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Scanned by Dick Chenault
Edited by Zale Nagler
Date of Interview - 1-21-1980
Interviewed by Rosalyn McCain
Date of birth - 10-12-1902
Parents - Frank and Mary Tomsic
Paternal grandparents - Tony and Modiana Tomsic
Maternal grandparents - Andy and Mary Tomazincic
Ethnic group - Slovenian
Family origin - Yugoslavia-Bac
Date of family arrival in County - 1921
Location of first family settlement - Engleville, near Trinidad
Kinship ties - Edmond M. Tomsic electrical engineer for Bureau of Reclamation in Denver; William Joseph Tomsic refinery manager in Bakersfield, California. Brother in Yugoslavia.
Profession - Miner for 29 years, tavern owner, farming
Photos and artifacts - photos of miners and kids who won first aid awards, awards, photo of SNPJ Pavillion before it burned
This is Rosalyn McCain. I am talking with Ed Tomsic in his home in Walsenburg.
ED: I won't say anything that is not true. Why I left Europe was because my folks wanted me to be a priest, and I run away from there. It took me 38 days on a boat until we get to Trinidad and Engleville. I started work. I was a little over 18. Believe it or not, I cry many, many times, why did I come? My hands was full of blisters, but I got used to it. Then we went to Primero. Primero lay off most of the men, and I come to Walsenburg. I was in Walsenburg for awhile. Then I went back to Primero. In Primero in those days any time Slovene get married, the mine don't work on the Monday cause they celebrate. At that time anybody who was a capable person get the job right away, so I got a job back in Primero. And that is the time I met her (my wife). But with the Lodges I started getting interested in the Lodges right away. I joined in 1921 this big organization.
RM: That was the year that you came here?
ED: That was the same year, 1921, March 29. On April 5 I never seen so much snow in my life. It was in Trinidad that time three or four feet. In 1922 during the strike I work for $1.80 nine hours a day. For $1.80 a day. I lived in one of them places, but after in Primero was pretty good. When I got married, we didn't have too rough time. Only when they close the mines down, we have to go here and there and different places. We stay in Morley for a little while. Then we come to Cameron. From Cameron we went to Toller, Tollerburg.
That is in Trinidad County. In 1929 I was elected Delegate to go to Chicago. That was from Trinidad. I was surprised. I was a new man without any experience, and I was really interested. Of course, at that time they was planning to put me on the National Board, but then I didn't make it. Then we moved to here, to Walsenburg. In 1937 I got elected legate from here. The convention was held in Cleveland, Ohio. I got elected on the National Board. And that was 1937, and I hold the office until it ended last year. I didn't run for re-election. 41 years and six months was long enough. I serve as the President, Local Union 6755. That was one of the biggest Locals in this county. I was President for quite a few many years, and when I got hurt, broke my back, I was in the hospital, and still they didn't elect a new man. They wait until I come back. And 1 got elected on the City Council. Me and my wife run the business, the tavern for 14 years right down here, the Pioneer Tavern. First it was on Sixth Street. Then we moved to Main Street right across the street from the bank. Fourteen years on the City Council I see a lot of things, and I learn a lot of things. And I think I was an asset to the City of Walsenburg and to the County. I know that for a fact. Because I had a lot to say about Martin Lake and Horseshoe Lake, I had a lot to say about that. Of course, I think that we are going to make the hole and cement it, but most of them wanted the steel tank. I don't know which one would be better, one or the other.
Well, while we was in the Union, we had quite a few picnics. They told us we couldn't use the Local money for the picnics, we did just the same. I always said that nobody can stop us. That's our money, and we are going to have it. Sure, all the kids, children, miners, everybody went, and we had a very nice time.
RM: Where did you have your picnics?
ED: Once there was bad weather. We had it right in the YMCA in Cameron. But otherwise we used to go up to Sulphur Spring and different places. Of course, the Lodge got this Pavilion. I don't know if you ever remember it. There were very much activities up there. Every Saturday, sometimes through the week, we had things. We had the Colorado Democratic Convention up there. That was loaded with the people. I cooked the coffee in the 15 gallon boiler, and they said they never drink coffee like that. I just throwed it in, and that was really good. 1 never see people drink so much coffee. You couldn't make enough coffee with a coffee pot for all the people up there. All the weddings used to be in there. We used to have especially a New Year's Party that was very successful. But things happened that it burned down. We wasn't home. I was the main speaker in Cleveland, Ohio when this thing burned down. We were, both of us away three weeks. Maybe in one way I was glad I wasn't home. And after there was enough money to rebuild or enough insurance, but most of them wasn't interested. That's why we didn't rebuild the Pavilion.
