Dawson City, Yukon Friday, February 5, 1999

Museum Director Mack Swackhammer led the musical portion of the "Double Bob" celebrations.Photo by John Richthammer

Feature Stories

YTG Sets Aside Municipal Board Decision on Dawson Boundary Reduction
Dawson's Submission Falls of Deaf Ears at DIAND
Byrne Replaced as Service Interpreter
Our Friend, Otto
Police Blotter: Strange Doings on the Dempster
Double the Fun
Shelter Receives Donation from Teachers' Association
Winter Tourist Enjoys Her Stay
Next Berton House Residents Chosen
Uffish Thoughts: That Annoying Photo of "Dawson"
Letter: Norwegian Seeking Info on Dredge Picture

Welcome to the on-line version of the February 5, 1999 Klondike Sun. Our hard copy hit the stands with 20 pages, 18 photographs, 25 articles, a new crossword, Doug Urquhart's Paws, and a new strip called Mukluk and Honisukle by another cartoonist who was willing to let us use his work for free just to be part of the Sun.

Dawson's Submission Falls of Deaf Ears at DIAND

by Dan Davidson

The Department of Indian and Northern Affairs has responded to the supplementary submission of the City of Dawson to the Yukon Territorial Water Board, and the word is that DIAND is not impressed.

Federal representatives from DIAND and Fisheries and Oceans Canada fought hard to keep Dawson from answering the Water Board's request for clarification on toxic markers back in mid-December when the board held its hearing in Dawson's application for an amendment to its water licence. After failing prevent the hearing from occurring in the first place, federal officials walked out of the meeting on its final day once it became clear that the Water Board wanted to hear more details from Dawson.

Simply put, Dawson maintains that the toxic pollution cited in numerous DIAND reports doesn't exist, that the Yukon River is itself the source of the contaminants (in the form of suspended solids and silt) most likely to harm fish in the river, and that there is no pressing need for the town to move to secondary sewage treatment for its primary treated effluent in the near future.

This opinion, emerging from studies by a team of environmental consultants which includes names found on several of the standard reference works and measuring tools used in this kind of study, is seconded by the Yukon's Medical Health Officer, Dr. Frank Timmermans, who goes even further. Timmermans weighed in against the methodology used by the feds to interpret the fecal coliform data which he collected, and concludes that all of this material can be traced to ground water run-off from animal sources in the town and nearby animals in the ecosystem.

Dawson's consultants, McLeay Environmental Ltd. and Enkon Environmental Ltd., proposed a 9 year monitoring program to determine the actuality of any risk, at a cost of about $100,000 per year. The Water Board asked Dawson to establish what indicators would be used to trigger the need to move to a new stage of treatment.

The supplementary report was filed on December 23, 1998. It proposes two "bioassay markers", which would monitor growth of fathead minnows and the reproductive capacity of Ceriodaphnia dubia, a species of fishfood organisms, both of which are native to the Yukon River system and therefore, presumably, exposed to longer term effects from Dawson's discharge than any migratory species that are passing by.

Timmermans' further recommendations for "innovative engineering solutions that will be less costly than a full secondary treatment plant" were included in a separate letter.

DIAND's response is dated January 14, 1999 and concludes that nothing its officials have heard or read changes its standing opinion that "Dawson should be directed to proceed with the construction and operation of a secondary sewage treatment system" by the time line laid out in its current water licence, which would be January, 2000.

DIAND is not interested in reconvening the Water Board hearing, but now indicates that it will attend such a meeting if one is called.


Byrne Replaced as Service Interpreter

by Chuck Tobin

The Whitehorse Star, January 25, 1999
Used with permission

Tom Byrne plays host at the Robert Service Cabin a few years ago. Photo by Dan Davidson

The man who's kept Robert Service alive in Dawson City for the past two decades says Parks Canada is acting irrational, and he just won't take it.

Tom Byrne said in an interview on January 22 that new contract demands to perform Robert Service and greet tourists at the bard's historic cabin in the Gold Rush capital were unreasonable, so he did not submit a proposal.

In Byrne's words, the federal government wants to off-load responsibility and increase revenue from the summertime attraction - all at the expense of heavier work demands on Byrne.

"I would really want to rock the boat a bit, and show them up, because there are other people high up that will eventually want to know what is going on," said the seasoned performer.

