Samuel Moss, 86, host of Jewish radio show

April 19, 2004|By Jacques Kelly | Jacques Kelly,SUN STAFF

Samuel Moss, a retired home-improvement business owner who broadcast a weekly radio show filled with nostalgic reveries of old East Baltimore, Yiddish expressions and a dose of jokes, died Thursday of a heart attack at his Pikesville home. He was 86.

His AM radio program, The Sam Moss Jewish Hour of Comedy and Pride, which aired for nearly 30 years on Sunday afternoons, went off the air in June.

"He had a love of Jewish culture, accents, foods and family celebrations," said his son, Franklin Moss of Weston, Mass. "He wanted to disseminate Jewish pride. The more serious mission of his work was preserving a culture. He tapped into the ideas of courage, perseverance and fighting against the odds."

The show began in the early 1970s on WAYE, then moved to WAVA, WFBR and for 20 years was heard on WCBM. He was sponsored by appliance seller Jack Luskin and, later, auto dealer Len Stoler.

"His show was wonderfully reflective of the earlier Baltimore," said the Rev. Michael Roach, pastor of St. Bartholomew Roman Catholic Church in Manchester. "Not only did I enjoy it, but I learned so much from him. He was certainly one of the best storytellers around today. I never met him, but it felt like he was in the room with you. He was the real Baltimore. And you had the feeling he didn't take himself too seriously."

When the show was taken off the air in June, The Sun reported, "In his voice came reverberations of Borscht Belt merriment, of the joke poking fun at the face in the mirror, and of transplanted Eastern European accents that are fading with the years."

Mr. Moss' father came from Lithuania and his mother from Russia. "My mother never said a word of English that anybody could understand," he said last year. "She'd tell me, `Go to the store and pick up some important sardines.'" He regularly used some of her phrases -- such as "college cheese" -- on his shows.

Describing his show, Mr. Moss said: "It was the Jewish hour, but it wasn't about religion or God, or what time to pray on Friday night. It was about comedy and pride. My life is built on laughter, ever since I was a boy. You pick up a story here, a story there. And, always, with love and pride."

The show had several segments, including the Yiddish lesson. He created a fictitious pair of bantering friends, Brenda and Shirley, who incorporated Yiddish into their dialogue. He also had a "joke-telling room" segment and began and ended his broadcast with a joke.

Born in Baltimore and raised on Montford Avenue near Patterson Park, Mr. Moss was a City College graduate who earned a diploma at the Maryland Institute College of Art in 1938.

In 1940, he married Rose Levitt, who survives him. She helped him prepare his scripts and wrote the show's "Memory Lane" segment.

Trained as an artist, he made drawings for cans of vegetables and fruit for the old U.S. Printing and Lithography Co. in South Baltimore before serving in the Army Corps of Engineers during World War II. He was stationed in Germany.

After the war, he became an appliance salesman for Zamoiski Co. and sold numerous air conditioners in the 1950s.

"He was quite a salesman and was a good, compelling speaker," his son said. "He knew how to put across a pitch."

From the late 1950s through the 1990s he had his own business, Moss Construction in East Baltimore.

Mr. Moss attended hundreds of Baltimore Colts and Orioles games and traveled to several Super Bowls. He was present at numerous Opening Days at Oriole Park and visited the Orioles spring training at Fort Lauderdale, Fla., this season, where family members said he led a cheering section.

Mr. Moss was a member of Baltimore Hebrew Congregation.

Services were held yesterday.

In addition to his wife and son, survivors include another son, William Moss of Vero Beach, Fla.; a daughter, Ivy Ross of Chalfont, Pa.; two sisters, Evelyn Pushkin and Sylvia Hirsch, both of Baltimore; seven grandchildren; and two great-grandchildren.

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