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Editor in Chief- Mick Florin
Secondary Editor- Dominic Florin
Library of Congress
Control Number: 2009942049
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Table Of Contents
Introduction to an Era
Chapter 1- Atlantic Crossing
Chapter 2- Ellis Island
Chapter 3- Heading West- Day 1
Chapter 4- Day 2
Chapter 5- Day 3
Chapter 6- Finally Home
Chapter 7- Meeting A City
Chapter 8- First Snow
Chapter 9- 1913
Chapter 10- A New Home- 1914
Chapter 11- Christmas
Chapter 12- Spring 1915
Chapter 13- Early Spring
Chapter 14- 1916-1918
Introduction to an Era
Preceding the Year
The Progressive Era began in 1895 and was a time of unrest and reform. A vast number of new inventions came onto the market and many were so convenient, people wondered how they ever lived without them in the past. The greatest invention during this time period was the harnessing of electricity. Industries throughout the nation surged forth with this new form of available power. Electric light bulbs began lighting streets and homes, as new electric trolleys foretold the death of the old horse-drawn streetcars.
New porcelain, flush toilets (at first referred to as flushing water closets) were usually installed in a separate room, outside the main house. It was not clear whether germs from these contraptions could cause life threatening diseases or not, but people didn’t want to take any chances by bringing the ceramic device inside where they lived. These indoor niceties caught on quickly as word spread that you weren’t living in the modern age if you didn’t have a “flush toilet”.
Airplanes were new on the scene shortly after the Wright Brothers flew their first powered air flight in December, 1903 and would help unite the country like no other force could. Yet, it would still be several years away before the plane’s massive potential would be fully realized.
Oreo cookies and peppermint lifesaver candies were the new snack sensations on the market, enticing both children and adults alike to partake. Candy Corn, Tootsie Rolls, Pepsi soft drinks, Wrigley Chewing Gums, Neccos and Hershey Kisses were also recently introduced to the world around the turn of the century.
With the advancement of the gasoline automobile in 1903 and the Good Roads movement that swept the nation, rickety old dirt roads were only now beginning to be leveled and oiled, a welcome change from the deep trenches and uneven ruts that everyone once accepted as sufficient. No longer would the major streets be filled with ankle deep mud during the icy winters and the wet spring months. Only 873 cars roamed the streets of Utah in 1909 and to prevent dust, the major streets of the city were watered down on hot summer days.
The Western Pacific Railroad added a new route around the south end of the Great Salt Lake in 1909, out through the western deserts of Utah and Nevada and finally onto San Francisco, making traveling to the west coast faster, cheaper and easier.
A brand new telephone company by the name of Mountain Bell opened in Salt Lake, as everyone wondered how practical this twenty year old gadget actually was. Imagine, talking to someone a hundred miles away, sounding as if they were standing in the next room. It seemed outrageous to some people.
Sewer system connections began replacing septic tanks and cesspools at a surprising rate, especially throughout the newer, more expensive neighborhoods in the valley. The sewage waste was channeled downhill to the Jordan River where it was allowed to flow freely into the cold running water, eventually winding its way out into the Great Salt Lake. “Dilution” was the acceptable method for dealing with this unavoidable nuisance at this time throughout the world. It was widely believed the substance would disperse and break down by its own natural means. It wasn’t until the late 1950s that Salt Lake finally admitted the city had outgrown the archaic practice and implemented “water treatment plants” to remove the heavy sludge matter before merging it back with the river water.
On windless days, thick black blankets of pollution suffocated the Salt Lake Valley, mainly due to three conditions. The first was the raw black coal and coke people used as heating fuel, second was the giant smelting industry located in the mountains on the western edge of the city and third was the location of where the city was situated, in the bottom of a bowl shaped valley. The valley acted like a container for the pollutants to fester in and when a high pressure system sat over the city, it would cap it like a lid on a pot, holding the pollutants down for the people to breathe. Many days were so polluted that the nearby mountain ranges would be entirely hidden from view.
A curious gas was discovered shortly after the first settlers arrived in the valley along the eastern edges of the Great Salt Lake and in 1872 “Salt Lake City Gas Works Company” began lighting the streets of Salt Lake. Twenty three years later in March, 1895, the “American Natural Gas Company” successfully delivered gas as a heating supplement into the heart of the city and Salt Lake became the first city west of Indiana to begin using the fuel for heat, a new ‘cleaner burning’ fuel. However, the majority of the homes would still burn coal until 1929, when natural gas from Wyoming was piped in.
