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Look back: a city guide, a milk thief, a Cuban evacuation

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 23, 2012 6:01AM

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.

The Beacon printed a directory of several prominent businesses. The directory listed seven churches in Aurora — two Baptist, one Presbyterian, one Universalist, one Congregational, one Episcopalian and one New England. The city’s three hotels included the Aurora House and Empire House, both near LaSalle and Main; and Wilder House on River Street. There were three cemeteries in the city, including one that belonged to the Roman Catholics.

Also of note was the Chicago, Burlington & Quincy Railroad, which made two stops in Aurora, including an 11:10 p.m. train that arrived in Mendota at 1 a.m. In the other direction, the 3:45 p.m. Aurora train arrived in Chicago at 6:30 p.m., with two stops in between.

… in 1912.

A scrawny, ill-clad and sunken-eyed man was in court, charged with stealing milk from residents’ doorsteps. Henry Freitag was in court with his wife and four young children. Freitag was a laborer making $2, who could not afford milk for his family. Each morning at 4 a.m., he would grab milk from a neighbor’s doorstep, alternating houses so that no suspicion was aroused.

Freitag kept going to houses further and further away from his home, until he was caught by Detective Smith. In court, the charge of theft was reduced to disorderly conduct. He was fined $5, which was paid by his employer.

… in 1962.

Ada Russik and her children, 2-year-old Ronald and 3-year-old Mary Ellen, returned to Aurora after being evacuated from the Guantanamo Base in Cuba. Just days after the U.S. Air Force discovered evidence of Russian missile bases being built on Cuba — within range of the U.S. mainland — 2,800 wives and children were evacuated from the base. At 10 a.m., Russik received word that she would have to pack up and be ready to board a bus at 1 p.m.

Russik packed clothes, personal items and documents into three suitcases and headed for the bus. She left clothes in the washing machine when they walked out. Since leaving, Russik had received a letter from her husband, Sgt. James Russik. Meanwhile, the children said they missed their father and hoped he would come home soon.

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