I remember when our Lodges used to be downtown. You know where is Caputian Hall? That was where Safeway Store is now. The last one was in the Golden Nugget. We used to have meetings upstairs. After the meetings, we used to go to the saloon and stay in the saloon until 8:00 at night when they closed. Now our meetings are very nice. They start in the morning and have lunch. We had yesterday one of the nicest. They had a surprise party for me for all the service that I rendered to the public and to the Lodges and to the people. I been Secretary 30 years. This is my work, (Account Book for SNJP).
RM: These are dues paid that you have recorded?
ED: I have been Secretary 30 years. We lost quite a few. They died, you know, in 30 years time. I went through the records. When I start there was 138 that are not here any more. Some of them died. Some of them got paid out. Now with the 20 years Endowment Policies, when they mature, they take out, and they forget. They don't want to renew the policies.
RM: So these are Insurance Policies that people have through the Lodge?
ED: Sure. See, we carry our ordinary Life, 20 years paid up, and 20 years endowment and sick benefit for $1.00, $2.00, and $3.00 a day, sick benefit. Operation, disabilities and special benefits. Sometimes they take quite a few thousands of it. Chicago is the main office. That's the way it goes with the people
When we move up here, both of us cry because I was transferred by the company for six months, and both of us cry because we hate to move up here from Trinidad. But after we are still here from 1931. We got acquainted with the people. They are nice people, and we feel that we will spend here the rest of our life.
RM: You came in 1921. What was it like coming to this county at that time? Could you speak English then?
ED: Not a word. Like I told you from the beginning, I cry lot of times, and if I wasn't ashamed to go back because my folks was well-to-do. They wasn't poor, my folks. But they want me to be priest. I had two sisters that was nuns. That's why. My father broke his leg, and they want to send me the money to go back, but I had too much pride to go back. Course, there was a lot of difference, living difference between then and now back in Europe. The first time I went, when I come back, they start asking me, especially on the radio, a lot of people don't believe it, how good it was. But after, when they see it when they went there, they see what kind of living was there. My wife went with me twice. People couldn't live any better. They have everything... They retire when they are 60 years old with 80% of their pay. When they get sick, they receive 80% of their pay. And when they give you vacation, they pay for the whole family, and you have to go on vacation, not stay at home and work. They want you to go up to the mountains or down to the sea. Of course, there in Yugoslavia in three hours you could go from the sea up to the Alps. But living... I have to mention this. Right after I came, that was in June when they had that flood in Pueblo (in 1921). We went to Pueblo because my brother had quite a few friends in Pueblo. So we went to Pueblo and from Trinidad, right from Trinidad to Pueblo, I didn't see no corn, no wheat, no potatoes, nothing. I was just wondering what in the heck people live on. Believe it or not. And we got more food than any country in the world. So it was a funny feeling because when I see all those prairies, nothing in it. You take between Trinidad and Pueblo, you don't see nothing. It's all prairies.
RM: In Yugoslavia all the land is used.
ED: All the land. Everything. You take Yugoslavia and down in Italy I see it. They plant the potatoes alongside the railroad track. Because there is plenty of moisture. Yes, a lot of things is changed since then. Of course, you take before, it was under a Czar and King. Now it is the President like we got here. They elect a president for four years. And this fellow they put in for life. I don't know what's going to happen to him, but he was good for the people. I had dinner with him.
RM: Is that right?
ED: Yes. They asked me to make a speech. I happened to be there myself when they had 20th anniversary, and they was after me to make the speech. Up there a man die. He was a big man, and they asked me to hold the services at the graveyard for him. The people up there know more about me than I do myself.
RM: When did you first go back to Yugoslavia?
ED: That was in 1963, fifteen years ago.
RM: What relatives do you still have in Yugoslavia?