"The mayor (Dawson Mayor Glen Everitt) is concerned. I am sure the minister of tourism (Dave Keenan) would be very interested, and Peter Jenkins (the Yukon Party MLA for Klondike) is another one that would be very interested as a representative of the Yukon because it is basically affecting tourism."

For 18 of the last 20 years, Byrne has performed for tens of thousands of visitors. Many have been repeats who describe his show to friends and tourism officials as a must-see, he said.

Byrne, however, said if he's not performing at the cabin this year, he may be doing his own Robert Service gig somewhere else in Dawson, and already has a couple of irons in the fire.

Parks Canada spokeswoman Paula Hassard said this morning (Jan. 25) Byrne was not considered for the Robert Service contract because he did not submit a proposal.

Charlie Davis of New Brunswick, the only performer to submit a proposal, was awarded the work. Hassard said he has been reciting Service's work for 47 years in commercial, private and non-profit venues.

"First of all, we are very disappointed that Tom did not bid ...because everybody is very happy with his work," said Hassard, the acting superintendent of Klondike National Historic Sites. "He is very professional and does very good work."

Hassard said there were changes to the tender proposal, and Parks Canada's new Robert Service agreed to work under the proposal.

Byrne said he simply could not kow-tow to the new work demands, and wrote a letter to Parks Canada prior to the tender closing last fall indicating so.

The letter said Byrne would only be interested in the work if the terms of the contract remained the same as the previous three-year deal - which was extended to a fourth year to include 1998. Or, he wrote, he'd be interested in performing at the Palace Grand one show a day only, which would meet with revenue expectations because of the theatre's large seating capacity.

Seating comfort for Service fans would increase sharply in the Palace Grand, and Service's cabin would still remain a key attraction on the town's walking tour.

Byrne said he was discouraged by last fall's tender proposal because it called for an increase in Parks Canada's take from 10 per cent of gross receipts to 20 per cent.

It also required the performer to do three shows instead of two, maintain washroom facilities that are to be built on the site this year, supply his own sound system and allow Parks Canada to approve all advertising, Byrne said.

Providing two 75-minute shows a day, as well as being at the cabin eight hours a day, seven days a week throughout the tourist season is already onerous enough, he argues; never mind having three shows a day.

And adding washroom maintenance to the list of responsibilities that he and his three staff members are required to do wasn't acceptable, he said.

Parks Canada has always supplied the sound system, so why change now? he asks.

"What it looks like to me is they want a babysitter for the cabin, as well as what I'm already doing," Byrne said.

He was also annoyed that Parks Canada did not sit down and discuss proposed contract changes, given his involvement with the attraction over the last 20 years.

Byrne was hired in 1979, after the theatre troupe he founded and guided in Inuvik enjoyed overwhelming success in a local Dawson theatre festival. He's had the work since, but for a year off in 1986, when he was in Vancouver performing at Expo '86, and in one other year when it was given to another performer.

He worked by the hour up until 1995, when he was awarded the first three-year contract.

Byrne said he's well-recognized for his Robert Service work in Dawson. He has many pieces of correspondence to prove it, including praise from tour company executives happy with how Byrne makes their clients' Dawson experience a memorable one.

Whether the attraction will draw fewer people because he won't be there, Byrne would not say. He did suggest, however, that a good number of people will take notice of his absence.

"I do not want them to feel I am walking away with my hat in my hand, and my tail between my legs, because, like I said, I want to shake the basket a little."

Hassard said the increase in revenue Parks Canada wants is more in line with 14 per cent, or up four per cent from last year, rather than the 20 per cent cited by Byrne.

Last year, the 10 per cent of gross receipts required Byrne to pay $4,200. Parks Canada was seeking a flat fee of $6,000, partially because it made bookkeeping easier, she said.

And there is an expectation, added Hassard, that with three shows a day, revenue will rise.

She said there are examples of where washroom facilities were added to other historic sites, and concessionaires took on the maintenance without a fuss. And it was felt that having the performer provide his own sound system was appropriate, she said.

Denny Kobayashi, executive director of the Klondike Visitor's Association, said on Jan. 25 that the association has been an ardent support of Byrne's, and recognizes and appreciates his work.

This matter, however, is a contract dispute, and the KVA does not want to, and should not, get involved, he said.

Jenkins, on the other hand, said it's clear the dispute has risen as part of the federal government's initiative to reduce its annual costs by generating more revenue.

"Parks Canada are going more toward cost recovery but they have a lot to learn about that area," said Jenkins. "They have a lot to learn about customer service."

