Ancestor Bio – Thomas Frederick Spry

52 Ancestors – Week 2018-19
Dion/Spry Project

The oldest of my half-brothers (I now have four known half-brothers) asked if I might take a look at his maternal line (we share a common father). Of course I said, “Sure,” and started on my merry way researching. I began with his great-grandfather, Thomas Frederick Spry. I learned that Thomas didn’t live to 100, or even 99 as many records indicate. He lived to be 98, dying two days before his 99th birthday.

Research Family 2017 – Ancestor #14

List of Grandparents

  • Grandmother: Viola Lorraine Spry
  • 1st Great-grandfather: Thomas Frederick Spry
  • 2nd Great-grandfather: Johny M Spry

Thomas Frederick Spry (1875-1974)

Thomas Frederick Spry was born in Michigan (probably Detroit) on 19 May 1875. He was the fifth of nine known children of Johny M. and Catharine Spry. Ulysses S Grant was president and shortly after Thomas’ birth President Grant announced he would not run for a third term.

Thomas’ siblings included:

Name Born
Alice Spry Jan 1869
William Spry 1870-1871
Benjamin F. Spry Aug 1973
Robert J Spry 1876
Thomas Frederick Spry 19 May 1875
Ethel Spry 1877-1878
Harry (or Henry) Spry Jan 1880

The 1880 Census shows the entire family living at 538 Michigan Avenue, Detroit, Mich. Johny, Catharine, and all seven children were living together. Today 538 Michigan Ave is a parking ramp.

By 1895, the 20-year-old Thomas worked as a press feeder and boarded at 134 Locust, the same place as his older brother Benjamin. He was listed as being a printer in the Detroit 1898 City Directory living at 81 Plum Street. If you were heading east on the Fisher Freeway and took the off-ramp to the John C. Lodge Freeway, 81 Plum Street is about where the split to go north or south on the John C. Lodge Freeway is today. (Across the Lodge freeway from the MGM Grand.).

Thomas had been an usher for his oldest sister, Alice’s wedding and the family ties seem to have been close.  The 1900 Census finds Thomas, and his brother Benjamin, living with their sister Alice, her husband and her five kids at 1027 Hudson Ave. Today, most of this part of Hudson Ave is replaced by the E. Edsel Ford Freeway.

Marriage

Thomas married Ottilie Saleske in 1901. Ottilie was also known as Tillie, Lillie, Tilly, and even Matilda in various records. Likewise, Ottilie’s surname is spelled Saleski and Salesky in different documents.

Adulthood

The Four Children of Thomas and Ottilie Spry

Child Name Birthdate Date of Death
Ethel H Spry 03 Sep 1902 07 Apr 1985
Baby Boy Spry 26 May 1904 26 May 1904
Viola Lorraine Spry 06 Dec 1908 28 Jun 2002
Isabel Spry 07 Aug 1918 04 Dec 1992

It isn’t clear exactly when, but by 1902, when their first daughter, Ethel, was born, the couple was living 30 miles away in Ypsilanti. Thomas was still working as a printer, an occupation he would have his entire adult life.

In 1904 tragedy struck. Ottilie had a baby boy on 26 May 1904; the child only lived 5 hours. It appears that shortly the baby’s death the family moved back to Detroit.

The 1910 Census finds Thomas and Otillie living at 671 Buchanan St. Thomas. With them are their two children Ethel and Viola. Also living with them is Otillie’s brother, Otto.

The Spirit of Detroit – Photo by PeRshGo – CC BY-SA 3.0

The 1916 Detroit City Directory indicates that Thomas had his print shop, Spry Printing Company located at 50 Woodward. Today, that location is known to have a marvelous statue known as “The Spirit of Detroit.” The statue was the largest bronze statue cast since the Renaissance when it was installed in 1958. I’ll never be able to see facsimiles of the statue on Detroit city vehicles and offices without thinking of Thomas Spry’s print shop. When Thomas registered for the World War I draft, he was 5’5-1/2” tall, medium build, blue eyes and he had light hair.

In 1920, Thomas was renting a home at 1417 25th, Detroit and he was working as a printer. Living with him was his wife and his three daughters, Ethel, Viola, and Isabel.