ED: I got a brother and two sisters. One sister in Yugoslavia and one down in Italy close to Rome. See, up there when the war was over, you know Italy took that part over. So they transfer all the railroaders down to Italy, and my sister was married to one of the railroaders, and that is how they settled down in Italy, The first time I went down to visit with her, my brother in Yugoslavia didn't see her for 24 years, and the second time both of us went to see her. That's a beautiful country.
RM: What does your brother do there?
ED: He has a farm, and they got the tavern, saloon, Costina. We eat a lot of different places some good food, I mean good food. Last time we took Laney's and Mrs. Tomsic and her son. We went on the trip. I made arrangements from here for a tour. So when we got there we made 963 miles inside the land. We see a lot of things. We stay two nights in Dubronik way down alongside the Adriatic Sea. Then when we come back right alongside the Adriatic Sea back through to home for $150.00 apiece. We had bus, guide and driver, and I mean we were in ritzy motels, hotels, not just the dumps, really ritzy hotels, and food. Of course, everybody eats the same thing that they prepared. For $150.00 eight days. I couldn't get over it. When I get back to Lublana, I asked up there because I knew the people. I asked how they could afford to give us that for $150.00. “Oh, we take care of Americans.” They were very nice.
RM: Everybody has talked about that trip and says it was really wonderful. They had a very good time.
ED: Only the last couple of days we went on out own. Instead of going to see some ruins and stuff like that, we went in the market, the shops and things. Oh, that was a lot of fun. Yes. We were talking with the driver. The driver said, “Why don't you go? You don't have to go with her (the guide).” Of course, before we got off when we got through, we collected quite a bit, and we give them half apiece. We enjoyed it. But food, I couldn't eat everything. We had a guide, and she was skinny as a rail, but I tell you, she could eat. We used to dump a lot of stuff because it was too much. The only thing we had to pay was for drinks, coffee or tea and liquor.
RM: Were your parents still alive when you were able to go back?
RM: You never saw them again once you left?
ED: I cry on the grave. I should have went. Things happen. And my mother was 86, and my father was 84 when they died.
RM: How many brothers and sisters did you have altogether?
ED: There was 12 of us.
RM: Oh, a big, big family.
ED: Oh, yes. In Slav they said Dobra Serta.
RM: What does that mean?
ED: Good kind. I was the seventh. Yes, you take people up there was very, very religious. But now they are different altogether. We had a visitor last year, a priest from there. He happened to be in Pennsylvania. Then he come down through Pueblo. Then he come over here. We took the ride over the Cordova Pass to Trinidad. Of course, his relation died, and they had rosary that night so he couldn't stay too long, and we had to be in a hurry. The only thing, she had time to prepare the dinner (my wife). And I got a nice letter from him not too long ago. This (a picture) is my nephew's little boy when he received his First Communion. That's down in Italy. This was our Wedding Anniversary (a picture of it). I got a little younger than she did (laughter).
RM: Where were you married?
ED: In Trinidad.
RM: What are the special things about a Slovenian wedding?
ED: Ours wasn't. We got married by the Justice of the Peace, and goodbye. They had a dinner for us afterwards.
RM: How about a traditional Slovenian wedding? Are there special things that usually go on for a big wedding?
ED: Oh, yes, years ago. They don't anymore. Years ago they had three days. You take back even in old country, for a couple, two or three days, plenty to eat. Wine was in washtubs, not in bottles. The funniest thing was up there when a girl get married from this house, whatever they buy for her, clothes and furniture and everything, they load, the still single boys, they load everything, and they walk, and load on front of the wagon they go to the home when she got married. And they put a tub of wine in. Oh, yes, that was a big celebration. But the funniest part, and I still can't understand now, how come did they have to load all that furniture on the wagon? And they don't scratch it. They walked. That was the custom. They put the bride in the wagon and took her in that.
RM: It seems from talking with you that you have stayed in contact with a lot of Slovenian people all over the country. Has that mainly been possible through the Lodges?