Byrne, he said, has done a tremendous job as Robert Service, and was one of the foremost attractions in the community.

Jenkins said Byrne is a professional, and a hard worker. And he suspects if he made the decision not to submit a proposal under the new terms, it was for good reason.

Jenkins said government has already made a mess of the territorial economy, and tourism is the last egg in the basket.

"I guess government is going to take steps to screw that up too; who knows?"


Our Friend, Otto

by Palma Berger

This photo of Otto's handiwork is by Richard Harrington.

Otto Blattler came to the Yukon from Switzerland. In Dawson he has been our garbage collector for 27 years, and simply known to everyone as 'Otto', and more well known than most elected officials.

He came to this position in a round about way. Otto worked on the dredge for Yukon Consolidated Gold Company from 1956-1967 he was an operator in the power plant at North Fork. Working with well-known Dawson people of that time as Ben Warnsby, Newt Webster, Mike Bamblett and Erik Burian. He and wife Pia then moved to town were he worked in the diesel plant at the south end of Dawson. Later he worked with contractor a building Alex McDonald Lodge.

In the fall of 1970 he went independent and bought out the garbage business from Alex Nordling.

He started with a green GMC dump-truck. In 1978 the City asked for a side-packer which he then purchased. By 1991 the number of dwellings in Dawson had grown to such an extent and the Dome subdivision had been opened, there were now so many more tourists and the dump had been moved to Quigley Gulch that he needed a second truck. This was a 5 ton International diesel truck, which was also a side-packer, and which cost $54,000.00. This small business had definitely grown. Luck for him his three boys, Eric, Oscar and Edgar are all mechanically inclined and maintenance on the trucks was well done.

He did not have as much time for his hobby which was carving the cheerful gnomes which were pooping up in many homes in Dawson. He had learned to carve in Switzerland where there was hard wood available, but not in this country, so it was he searched the river banks for any solid roots that were washed down each spring. Out of these gnarled shapes happy smiling faces were mad to appear.

While I chatted with him in his work-shop, some of them grinned from ceiling or wall, as they waited completion. But I won't go on about this talent as Otto is a most unassuming person. His constant reminder to me was "Now don't go overboard in this write-up".

We talked of the changes he has seen and how he had worked six days a week and took off only Christmas and New Year. The weather never deterred him. It just made things really difficult at times. He pulled out a 1971 calendar and pointed out January where he had marked the temperatures between the 10th and 19th of that month. The warmest temperature was -44oF. The lowest was -70oF, and in the - 50's and 60's most other days. He said in an understatement, "That was a tough one".

We chatted about the town that he first knew. The (old, old) Liquor Store was up near Taffy William's place. The 'new' Liquor Store was built about 1950. Zaccharelli's store across from it. The older lady who ran it was very very nice and sold tobacco products and books and love to talk.

"The Professor" lived in the Westminster Hotel. He was a man with much education, and was always helping people out. He was not a booze-hound. Many of the old-timers lived in the Westminster or Pearl Harbour for the winter living on the tabs they ran up. When the Gold Company got going in the spring they got jobs and settled up their accounts.

Otto's new house is coming along still. His home of many years was the historic Patullo house. Patullo later became Premier of British Columbia. Then Commissioner Jeckyll lived in it. But this house burnt down a few years ago. As it was uninsured it has been a bit tough getting the new log-built one completed. But the family is working on it bit by bit.

Otto learned to peel the logs and friend Barb Hanulik helped them.

This year the tenders were let for the garbage collection and Otto's bid was unsuccessful. This makes him our retired garbage collector. So what is he going to do now? 'Well', he says, I guess I'll go fishing. Then I have a lot of work to do on those fellows there." (Indicating the incomplete gnomes).

"But, he added," I would like to say Thank You to the people of Dawson who have been pretty good to me, Especially when the house burnt down." Then as an afterthought, "Some of those dogs were a bit of a bother though."


Police Blotter: Strange Doings on the Dempster

Dawson City RCMP received a report from the Ogilvie Highway Camp that there was a suspicious person camped at the Engineer Creek Campground. The male stated he had land mines through out the immediate area and wanted to be left alone. With the assistance of the highways department, police closed the Dempster Highway and sealed the immediate area surrounding the man. Assistance was received from Fort McPherson RCMP. Whitehorse Emergency Response Team was put on stand-by. At approximately 21:00, the male entered the highway camp. At this time the camp personnel spoke with the individual and calmed him down. RCMP was notified of his location, attended the camp and arrested the subject. The subject, an Alberta resident, is being held for assessment and will be transported to Whitehorse.

