekly radio shows, it took a lot of time, as well as a large part of the company's advertising budget.
New Canaan Farms began in 1980 when Tim Tingle, his wife Cathy, and friend Dr. Joe Moore took the Tingle's $400 rent check and invested in ingredients for the jams and jellies. An uncle convinced them to try their luck at the Wimberley Market Days after friends had testified to how good the jellies were. Dressed in 1930s clothes and handing out free samples, the first batch of jelly sold out by the end of the weekend.
By 1984, Tim was able to quit his day job and work at the jelly factory full-time. Nine years later, he opened the factory, warehouse, and showroom on US290 west of Dripping Springs. New Canaan Farms' product line now includes 40 different items, from jams to peach salsas. Their brand is available in upscale markets or by mail order.
The Jam Hour was one of the signs of the business' success. Whether held under the green-and-white striped tent in a grove of oak trees in front of the tin warehouse and showroom, or on the loading dock in back during cold weather, the radio show always seemed to attract a sizeable and lively studio audience.
The radio program featured occasional guest Tim Tingle in his 1930s costume with red suspenders, singing a song or telling a story. The host, Doc Toler, spun Prairie Home Companion-style stories and commercials for his fictional brand of elixirs. The band Toler formed with his wife and two daughters - Doc Toler & the Sugar Pills - was the musical foundation of the show, playing country, bluegrass, and folk tunes.
The program also provided a large audience for journeyman entertainers. Most of them visited from Austin or San Antonio, but many came from far and wide for a chance to play on New Canaan Farms' Jam Hour and receive payment in the form of two jars of jelly.
New Canaan Farms officials say they would like to produce special live radio programs in the future like the finale that was held in June, possibly this fall; meanwhile, Doc Toler & the Sugar Pills spend most of their time on the road playing county fairs. Officials from KFAN say they miss the weekly show, but still play a lot of Texas artists.
New Canaan Farms' gift shop is seven miles west of Dripping Springs on US290 and is open Mon-Sat, 8:30am-6pm, and Sun, noon-5pm. Give them a call at 800/727-5267 for details on the next Jam Hour.
Doc Toler & the Sugar Pills will have Tim Tingle as their special
guest at the Pioneer Town Opry House in Wimberley at 8pm,
Sept. 2. 512/847-2517.
The Oatmeal Festival put the town of Oatmeal on the map but, alas, it became a ghost town and the music, food, and entertainment moved to Bertram. Sept. 1-2. 512/355-2197.
Fiesta San Jose in Georgetown's San Gabriel Park celebrates Dieciseis de Septiembre early with food, music, and cultural activities, Sept. 2-3. 512/863-6302.
Westfest in West, Texas, fills the town on
I-35 north of Waco with Polka music, kolaches, and lots of fun, Sept. 2-3. 817/826-5058.
Hummer/Bird Celebration in the Rockport/Fulton area provides opportunities to watch hummingbirds and other migratory birds along the Gulf Coast. Also, the state Coastal Birding Trail from Freeport to Kingsville will be dedicated, Sept. 7-10. 800/242-0071.
Harley-Davidson Celebration in Big Spring salutes the state's oldest Harley shop with music, displays, and cycling events. Sept .8-9. 915/263-4003.
- Gerald E. McLeod