ED: Yes, I appear many, many places as the main speaker, at the banquets. I know, in Los Angeles, I told them, “I will not come any more because for certain reasons I can't change anything. When I was invited up there and approved by the National Board in Chicago to represent the time when they had a dedication of the first Old Age Slovenian Home, Rest Home, I happened to make a motion at that time the we donate $15,000, and besides that I made a motion to loan them $55,000 on 4% interest. So they built more addition to that. When they dedicate that, I was there. First I talk in English. When I got through, then since that was the first Slovenian Old Age Home, so then I made a speech in Slovene. When I got through, somebody asked me, “Do you want to meet the Yugoslav Consul?” I said that I would like to. When I walked in, he started to talk to me because he couldn't talk English, in his language, not in Slovene. Then I talked to him. He said, “What kind of person are you? First you talk to us in English. Then you talk in Slovene. Now you talk to me in Montenegro” He was Montenegro. I write some letters for the people, not in my language, but the other language. I done a pretty good job.
RM: So how many languages do you speak altogether?
ED: Well, Slovene and English, but that's Croatian. I speak very good Croatian. When I come to this country, I talk Italian. Course so many years I forgot. And the German. Of course, I forgot that right away. You know after so many years, you don't use it. Now my wife talked German. Now she don't know. You forget it when you aren't around it. There used to be a lot of coal mines around here. You take in here was around 5,000 coal miners. You could get a job any day in Walsenburg. Because this, was domestic coal. See, Trinidad is coking coal and semi-coke. If we had semi-coke, they would work full force up here because they need that coke and coal, but up here is all domestic coal. This is a very high grade of coal. I don't know why they don't open some mines. We still use coal. We got the electric heat, too. I paid $63.00 a ton for the last coal we got. We got 5 tons of coal, and it was over $300.00.
RM: how long does 5 tons of coal last you?
ED: Oh, more than a winter. Last winter we used about 3 tons, a little over 3 tons last year.
RM: That was a hard winter, too.
ED: We use some wood, too. My wife's brother brought us three pickup trucks cut already. I asked how much I owed him, he said, “I didn't bring it to you. I bring it to my sister.” You know it sounds comical.
RM: What is your brother's name?
Mrs. Tomsic: Joe Salik.
RM: Where does he live?
ED: Do you know the highway over the mountains to go to Trinidad? You know where is the North Lake? You go around the lake, and then you go a little ways down the hill and come back up the hill, and then it is Monument Lake. It is right between those two lakes. It's closer to the Monument Lake than it is to the North Lake.
R: Does he farm up there?
ED: No. They used to do contract work and building, but he hasn't been able to. He's been ill for some time. That is beautiful county, and they got a lot of wood. That is one of the biggest fireplaces I ever see. Oh, man, they could throw the logs in like that (four feet long), and they have all that beautiful rock all around fit in. That is really nice. It is worth a lot of money… I was offered a job in Washington, the Foreign Language Information Service, but I was scared to tackle it because I thought I would have to do all the work. Afterwards I find out that I wouldn't have to do anything.
RM: What were the schools like that you went to in Yugoslavia?
ED: There is no spelling. We don't have x, and we don't have y, and we don't have w, but we got z, c, and s. We pronounce those “ja,'' “tha,” and “sha.” You take my name. If I want to pronounce my name in English, I have to have put two “h's” in, Tomchich, and pronounce my name, “Tomchich,” but who in the heck wants that Tomchich? You take my writing. When I was in school for Citizen Papers, the professor thought that we couldn't read or write, and he asked me. Why he picked on me, I don't know. I went to the blackboard. He wrote my name down, and he says, “Can't you write like this?” And I had beautiful handwriting before I started to type. And he looked at me, and he looked at that writing, and he said, “I wish I could write like you do.” But after I started to type, sometimes I couldn't even read my own writing. They teach us the penmanship up there, not how fast you could scribble, but penmanship. That is what counts up there. You have to have a pen. Not a ballpoint, and not a pencil. We used to have a fellow down here who died. I looked at some of his writing for the city, and he had really beautiful penmanship. I admire nice handwriting. I get letters sometimes. I don't know what they want or anything.
RM: I was going to ask you, how long did you mine?
ED: 29 years. I got hurt. I was in the hospital, and after I quit, and I went to another mine, not for a big company, not for CF&I. Then we bought the tavern in 1948. We bought the tavern, and I work nine months in the tavern and in the mine. I thought that if I didn't go in the mine, that we wouldn't eat, but we eat better after. If we run the tavern the way we run it the first six months, we wouldn't even have a place in the poor house.
RM: So you learned a lot your first six months? What were the things you had to learn about the tavern business?
Mrs. Tomsic: Not to trust people.