Utah received statehood in 1896 and the towns and cities within its borders were growing larger every day. Polygamy, a doctrine many Utahans thought to be divine, had been abolished as a condition of the federal government’s acceptance of the territory into statehood, leaving long time Mormon believers and their multiple wives, scrambling for new identities. Many families pretended to obey the new federal restrictions, which were restated in the church’s “Manifesto”, while secretly living out their lives with each other in a different manner. Although Utah officials denounced the practice, they took no action to prevent it.
Salt Lake City (the ‘Great’ had been dropped from the front of its name back in 1868) boasted being the center of industry in Utah, as it held half of the state’s factories. “Cheap” labor needs soon exceeded the local citizenry, so businesses sought outsiders (locals referred to them as gentiles or non-Mormons) to do the work. Great Britain, Ireland, Scandinavia, Italy, Greece and the Slavic nations all contributed to this labor force. During the first ten years of the new century, nearly 4200 Italians came into Utah to “make their fortunes”. Some worked in the surrounding mines up one of the canyons east of Salt Lake or further east into Park City, but many more traveled south to the multiple mining towns around Price and Eureka.
Most immigrants in Utah worked in the mines and for the railroads, manufacturing parts, loading or unloading supplies and repairing rail lines, among other tasks. Almost any job was acceptable by these hard working immigrants that were just trying to get ahead. As with other immigrant groups of previous eras, working conditions were perilous and the work, back breaking. They worked long hours for little pay and no benefits, which was the very reason why so many working Americans detested their arrival. With so much cheap foreign labor coming into the country, it was highly unrealistic for local laborers to ask for higher wages or try to improve their own working conditions. This was exactly the reason large businesses enticed the foreigners to come to America in the first place.
Although the original settlers in Utah weren’t thrilled that so many outsiders were converging upon their state, they could not legally or physically keep them out. They could however, keep them in their place. They boycotted all businesses owned by these outsiders and patronized their own institutional store, the Zion’s Cooperative Mercantile Institute, most commonly called by its initials ZCMI. In the beginning, they wouldn’t sell to, buy from, or converse with, any outside influence unless it was absolutely necessary. They wouldn’t treat newcomers in their hospitals or teach their children in their schools.
Eventually, several independent schools and hospitals emerged. In 1867, St. Mark’s Day School, Roland Hall and St. Mark’s Hospital came into being. In 1871, St. Mark’s Cathedral was built. Other religions built their own schools, churches and synagogues, offering newcomers additional places to worship and learn. The Catholic Holy Cross Hospital was opened in 1875 and served by the Sisters of the Holy Cross. Then in 1890, a law was passed that made public schools free, open to everyone and wholly supported by the tax base.
Most immigrants that came to America intended on staying only a limited number of years. They planned to work hard, stash some money away and return to their homeland, finally being able to afford some farmland or perhaps start a business of their own. Over a third of all immigrants who entered into America left within a few years, either because they had accomplished what they had intended to do or they discovered that America was just as brutal as their own homeland and they couldn’t excel here any better than they could at home. Others discovered that conditions here were worse for them than they had been back home and they never intended on enslaving themselves in this faraway land.
And yet… others stayed. Some were intrigued by the free public education that was offered to their children, while others found they could etch out a decent living here in this new country, often with friends and other family members settling close by.
This is a story of one such woman traveling almost half way around the world, crossing thousands of miles of ocean and land, finally finding her place along with millions of others. This is an American story about what life was like in the early 1900s. The events are based on the true life experiences of an Italian immigrant named Annie Bondi, how she found her way into Utah in 1912 and what it was like living in a strange new land, far away from everything that was familiar to her.
Annie, opened her eyes as she lay quietly on the soft mattress. Her daughter’s house seemed very quiet, a rare occurrence in this particular home. The rest of the family was out for the evening, attending an annual talent show at the local Highland High School. Her 20 year old grandson, Mickey, was competing with his drum solo and had been very excited when he packed up his instrument into the family truck a few hours earlier.