5727 Missouri Ave, Detroit, MI – Photo by Google Maps

Before 1930, Thomas and family had moved again, this time to 5727 Missouri Ave, Detroit.  The Missouri Street house was a two-story home with nearly 4,000 square feet of living space. Living with him are his wife and two of his daughters. Viola and Isabel. Viola had married three years before; I don’t know why Viola and Albert Dion were living apart. By 1938, Thomas had moved his printing shop to the 3rd floor of 216 Monroe. (Today this is a vacant lot at the corner of Monroe and Randolph Street—across from the Cadillac Center People Mover Station.)

Daughter Viola was joined by her husband and they had a daughter. In 1940, the three of them were living with Thomas and Ottilie in the house on Missouri Ave.

Thomas Frederick Spry died on 21 May 1974. He was survived by his wife and his three daughters. His burial location is unknown.



Sources

  • 1880 Census, Family Search, 1880 – Johny M Spry – Detroit, Wayne, Michigan – ED 295, Page 42. Year: 1880; Census Place: Detroit, Wayne, Michigan; Roll: 613; Page: 45B; Enumeration District: 295.
  • 1900 Census (FS), Family Search, 1900 – Thomas Salmoni – Detroit, Wayne, Michigan. “United States Census, 1900,” database with images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:M917-3KH : accessed 6 May 2018), Thomas Salmoni, Detroit city Ward 12, Wayne, Michigan, United States; citing enumeration district (ED) 141, sheet 13A, family 294, NARA microfilm publication T623 (Washington, D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, 1972.); FHL microfilm 1,240,752.
  • 1910 Census, Other, Thomas Spry – Detroit, Wayne, Michigan – ED 211, Sheet 9B. Year: 1910; Census Place: Detroit Ward 14, Wayne, Michigan; Roll: T624_686; Page: 9B; Enumeration District: 0211; FHL microfilm: 1374699
  • 1920 Census (A), Ancestry.Com, Thomas Spry – Detroit, Wayne, Michigan. Year: 1920; Census Place: Detroit Ward 12, Wayne, Michigan; Roll: T625_811; Page: 11B; Enumeration District: 363.
  • 1930 Census (NARA), Ancestry.Com, 1930 Census – Thomas Spry Head – Detroit, Wayne, Michigan, Precinct 16.
  • 1940 Census, Ancestry.Com, Thomas Spry, Head. 1940; Census Place: Detroit, Wayne, Michigan; Roll: m-t0627-01856; Page: 8B; Enumeration District: 84-527.
  • City Directory (A), Com, Detroit, Michigan – 1895, Page 1279 – Spry. Ancestry.com. U.S. City Directories, 1822-1995 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2011.
  • City Directory (A), Com, Detroit, Michigan – 1898, Page 1382 – Spry. Ancestry.com. U.S. City Directories, 1822-1995 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2011.
  • City Directory (A), Com, Detroit, Michigan – 1900, Page 1470 – Spry. Ancestry.com. U.S. City Directories, 1822-1995 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2011.
  • City Directory (A), Com, Detroit, Michigan – 1906, Page 1980 – Spry. Ancestry.com. U.S. City Directories, 1822-1995 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2011.
  • City Directory (A), Com, Detroit, Michigan – 1916, Page 3671 – Spry. Ancestry.com. U.S. City Directories, 1822-1995 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2011.
  • Michigan Births, 1867-1902, Family Search, Ethel Spry – 3 Sep 1902. “Michigan Births, 1867-1902,” database with images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:NQFN-9XY : 10 March 2018), Thos. F. Spry in an entry for Ethel Spry, 03 Sep 1902; citing item 1 p 419 rn 1673, Ypsilanti, Washtenaw, Michigan, Department of Vital Records, Lansing; FHL microfilm 2,363,098.
  • S., Social Security Death Index, 1935-2014, Ancestry.Com, Thomas Spry (1874-1974). “United States Social Security Death Index,” database, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:JYKD-8PF : 20 May 2014), Thomas Spry, May 1974; citing U.S. Social Security Administration, Death Master File, database (Alexandria, Virginia: National Technical Information Service, ongoing).
  • S., World War I Draft Registration Cards, 1917-1918, Ancestry.Com, Thomas Frederick Spry. “United States World War I Draft Registration Cards, 1917-1918,” database with images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:K6XQ-X74 : 13 March 2018), Thomas Frederick Spry, 1917-1918; citing Detroit City, Michigan, United States, NARA microfilm publication M1509 (Washington D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, n.d.); FHL microfilm 1,675,372.