ED: It is hard to say something like that, “Not to trust people.” They take advantage. Only thing, even the mayor said, “How come Ed never had any trouble in his tavern?” You know they used to have a lot of trouble when I served on the Council. We never had any trouble in our tavern, never. They know better. A fellow even called me Irish.” He said I was “Mean Irish.” I told him if he ever come back through that door... Well, we trust everybody, cashed all their checks, loaned them money. “Give me $20, give me 30, give me $50.” Only once I was scared. I signed a bond for $7,000 for a Spanish fellow. He was from Old Mexico. His daughter and son-in-law come down, and they begged me. I even asked the Judge, I said, “How come you set the bond so high? $7,000?” And that was the only time I thought he was maybe going to skadoo back to Old Mexico, but he didn't. He appreciated it, but the daughter and his son-in-law. We had, I would say, pretty near all of Gardner. Everybody from Gardner come down there. Because they was treated nice, and we had the habit, when the kids come down, we give them candy or soda. I know now a lot of times when I see people, after so many years grown-up people. They say, “Do you remember me?” No. How you going to? They was kids, and now they are grown up with a big beard on. They say, “Well, I used to come in with my Daddy. You give me candy.” They remember. You take for Christmas and for Easter, if we close, we would be money, ahead. We give them drinks. A lot of times we didn't take hardly any money on Christmas.
RM: Where did you two meet each other?
ED: In Primero. How it happened, I see her once, I think. Then somebody escorted her or wanted to get married or whatever it was, I don't know. He asked me to go down with them. Then I see her. A friend of mine got married. He was supposed to get married. He said, “You are related to me some relation years and years ago. How about being a Best Man for me?” Then there were quite a few Slavish women. So they start talking, “Who is going to be a Bride's Maid?” Well., I said, Stella across the street, and she was a nice Spanish girl, and we was friends. Oh, some Slav women, you know how they was. So, I went down and asked her. She came from Kansas to see her mother. She wasn't raised with her mother. She was raised with her Grandmother, and her mother was sick. She broke a leg, and she come see her, and that is how it happened. As soon as she see me, she hook me.
RM: That was it, eh? She looks like she's going to hook you again.
ED: That was 56 years ago. And I'll tell you something. In 56 years we never argue. Anything that is done is done together. If we spend money or buy automobiles. We bought twenty-some automobiles already. Now last year we bought two, and anything we do, it is together. When the kids was small, she used to say, “How come you don't tell them?” I said, “They are yours. You got to tell them.” So I never, I raised two, and I never put a hand on either one. Never did. I said I would never, if I ever have children, I would never hit them. When they was dressed up, one them wouldn't sit down. I took him to YMCA. You know what the YMCA is. They were playing cards and different things. He wouldn't sit so he wouldn't get his clothes dirty. Oh, he was particular. Some of them would give him a chair. Oh, no, “I'll get my pants dirty.” Oh, they was dressed up nice. I got lot of pictures of them.
Meet a lot of nice people. Meet a lot of funny people. But when you settle like this, your home. We live up here a little over two days before Christmas, it is forty years since we live in this house. Of course, It wasn't a house like this now. Four rooms.
RM: When did you buy this house?
ED: December 23, 1939. That was when we move up here in this house.
RM: Were you still mining at that time?
RM: What was it like in the mine camps when you first came?
ED: Well, people was friendly. There was no TV's. On a Saturday, first thing we go in one house or another house, roll the linoleum and move the furniture and start pulling (?) and dancing. That was in the camps all over. One place once. Another place another time, have a couple drinks, and everybody had a good time. Course, after radios and TV's.spoil. I don't know if they spoil or not.
RM: But people don't visit the way they used to.
ED: Now if you want to go visit somebody, you have to find out if they want you in the house or not because they watch their programs. It is. People is not friendly. Years and years ago. You take in Primero, I remember, I don't think there was a dozen cars in the camp.
Mrs. Tomsic: There wasn't that much, half a dozen.