She remembered back when she was once that excited. When every day was a new experience, a new adventure. Annie smiled and her thoughts turned to the season. Easter was coming, or had just passed… she didn’t know which. Her daughter, Angel, would lie to her whenever she asked about the date. Even her grandchildren would avoid talking about it with her.
The reason she needed to know, was that her beloved husband who died six years earlier on Good Friday, made it a point to visit her on that anniversary. The first time he came to her he surprised her… startled her really… almost scared her. But as the years went by, she looked forward to his yearly visits. Perhaps one of these years, he might even take her with him.
Every Easter since his passing, Annie would become quite ill, her countenance weakened by the memories of the many losses in her life. Annie was growing tired of the game, she was almost ready to die. She thought, in order to die, all she had to do was to stop living. Even now, she could feel the room was filled with spirits from the other side, loved ones surrounding her bed. Their presence offered her comfort and not concern. They visited whenever she was alone, whether at her own home or here at her daughter’s. They seemed to know where they could find her. Annie could not see them, nor did she hear their voices, yet she felt their love all around her.
The last little while, she had the strange feeling her dead husband might be looking for her. In dreams, she would see him at a distance, searching through rooms and glancing around doorways, looking for someone… looking for her. She tried to attract his attention, but could not.
Suddenly Annie jerked, as a flash of lights out the window to her right and the sound of a truck’s engine pulling into the driveway, caught her attention. She pulled herself into a sitting position and tugged the bed covers up under her chin. Reaching to the nightstand, she took the glass and sipped the last of the cool water, licking her lips dry.
Talking streamed in from the back of the house as excitement permeated the tone. The back door slammed and footsteps could be heard in the back entry.
She waited to see if anyone would check on her.
A second later, young Mickey stuck his head into the dimly lit bedroom and grinned, seeing his grandmother awake. “I won,” he whispered, as he walked into the room and held up a two foot tall blue trophy. Approaching the bed, he held out the magnificent prize. “I took ‘Best of Show’.” He literally beamed with pride. He then held up a bright red sock with a smiling character face stitched onto it. “At the end of my performance, I kicked off my shoe and wiggled my foot. I was wearing this funny red sock…” he wiggled the sock and continued, “and the audience loved it. They roared with laughter.” He was bursting with excitement. “There was a man there, Eugene Jelesnik… he has his own TV show. He asked me to be on it. Isn’t that fantastic?”
Annie smiled warmly at the boy and nodded. She patted his cheek with her thin, wrinkled hand. “You’re a good boy.” The boy was so young, so excited with life. His journey was really just beginning.
Mickey smiled back and nodded. Leaning down, he kissed Annie on her cheek. “Good night, Grandma,” he said as he exited the room.
A moment later, Annie’s daughter joined her. “He’ll be too excited to sleep tonight. I’ll tell him to do something quiet in his room so he doesn’t bother the rest of us.” She picked up the empty glass from the nightstand and smiled. “Are you feeling any better?”
Her daughter continued, “Mickey finished painting the house on Fifth West. I’ll see if I can get it rented by next week.” She moved to the window and pulled down the blind. “There’s plenty of people who would like to live there, but whoever comes up with the money first, gets it.” She then headed for the door. “I’ll be back in a minute. I’ve got to say goodnight to Ralph.” She smiled and left the room.
Annie slid back under the covers and rolled onto her side. This daughter was busy all the time, not only with the rentals but with her own house and children. Her other daughter, Elaine, was always busy as well, working or out on dates. Her granddaughter, Patty, recently married and moved into the upstairs apartment with her husband and baby. The girl was much too busy with her own life to have anything to do with her.
Annie felt very alone since her husband died. Most of her days were empty, even in that big house of hers. She’d rise in the morning and sit at the kitchen table all day, unable to do the things she once enjoyed. She gave up her chickens and her extensive garden, unable to tend to either one properly. She simply didn’t have the strength, or the will, to do what she wanted to.
Her daughter returned to the bedroom and grabbed a nightgown, then headed into the bathroom. A moment later she was back and leaning over the old woman. “Do you need to visit the bathroom, mom?”
Annie shook her head. “No, thank you.”
“Okay, goodnight then. I’ll see you in the morning.”
“I love you, Angel. Good night.”
