A friend called a few days ago because her computer was on the fritz and she needed help in a hurry. I told her about our guy who, not only fixes computers, but makes house calls. “House calls,” she said, astounded, “I thought there was no such thing anymore.”

Then we got to thinking about the house calls in days of yore.

When John Kennedy was assassinated, our television came down with some horrible condition which left us with sound, but no picture during the biggest news story of our lives. This was akin to water torture to two news junkies like our selves. But, being the times, even though it was a Saturday, the TV repairman was knocking at our front door within the hour. He was able to resuscitate the creature so that we would be able to park on the couch for three days to watch the saddest story ever told unfurl.

In those days, when you got sick, the doctor came to the house. I remember getting measles diagnosed at home and the doctor nailing up a bright red quarantine sign on our front door.

Years later when my dad had a massive heart attack, the doctor drove out to our house in a snowstorm and slept on the couch during the night in case there was a turn for the worse. And there wasn’t.

My grandfather, an old time country doctor had tales to tell of trips through blizzards (it was always snowing in those days) to bring care to the rural sick. In later years he specialized in dermatology, one of the reasons being, he said, there were no house calls involved.

Remember when the milkman came to the house? There were always tempting non-essential items in his truck, such as ice cream, or the more exotic, fresh orange juice.

In Germany we had a beer delivery guy; he took away the empties and left a corresponding number of replacements.

The laundry man scooped up our piles of dirty shirts which he would return a few days later, perfectly washed, lightly starched, and folded over a great piece of cardboard that could be used for any number of things. That was at 50 cents a shirt. We used to have a laundry man named Vinny who dispensed recipes, gossip and medical advice as he stopped by every Monday and Thursday. That was before permanent press.

There was the Fuller Brush man who could guilt trip the hardest of hearts into buying a new hair brush, even though the ones he had sold years before had fulfilled their promise of lasting forever.

There was even a potato chip man.

Someone came to the house to fix the washing machine. Washing machine repair always involved some kind of crisis and a lot of money. Today, people usually buy new ones rather than try to get some one out to repair them.

So who makes house calls these days? Well, there’s always those two guys that attend to our plumbing and electrical wiring. Last summer, after lightning knocked out our water pump just as a gaggle of grandchildren arrived for a week, our plumber arrived with his own two teenage kids to help dig a trench in the pouring, and I mean pouring, rain. They got the new pump in and the wonderful sound of toilets flushing once again filled the air. Our electric guy tends to our ancient wiring and we all sleep better at night, thanks to him.

The disappearance of house calls in general is just another example of one of the changes in our lives that sneaked in when no one was looking.