Column, Looking Back

A variety of house calls

Back in the 1950s and 1960s people came to our homes to provide services that are handled very differently today.
I remember when the milkman came to our house to deliver milk in a glass bottle. His name was Mr. Adams and he always arrived about the same time of day. He greeted me with a friendly “hello” on each visit.
Mothers were especially grateful for milk deliveries because the majority of them were “stay at home” moms. They didn’t have a car to use for a trip to the store because most families had only one car and the dads took it to work. Even if you could walk to the store, carrying glass bottles of milk back home was a heavy task!
Neighborhood boys and girls delivered our daily newspapers “back in the day.” They came to the house every week to collect money. It wasn’t unusual to have the same paper carrier from a very young age right through high school. The job taught responsibility and how to deal with people. Let’s face it, does a kid really want to get up on a dark cold day and deliver a paper? My guess is that I never held that job because my parents preferred a warm bed to getting me up and out for a paper route!
In my youth, everyone had garbage cans. They were usually tucked away behind the house. They were not the nice cans that you see curbside in the city these days. They were the silver, metal variety. The “garbage man” walked down the driveway and took our can back to the truck and dumped it.
Our garbage man also did odd jobs. I remember that both my parents and a neighbor hired this fellow to do some work. My mother was especially anxious for the work to be done. Our neighbor’s work was completed in a timely fashion. One week when the fellow came to get our garbage she asked him why he did our neighbor’s work and not ours. He said, “No offense, ma’am, but he feeds me.” My parents were competing with a neighbor who owned a local restaurant. That explains why we were kept waiting. But he did show up eventually!
We had a very resourceful young entrepreneur in our neighborhood by the name of Bill Perkins … the same Bill Perkins who now owns Perkins Insurance Agency. As a young boy he came to our door on one of the snowiest nights of the winter to see if he could mow our lawn in the summer. He got the job!
Another person who showed up rather frequently at our house was the TV repair man, Mr. Ransom. Back in yesteryear houses had an antenna on the roof to provide the picture. If you had particularly windy weather the antenna would get moved just enough that your picture was snowy. Mr. Ransom would get up on the roof and holler down through the chimney to ask if the picture was clear.
When I was a child back in 50s, a doctor would come to your house if you felt too sick to venture out. The same doctor treated all family members. As was the case with all of my friends, I did not have a pediatrician. The doctor arrived with his little black bag and most likely you would get a shot of penicillin in your “hindquarters” before he left. Not only did the doctor make one visit, he often made a follow-up visit to see if you were alright.
I remember being sick one summer and my father was home with me. After a couple of days, he decided that a little fresh air would do me good. He told me to stay close by. I wandered over to a friend’s house and he couldn’t find me when the doctor arrived. My mother wasn’t too happy when she heard about that. The doctor was probably not happy either!
Besides the visitors who came to our house to transact business, we also had social visitors. If you had an elderly relative, Sunday was often the day you went to chat with that person. Family members often brought their children to play with cousins on Sundays while the adults visited. Face-to-face communication seemed to have more importance back then. Social skills could be sorely lacking in the future if we rely on emails and texts as the main method of communication. My, how the world has changed!
We can never go back in time except through memories. But looking back certainly produces some fond ones for me and hopefully for you too.

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