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Look back: New soldiers, new schools, new phone systems

New poster designed by Neal Ormond IV for 175th anniversary (2012) Aurora. | AurorHistorical Society

New poster designed by Neal Ormond IV for the 175th anniversary (2012) of Aurora. | Aurora Historical Society

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Updated: November 30, 2012 11:04AM

Aurora is celebrating its 175th birthday this year. More information is available at To commemorate the anniversary, The Beacon-News is revisiting stories from 50, 100 and 150 years ago. Here’s what Aurorans were talking about this week ...

…in 1862.

A letter from an Aurora soldier stationed in Mississippi reported that troops were overjoyed to receive word that new soldiers were being drafted from the Fox Valley. The troops had been told for months that there were mass meetings taking place to rally soldiers. But no soldiers arrived.

The soldier chastised the residents who had not volunteered to serve, hiding behind their wealth. News of a draft rallied the soldier’s spirits at the Mississippi camp.

“We now begin to hope that we shall have the pleasure, before a great while, of shaking hands with some of our Northern cowardly friends in camp,” the anonymous soldier wrote. “That will just be good enough for us. We shall certainly be ready and willing to give them the grip fraternally.”

… in 1912.

Hundreds of people turned out to see the new high school on the East Side of Aurora, near the corner of Fox and Jackson streets. The building, which cost $225,000, was the largest and most expensive building in the city. It had 82 rooms — including the largest gymnasium in Kane County — and covered an entire block. Residents eagerly passed a $150,000 bond issue to construct the building, then another $75,000 bond when the first was not enough.

State Superintendent of Schools Francis G. Blair called it the finest public school building in Illinois.

“This building will stand for 100 years,” he said. “It has equipment and conveniences good for years and years, yet so fast are people progressing in the ways of education even this splendid building will be outgrown.”

… in 1962.

The telephone manager for Illinois Bell announced that Aurora customers would soon be able to dial their own calls to anywhere in the U.S. and Canada. The new Direct Distance Dialing equipment was scheduled to be installed the same day a new central telephone office opened on New York street.

Before Direct Distance Dialing, all customers had to dial the operator to make “toll calls.” After the change, customers whose phone numbers begin with TW8 or 898 would not have to dial ‘5’ before making local calls. The change was expected to affect 25,000 customers in the Aurora area.

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