The younger woman smiled and kissed Annie on her forehead, switching off the lamp. She walked around to the opposite side of the bed and slid in under the covers. Before long, she began to snore.
Annie couldn’t seem to close her eyes. In time, the house grew dark and quiet, except for the rhythmic tempo of snoring coming from the woman beside her.
Her thoughts reluctantly turned to the funeral of her late husband, Giuseppe. A familiar aching gripped at her heart causing her to yearn for his touch. A deep sadness began to pull at her, dragging her down until tears filled her eyes. Her chin began to quiver and she sniffed back her sorrow.
Annie struggled to push the heartbreaking memories aside, as she tried to remember another time, a more pleasant time. A time when she and her dear husband were oh… so young. It was a time from long, long ago, back in the land of her ancestors. It was the first time Giuseppe showed any interest in her. They had known each other since they were children, but one particular day, while they were picking fruit in the orchard, he was in a playful, “show-off” mood and carelessly slipped out of a nearby tree. He hit the ground hard and she scurried down to see if he was alright.
Annie smiled to herself as she remembered back to her life sixty four years earlier. Giuseppe seemed so young then, so full of life. She relished in her old, almost forgotten memories. Annie yawned and nestled deeper into the covers. She returned to her thoughts.
The young man’s foot was twisted, possibly a sprained ankle, and she helped him home. He leaned against her with his arm wrapped around her shoulder.
“Thanks for helping me get home,” he said, his eyes staring dreamingly into hers.
She blushed, having him so near. Lowering her head, she ran her hand up his arm, trying to keep him from falling.
He reached for her hand and kissed it lightly.
Her heart pounded hard in her chest as she pulled her hand back and looked up at him. His long, dark mustache framed his upper lips and his deep, dark eyes drew her in. This was the moment she realized that she wanted to think of this man as more than just a close friend.
Annie smiled at her new found memories and happily drifted off to sleep...
The remainder of the harvesting season felt different knowing the young man with the bandaged ankle was watching her. Every time Annie glanced his way, she caught him smiling up at her. As the days passed, his attention became obsessive, when finally he took her aside and expressed his feelings for her.
Annie’s heart swelled at the thought of marrying such a good-looking, light spirited young man… a man she had secretly admired for many years. As the holy Christmas season approached, the young couple grew to love each other and plans were made to wed in late winter, when the air would be warmer, but before the work of the spring planting.
Three days after the sacred holy day of Christmas, Annie lay sleeping in a one room house, along with her parents and siblings, when a terrible rumbling began shaking. Annie, then a 27 year old woman, awoke and sat up. She glanced around. Despite the gloomy shadows, she could tell that everyone in the darkened room had awakened and was anxiously anticipating an ending to the unaccustomed ground movement.
Crashing noises around her suggested the floor would be littered with many broken family treasures. She would have to be careful not to step on anything that might cut her bare feet.
As time slowly passed, a deep groaning could be heard, as if the ground itself was crying out in pain. The growling noise resounded in her ears and a trembling deep inside her gut, began to take hold. It was a feeling Annie hadn’t experienced before. A nervousness that engulfed her completely, down to her soul. She stared silently out into the darkness, holding her breath and praying for relief.
Then, besides the deep earthy sounds and the breaking ceramic noises, another sound suddenly shot through the room. A cracking, splitting, shifting noise ripped across the ceiling and down the wall. It was obvious to everyone in the room what this new sound meant, as everyone began jumping out of bed, heading for the door.
“Get out! Everyone out now!” her father cried out as he jumped from his bed, pulling his wife behind him.
Her brothers shot into action and scurried for the door, with Annie right behind them, her parents bringing up the rear. Just as she was about to jump through the opening, a heavy chuck of ceiling dislodged itself and crashed down upon the backside of her head and neck, knocking her to the ground.
“Ouch!” Annie released a tortured screech as she gritted her teeth and slammed her eyelids closed.
Her head throbbed and she took several deep breaths to control the pounding pain. She breathed in heavily and noticed the scent of the air had dramatically changed from just the moment before. Annie reached up to caress her battered head and squinted at her surroundings. She could not see her family before her, nor the door to where she was fleeing. In fact, she couldn’t see a thing.
Just then, something jumped past her face and landed lightly on the ground in front of her. In the dark shadows, it appeared to be in the shape of a person.