————–  Disclaimer  ————–

Donna Darling Collection – Part 27 – Three Colonial Theaters

Three Colonial Theaters
Treasure Chest Thursday

By Don Taylor

Photo of Don Taylor with cat Nasi.For this week’s Treasure Chest Thursday, I’m looking at several vaudeville clippings from three different pages of the Donna Darling Collection. All of them relate to the Colonial Theater. One to the Colonial Theater in Lancaster, PA. The second one the Colonial Theater in Washington DC, and the third Colonial theater in Detroit, MI. Determining the various locations and dates was challenging but led to new words for my vocabulary and some amazing finds.

Lancaster, PA – Colonial Theater

The first venue was easy to analyze. Donna wrote on the clipping “Lancaster Pa Apr. 15.” It appears that she also wrote “Intelligence.” but I have no idea what that might mean in this context.

DD Collection – Scan 0107

Colonial – Keith Vaudeville – Best in the World
Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday—April 17, 18, 19

Special Easter Show
Miss Donna Daring and Co….
Bruce Morgan and Tom Moran,

Valentine Vox,
Transfield Sisters,
[Movie] “Haunted Spooks: A Two-reel Lloyd Comedy…

Article: "Program at Colonial Starts with Whirl"
DDC – Scan 0107

PROGRAM AT COLONIAL
STARTS WITH WHIRL

Yesterday’s, today’s and tomorrow’s program at the Colonial Theatre, opened with a whirl at last evening’s show. “A Song, A Dance and a Cocktail,” was the feature of the show. Miss Dona Darling eclipsed the limelight in brightness, wit and personality of exceptional quality combined with a vein of rascality that had the audience in constant bursts of amusement.

The rest of the program….

Analysis

Donna Darling and Company was a show that she had during 1922. A quick check of a 1922 calendar confirmed that April 17th, 18th, and 19th, were Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday in 1922. Then on Cinema Treasures, I confirmed that there was once a Colonial Theater in Lancaster, PA. It opened before 1914 and later became the Boyd Theater. Besides the newspaper ad there were two short write-ups regarding the show.  This was a new date and location for me. Of particular interest is that the newspaper clearly says, “Donna Daring.”  This is a new search parameter for me to use in the future.

Washington, DC – Colonial Theater

Image of newspaper clipping - Colonial Theatre
Donna Darling Collection – Scan 0073

Colonial Theater – Two Shows 2 P.M., 7:30
Tom Rooney Presents
Donna Montran and Her California Bathing Beauties
presenting “A Classy Beach Promenade”
An Up to the Minute Musical Tabloid
A Carload of Scenery and Fetching Costumes

Also, on the bill:

Little Dolly Dimples and her “Man O’ Wars Man”
Taylor & Brown – Daring Doings
Herbert Trainor – Pleasing Magic
Davis & Kidaire “Make ‘em Smile Boys”
[Movie] Alice Calhoun Vtagraph [sic] Favorite in Princess Jones (6 Parts)

Analysis

The second clipping was dated March 15th. Donna still went by Montran and she did her California Bathing Beauties in 1921. Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday of March 1921 were the 14th, 15th, and 16th. Her mentioning it was the Washington papers that the ad ran in, tightens the location to the Colonial Theater in Washington, DC.

Detroit, MI – Colonial Theater

Image of newspaper clipping "Featured in Vaudeville" from about 19 December 1926.
Donna Darling Collection – Scan 1451

Featured in Vaudeville

The following features are announced for the week by the leading vaudeville houses:

Temple –May Wirth….