ED: So everybody lived there, and everybody was happy, and friendly. Not the way it is now. No TV, no radio, no cars. After cars, then the radios and now TV's. You take, your Grandmother didn't believe it. You know when I was in Chicago, I see a TV. When I come home, I start telling people what I see up there, they told me that I see things. Believe it or not. I seen it in Chicago, and I couldn't believe it that, that thing could happen. Of course, it was black TV. It wasn't color. I should remember when that happened. But we was in the tavern already when we had the TV in the tavern, and when they had a fight or boxing or something like that, people would even call from Alamosa to reserve them a booth. Oh, yes. Everything was loaded. All the chairs, even behind the bar. Well, people weren't equipped to have all over the TV's. Now we got ours, I got mine, and she got hers, and they are all color. Sometimes I think there is some rough programs for children. But children nowadays know more about it. They tell the parents what to do, not the parents the children. Well, in the old country, it is the same thing. It's a different generation.
RM: How many children did you have?
ED: Two boys, six grandchildren, and two great-grandchildren. 56 years already married. I'm proud of my sons. I always was because when I used to talk to them to get their education any way they could get ahead of it. I told them that they shouldn't be as dumb as I am. Once I remember the young one told me, “You ain't that dumb. If you was that dumb, you wouldn't go over the United States.” But I see that they got educated, and the both of them have good positions.
RM: Did they both go to college?
ED: Oh, yes.
RM: Where did they go?
ED: The oldest went to college in Boulder. And the youngest in Ames, Iowa, and then he got his Master's in Boulder. Then they got married. One got one son. He is an attorney in Los Angeles. And this one has five. One is married to the sister of Verna Duzenak who works for the District Attorney.
RM: What is the difference between raising a family in the old country and raising a family here?
ED: Ain't any different now. There used to be.
RM: What used to be the differences?
ED: They was very strict. Church was first. Then school. But church, on a Sunday, before noon and afternoon, that was. Most of the people was awful religious, and there was no Sunday work. Sunday was church. And the elderly ladies went to church every day. But the children listened to their parents. Now they don't. The same thing is up here now. They live together before they get married. They have children together before they get married. Before nobody knew about the divorce. Now there's a lot of divorces. So that is what is different between years ago. Up there was the same thing. Years ago when Father tell you, you do certain thing, they do it. But children, I know in the camp, they amused themselves. But now they need a car or they need something else. If the parents tell them something, they don't listen. You take, who in the heck ever hear before of a school teacher getting told off by the children? Years ago, if you do that, out. If you get hit in the school, you get three times hit when you get home. When I used to go to school back in the old country, if somebody get hit, “Don't tell my folks, don't tell my father because he is going to beat the heck out of me. And now, if the teacher tell them something, the folks go down and raise heck with the teacher. I know that.
RM: What do you think the reasons are that those things have changed?
ED: Different generation. You know old folks years ago, they didn't have nothing. They didn't have nothing that we got now. They work hard for their dollar, and when they get married, they figure, “Well, when I was raised, I had a rough time. I'm going to try to make it a little easier for my chi1dren.” So the children, when they got married, the same thing happened. And we got more and more. More and more nowadays. You know, most of the children they had to work when they grow up twelve, thirteen years old. Now they don't. Now kids got everything they want. They got everything they want. I know ours in Denver. We had one bicycle for both of them. They was lucky that they had bicycles. Up there, they have six for five kids. Lot of things have changed since we was up here. And eats. Now, “What are we going to have for supper? What are we going to have for dinner? Something good.” In them days if you had a piece of bread and a cup of coffee, you was lucky. Especially from 1929 to 1933, it was rough. A lot of people never see a dollar for years and years. I remember when I went in the mine because I work more than a lot of them. If I had an extra sandwich, I put it in somebody's bucket because they didn't have nothing to eat. We bought the pig, 3¢ a pound, cleaned. Look how many people didn't have no 3¢. 3¢ a pound, I'll never forget that. It was rough for everybody. Steak, 20 or 25¢ a pound. But you didn't have the 25¢ then. Cheese, I waste more cheese now than we ate then. You know, Slav people used to make Potica just for special occasions, for weddings and Christmas and Easter. Now I could eat Potica all the time morning, noon and night, but now sometimes I eat, sometimes then I wait maybe a week or two before I take a piece. You know what Potica is? It is a nut bread the way they make it in the old country. You take a lot of people up here like grabasa. They came from the old country. That is a pork sausage, smoked. A lot of people don't even know when they start eating it. That's why when we had a Slav wedding in Primero, all the people, everybody was enjoying Klobase, Potica and Strudel.
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