Annie pulled back in surprise, catching her breath.
The ghostly figure spoke, “Excuse me. Sorry, but I have to…,” a woman quickly whispered as she turned and dashed off into the darkness. Sounds of regurgitation could be heard off in the distance.
Annie rubbed her head again and gathered her senses. Her surroundings were gloomy, barely lit and they smelled dreadful. The aroma reeked of a combination of perspiration and urine, to say nothing of the lasting smell of vomit. She suddenly began to gag as the scents attacked her nose. She raised herself up and fought to contain the impending release of her own stomach contents. Breathing slowly from her mouth helped to control the urges and she swallowed back hard. She cleared her throat several times to better control her impending nausea.
Suddenly she stopped.
As her mind started to clear, Annie’s dream state dissipated and she began to awaken. She remembered this odor, for it was quite unforgettable. But it seemed like it had been such a long time since she had smelled the disgusting stench. Annie pondered a moment, confused about her memories. Then, a strange feeling crept over her, a feeling that she had lived this moment before. It was definitely a déjà-vu moment. She took a deep breath and decided to allow the scene to play out, curious to see where it would take her. Annie sunk deeper into her bedcovers and tried to relax, permitting the moment to return and carry her away, back into the depths of her memories, back to her youth… and back to the stench she had almost forgotten.
Annie fell back to sleep.
Annie felt her bruised head again, finally wiping her hand across her clammy forehead. It suddenly rubbed against something directly above her face. She slowly glanced up sideways to glimpse at what it might be, but the darkness prevented her eyes from distinguishing anything reasonable. She raised her hand to feel a woven corded mattress resting barely above her head.
A few more labored breaths and a new reality began to set in. Annie decided the infraction wasn’t as bad as she first believed. She laid back upon the mat and carefully rolled over. In front of her snuggled her young daughter, Tressa.
Annie smiled as she finally remembered where she was.
The child breathed deeply in her sleep, twitching now and then, evidently involved in a dream of her own. She lifted a tiny thumb to her mouth and began sucking. Before long, she turned towards her mother’s arms and repositioned herself into a more comfortable position. Annie smiled and gently stroked a path across the girl’s forehead, pushing back thin wisps of fine dark hair that had fallen into the child’s face.
Annie tried to enjoy the light rocking motion of the ship as her thoughts returned to that morning almost four years earlier, when a violent earthquake occurred in the nearby town of Messina. As the memory became clearer in her mind, her chin began to tremble and tears filled her eyes. She lost some close friends that she was visiting, that day. It was always one thing after another back home. God tested them every single day and she hated it.
The early morning Messina earthquake occurred on December 28, 1908. It killed over 70,000 residents as it destroyed 91% of all the structures in the small town, striking only 100 miles away from her parent’s house, crumbling homes and shops made of rock and mud. The 7.5 earthquake lasted only 30-40 seconds, but had severe effects across the entire island of Sicily and nearby Calabria. A 40 foot tsunami then slammed into nearby coastlines, causing more destruction and death. Before all was finished, over 200,000 people were dead.
Glancing down once more at her sleeping child, she decisively decided to replace the agonizing, lonesome thoughts of her past, with happier, more exciting ones. She felt her finger and smiled at the ring that was on it. She was a young woman and the mother of a beautiful little girl. Her life was finally changing for the better. She and her husband, Giuseppe, decided shortly after that earthquake, that when they married they would move to a new land, for a new beginning and a better life.
Giuseppe left for America a couple of years earlier to set things up for Annie and the baby. He moved in with his older brother, Antonio, in a place called Salt Lake City. Antonio had crossed over after the harvest in 1905 and found that a good life in America was possible. Antonio told Giuseppe of the great opportunities one could find there if one worked hard and saved his money. The streets were not quite ‘lined with gold’ like the flyers had suggested, but conditions were vastly improved over the drought stricken lands of Sicily.
Both Giuseppe and Annie had heard stories from other neighbors who had relatives living in America, stories that many who journeyed out into the Western lands had found gold and silver, literally becoming wealthy overnight. That would have been nice, but they knew it was probably unrealistic for most people to find such fortune. They would be content to etch out a simple living, satisfied if they had enough food to eat and a warm shelter.