Colonial – A beautifully stages singing and dancing act in a futuristic version of the nether regions[ii], offered by Donna Darling, former Follies performer, is to headline the vaudeville. Miss Darling and Sammy Clark are both well known stars of terpischore[iii] and are assisted in the act by Barring, Lazure and Hal Dixon. Other acts include….  The Colonial announces a special New Year’s eve show, starting at midnight.

Analysis

This third clipping confused me a bit. I misread the last sentence which says, “The Colonial announces a special New Year’s eve show, starting at midnight.”  I misread that it to mean the special show was while Donna was playing there. I searched and searched for a place that had both a Temple Theater and a Colonial Theater. I could only find two places, Chicago and Detroit. Being in Detroit during the holidays made sense as Donna’s mother lived there. I found she played at the Palace Theater in Rockford during Christmas and at the Orpheum in Des Moines in New Years. During my search I used many new search parameters to look for Donna. I ended up finding well over a hundred new dates and venues. It was truly amazing what I found. I have added the new dates and venues to my Donna Montran page.

I eventually came to the conclusion that the note regarding a New Year’s Eve show doesn’t apply to Donna’s show.

Conclusion

Three new dates and venues directly identified because of Donna’s Colonial Theater clippings.

  1. Mar 14-16, 1921 – Washington, DC – Colonial Theatre – Donna Montran and her California Bathing Beauties. DDC Part 27
  2. April 17-19, 1922 – Lancaster, PA – Colonial – Donna Daring and Co., DDC Part 27
  3. December 19, 1926 – Detroit, Michigan – Colonial – Donna Darling Revue – DDC Part 27 –  Also see: Genealogy Bank

There were also over 100 new dates and performance venues I discovered while doing this research. They have been applied to the Donna Montran Vaudeville Page.


Genealogy Bank was used extensively during this research.


Follow-up

Further search my newspaper sources for “Donna Daring.”

ENDNOTES

[i] I have cropped and sized all images for the web – Original scan’s available.

[ii] Wikipedia – Hell, the Underworld, or any place of darkness or eternal suffering

[iii] [sic] “terpischore” should be terpsichore – Wikipedia – In Greek mythology, Terpsichore (/tərpˈsɪkəriː/; Τερψιχόρη) “delight in dancing” was one of the nine Muses and goddess of dance and chorus. She lends her name to the word “terpsichorean” which means “of or relating to dance”. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Terpsichore

 

Schools I’ve Attended – Mumford – Detroit

My Life
Those Places Thursday
By Don Taylor

I lived in Detroit for a short while.  While there, I attended Mumford High School. It was one of the most challenging times in my life. My experiences in school, at work, and life in general, were mostly negative and difficult for many different reasons.

My stepfather was a mean drunk and beat on my mother frequently. Skinny, scrawny, fifteen-year-old me couldn’t do anything about it. I tried to stop him a couple of times, but he just smacked me into a corner and into submission. I didn’t realize at the time, but I learned years later that my mom miscarried during one of those regular beatings. Finally, one day mom packed my little sister, Sharon, me, and all she could fit into the car and started driving. I don’t think she knew where we were going at first but decided a few miles down the road when her head cleared a bit. She had left my step-father a couple of times before, only to go back to him after several weeks. This time she seemed serious; I was hoping. We headed east, lived in the car for a few days and drove the seven-hundred miles from Minneapolis to my mom’s hometown, Detroit. She didn’t have family or anyone there who could help, but she knew the city and knew she’d figure something out.

She found an apartment for us. It was an old, dilapidated place in a mostly industrial area. I don’t remember exactly where it was, but it was a very bad part of town at the time – I’m pretty sure it was on Third Avenue between Forest Ave and what is now Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd. There were many empty lots nearby with the rubble of a time long past. There were a couple old, 19th-century hotels remaining in the area that had been converted into apartments. We were in one of them. Behind the building was an empty lot and beyond that the John C. Lodge Freeway. I remember one night I was stopped for WWW (Walking While White) in a black neighborhood. The police stopped their patrol car, jumped out, pulled their guns, threw me up against a fence and want to know what I was doing in the area. Admittedly, I was wearing a large winter coat, much more coat than necessary for the weather, but it was the only one I had. I probably looked like a shoplifter. They searched me, determined I didn’t have any drugs or weapons, and finally let go. Having one cop hold a gun on me while the other searched my pockets was scary. God, would they not find anything and then plant something on me just to make an arrest. I was really afraid. That experience gave me an understanding of what “driving while black” (DWB) is like for people of color in this country. The exception is that their experiences are much worse and more common.