In the early morning light, Annie noticed the stirrings of the other women and children that slept around her, tossing and turning on the uncomfortable mats. In the distance, she heard the men talking quietly in deep, hushed voices of various languages. Footsteps quickly followed, shuffling across the squeaky wooden planks and hurrying up the set of stairs. Then came the chorus of coughing, clearing of throats and the blowing of congested noses.
As soon as the light improved, women and children began dropping off the bunk beds around her, some straightening the blankets they had slept on. Then, off they’d hurry, either into the bathrooms or up the stairs to the upper deck, where not only the fresh water was, but the fresh air as well. Down on this level, besides the rows and rows of three tiered bunk beds, was also a washroom with several toilets, a simple wooden bench with several holes drilled into it, for one to set their behind on. These holes attached to a shaft that led down through the floor boards, emptying directly into the ocean water below.
Tressa was still asleep and Annie dared not move for fear of waking the child. The 2 ½ year old was much easier to watch when she was asleep. Annie relaxed as the exodus of the lower steerage compartment continued. She heard laughing and talking streaming down the stairwell from above. She felt the cool morning breeze whip through the musty, stinking quarters that her kind slept in. It seemed surreal to be lying here. Everything was so different than it had been just a few weeks before.
A young girl, half Annie’s age, approached her and bent down to speak. “I’m so sorry I stepped on you this morning, when I hopped out of bed,” she whispered, careful not to wake the sleeping child. “I felt so ill and it was very dark. I didn’t see your head there.”
Annie nodded and smiled. Obviously the girl had been in a hurry to be off the bunk, so as not to throw up on everyone beneath her. “That’s alright. I understand.”
The girl smiled and reached up to straighten her own bunk.
Annie noticed that the girl was alone. “Are you traveling by yourself?”
“Yes. Just me. I’m meeting my uncle in New York. He lives there and offered to take me in.”
“That’ll be nice.” Annie smiled at the young girl who couldn’t be older than 15 years of age. Annie admired her gumption to travel so far on her own.
The girl finished her task and trotted past the curtain that separated the men from the women. Then up the stairs she hopped, eager to be in the sunlight and clean air.
Tressa began to stir and slowly opened her eyes.
“Hello there, little one. How did you sleep last night?” her mother asked tenderly.
Tressa looked up at Annie. “I gotta go pee pee,” she whispered.
Annie gasped, “Wait. Not yet. Let me get you to the toilet.” She jumped off the matt and lifted the young girl up and away from the bunk bed, sweeping her past the row of empty beds and over to the toilet room. Lifting the girl’s dress and pulling down her leggings was no easy task, they fit so tightly. Annie slowed her effort when she felt the leggings begin to drip with the warm liquid. She scowled at the child. “Tressa, you couldn’t wait?”
The girl shook her head and smiled sheepishly.
Annie slipped off the girl’s leggings and rolled them up, placing them on the floor next to the toilet. “Do you need to go any more?”
Tressa sat for a moment and shook her head. She smiled at her patient mother.
Annie lifted the girl to the sink, helping her balance while she poured water down her legs, washing off any remaining urine from her skin.
Tressa squirmed and fussed as the cold water chilled her.
“Okay, okay… we’re finished.” Annie pulled the child close to her chest and dried her with the red sweater she wore. She walked back to the bunk and slipped on a dry pair of leggings over her daughter’s chilly legs. “Let’s go see what they have for breakfast.”
The morning light was bright and it shined in their eyes. The outer deck was a bustling place most every day. The air was fresh and moist, and in the mornings, quite cool. The sweetness was interrupted only by an occasional traveler puffing on a pipe. Annie wrapped Tressa’s scarf tightly around the child’s head as the wind whipped past them. Everyone waited patiently for breakfast to be set out. Annie made her way to the railing and looked out over the vastness of the great ocean. Until this voyage, she had never experienced anything so seemingly limitless. For more than a week they had journeyed across the waves and had seen nothing except a watery expanse before them. It was uncommon to see even a bird overhead. She held Tressa close to her chest not only to warm her, but to try to hold back the uneasy feeling she had in the pit of her stomach, as she tempted fate by holding the baby so near the edge of the ship.
Annie looked down and noticed several pieces of colorful yarn tied to the railing, dragging in the ocean like fishing lines. She remembered back to the morning she met the ship
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