Sharon slept with my mom in the bed and I slept on the couch. The couch smelled like it came from the previous century, and I’m sure it probably did. It wasn’t ideal, but we were warm, dry, and had lots more room than we did living in the car. I enjoyed reading as a vehicle for escape and, like so many teenage boys, I read science fiction. Unfortunately, reading was impossible because the one 40-watt light bulb hanging from the ceiling barely lit the room and we had no other lamps. We couldn’t watch TV and cook on the hotplate at the same time because we had to be careful to not blow any fuses. The fuse box was in the basement, four stories down. The TV was so old that it had continuous tuning. Rather than stepping between channels like most TVs of the time, we tuned it like a radio. Between channels six and seven we could tune into FM Radio, airplane frequencies, even emergency radio transmissions.  Of course, the picture was horrid, but at least it was a diversion.

My mom found a job in Northwest Detroit – just beyond Highland Park and I think it was near Marygrove College. She decided it would be better for me to go to school out there rather than in the inner city. She worked at a dry cleaner and the owner’s mother watched Sharon, who was two at the time, during the day while mom worked. Mom used her work address as our home address so that I could go to a better school. I walked to Mumford High School and hurried to the cleaners afterward because I worked there also. I’d “mark-in, assemble, and bag.” The laundry, in those days, would mark a person’s clothing with an indelible pen identifying the owner. After the laundry was washed and pressed, I’d gather the entire order together (assemble) and then bag it up. Occasionally, I had to press shirts which I didn’t like doing. I wasn’t very good at it and was slow, but I had to do it when the work was backed up. I don’t remember how much I earned, but it wasn’t much – maybe 75 cents an hour. I worked from after school until closing when mom, my little sister and I drove home together, made something to eat on the hotplate. After that, we watch the blurry, flickering TV until bedtime. One time an irate customer pulled a gun and pointed it at mom, which really scared me. Luckily the guy’s wife made him put the gun away.

At Mumford, I encountered institutional racism for the first time. I was shocked that school had programs in place that separated students along racial and economic lines. The biology class I left in Minnesota before leaving was the same class at Mumford and used exactly the same textbooks. After a few days, I mentioned to the teacher that in Minnesota, the students did all the lab exercises, and wondered why the instructor did the lab work while we merely watched then answered the lab questions based on what we observed the instructor do. Oddly enough I was immediately put into “college prep” group that did the lab work. It wasn’t lost on me that the college preparatory group was mostly white. It was obvious that these students received a much better education and encouragement to succeed rather than shuffled through the system.

A couple of weeks later my stepfather showed up at school. He tracked us down by discovering that my school records had been transferred to Mumford and he drove there to retrieve us. He promised Mom and me that he wouldn’t hurt her again and swore he had quit drinking. My mom, like so many battered women, believed him, so we returned to Minnesota. He followed us all the way, probably to make sure she didn’t try to run again. One time we escaped to Billings, MT when he found us, he not only followed us all the way but pushed us at 60 miles per hour when Mom’s old clunker couldn’t make it up the hills fast enough for him.

Most of my stories bring back fond memories as I write, but this post is a catharsis rather than a joyful trip down Memory Lane. In writing this, I’ve finally processed many painful events that I haven’t thought of in decades. Our foray to Detroit taught me many things, including fear of the police and the existence of institutional discrimination. It also taught me the importance of working my way out of despair, which is one of the greatest lessons that my mother ever taught me.

100 Years Ago – Ida Mae Barber Knight – (1873-1953)


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23 December 1914 – Ida Mae Barber Knight

Ida Mae Barber Knight

One hundred years ago Ida Mae Barber (Montran) (Fisher) (Holdsworth) Knight was living with her husband, Harvey Watson Knight, in their new home on Lawndale Avenue in Detroit, Michigan. At the time it was 628 Lawndale[1]. In 1923, Ida’s daughter Madonna (Donna), registered a song “Beautiful Mother of Mine” and indicted her home address as 1456 Lawndale. At first I thought this was very confusing, that Harvey and Ida would move eight blocks away on the same street. Then, when I looked at their neighbors, I saw that many of the neighbors also moved the eight blocks with them[2]. That made me realize that the street was renumbered sometime between Feb 1920 (Census Date which said 628 Lawndale) and Feb 1923 (Donna’s song registration which said 1456 Lawndale.)

The Knight household in 1914 consisted of Ida and her husband Harvey. Ida’s daughter from a previous marriage(?), Madonna (aka Donna), was in California working in the movies and working as a Mack Sennett bathing beauty. Ida’s father, Franklin, had died previously. Harvey’s parents are believed to still be in Chatham, Kent, Ontario, Canada. (There is no evidence that I have found that puts them anywhere else.) Ida’s Mother, Sarah H Blackhurst (Barber) had been living at 1419 Clay Avenue in 1910 with Ida, Madonna, and “Boarder” Harvey Knight. According to the 1920 Census, Sarah was living in Manhattan with Madonna who was on the road in a Vaudeville act. So in 1914, it is possible that Sarah was living eight miles away from Ida on Clay Ave or possibly living with Ida and Harvey on Lawndale. Ida’s sister, Eva Louisa Barber Goff, was probably living with her husband and daughter, about three and a half miles away on 15th Street.

Harvey Watson Knight’s
WWI Draft Registration
Thanks to Ancestry.Com and the
National Archives and Records Administration.

It doesn’t appear that the 40-year-old Ida worked outside of the home and is presumed to have been a housewife. Her husband, Harvey, was an engineer. In 1914 he probably worked for Ireland Matthews at Beard & Chatfield Aves., which is about 1 mile away. (He was working there in 1917 for certain – See WWI Draft Registration.) Today, that site is the location of the Roberto Clemente Academy a Pre-K to 5th grade which was built in 2001[3].

Of course the international news of the day was about the war in Europe. On this date, 23 December 1914, was the beginning of the now famous “Christmas Truce.” A German soldier, Karl Aldag, reported that both sides had been heard singing hymns in the trenches. German troops coming into the lines bring Christmas trees. Some men begin to place them on the parapets of the fire trenches. Local truce on the front of 23rd Brigade.[4]

Nationally, the country was still talking about the Boston Braves. A newspaper article in the New York Tribune on December 20th described how mid-season trades made by Boston Braves manager George Stallings helped the team move from last place to first place. According to Wikipedia, the 1914 Braves are the only team to have been in last place on the 4th of July and go on to win the pennant. The Braves continued on to be the first team to sweep the modern World Series. In 1953 the Boston Braves moved to Milwaukee.

Detroit Front” by W. G. MacFarlane – Postcard.
W.G. MacFarlane, Publisher, Buffalo, N.Y. Toronto.
Scanned Postcard, dated 1914.
Licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons.

The Detroit Tigers finished 4th in the American League in 1914; however, their famous outfielder, Tyrus Raymond “Ty” Cobb, took the batting title with a .368 season. Movie goers were anticipating the release of Mary Pickford’s “Cinderella” The Campus Martius Park was opened. See Photo on right.

Also in 1914 Detroit the “inter urban” cars of the Detroit, Almont, Northern R. R., which linked Detroit with Almont, about 50 miles to the north began service.

Endnotes
[1] 1920 Census, Ancestry.com, 1920; Detroit Ward 20, Wayne, Michigan; Roll: T625_812; Page: 19B; Enumeration
District: 613; Image:. Harvey Knight

[2] 1930
Census, Ancestry.com, Year: 1930; Census Place:
Detroit, Wayne, Michigan; Roll: 1061; Page: 11A; Enumeration District: 0716;
Image: 77.0; FHL microfilm: 2340796.
[3] See
it to believe it Detroit Public Schools http://detroitk12.org/schools/clemente/
.
[4] “The
Christmas Truce of 1914” – http://www.1914-1918.net/truce.htm

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