(D J. Parlee) Cst. A/N. C.O. In Charge - Operations Dawson City Detachment.


Double the Fun

by Kim Adams

John Richthammer and Laura Massey get into the Celtic line-dancing act. Photo by Rosalind Vijendren

St. Mary's schoolroom was crowded on Saturday, January 16. The occasion was the first ever "Double Bob Dinner", a uniquely Dawson event combining birthday celebrations for poets Robert Service and Robert Burns.

People arrived at a leisurely rate, in true Dawson style, beginning just after 6:00 until nearly 7:00. So many people arrived (an estimated 75!), chairs had to be put to two extra tables and extra chairs brought up from the basement. Thanks to Gloria Baldwin-Schultz's quick action this transition was smoothly accomplished.

The festivities began with Peter Maxwell's rousing rendition of Robert Burns' "Address to a Haggis" as soon as the "great chieftain o' the puddin-race" was set before him by a dancing Julie Lawson.

Father John Tyrrell said "The Selkirk Grace" and then the feasting was under way. As is customary with community potluck suppers, everyone brought food or drink. And what food they brought; such food as would have pleased both Burns and Service as well as their fans: haggis, roasted caribou and gravy, salads, caribou sausage, roast chicken and gravy, lasagna, mashed potatoes and turnip (tatties and neeps in Burns' Scotland), scotch broth, bannock, casseroles, short bread cookies, trifle and more! Some guests brought juice and tea while whisky, beer and other beverages were available from the cash bar.

The traditional twenty minute speech to the immortal memory of Robert Burns was reduced to a few verses on the two Bobs, penned and performed by yours truly.

Once the eating and drinking were well underway, Master of Ceremonies Mac Swackhammer began drawing numbers to see who would perform their "party piece".

Some people came prepared to sing, read or recite pieces of Burns or Service poetry. Others came unprepared, but bravely entered into the spirit of the evening with excellent off the cuff readings.

Thus, pieces ran the gamut from a well rehearsed choir singing "Auld Lang Syne" to Stephen Winton's impressive impromptu reading of "The Spell of the Yukon".

The entertainment continued long after the meal was finished. In her debut public performance, Sharon Touchie joined Mac Swackhammer in fiddling a few numbers for the crowd.

Then the dancing began. Three intrepid dancing couples took to the floor to demonstrate for all Maime's Jig and the Gay Gordons with Mac Swackhammer on fiddle and Betty Davidson on keyboard. The bar was busy; the dancers had no wish to stop so the fiddler played on. Apparently, everyone recognized the opportunity to have twice as much fun as would be possible at a party honouring just one Bob.

Many thanks to all who participated and helped with the event, whether washing dishes, cleaning up, tending bar, dancing, or performing a "party piece". Special thanks for all their efforts to Mac Swackhammer, Gloria Baldwin Shultz, Laura Massey, Tim Coonen, John Richthammer, Sharon Touchie, Bonnie Nordling, John and Carol Tyrrell, Julie Lawson and Peter Maxwell.

The 'Double Bob' may go on to become a wide-spread tradition. Even so, it should be remembered we did it first in Dawson, and we did it right!


Shelter Receives Donation from Teachers' Association

Sharon Bergie (L) of the Shelter receives a cheque from Kathy Webster (R).

As a follow-up to the White Ribbon carnpaign, the Yukon Teachers' Association has presented money raised from that initiative to the three Yukon Transition Homes.

The White Ribbon campaign is held across Canada each year in late November to raise awareness of the impact of men's violence against women. Men predominantly commit violence against women and the campaign is one forum that calls upon men to reflect upon their responsibility in ending violence towards women.

"The primary fund raiser during the White Ribbon campaign was a pancake breakfast sponsored by the Yukon Teachers' Association," said association president Paul Nordahl. "Donations were also received from individuals, businesses and labour organizations, especially the Yukon Employees Uunion" All together, the campaign raised close to $3000.

Last week, $500 from that money was presented to Sharon Bergie of the Dawson Women's Shelter by Kathy Webster, one of the two YTA representatives at the Robert Service School. The other recipients were Kaushee's Place, in Whitehorse and Help and Hope for Families, in Watson Lake.


Winter Tourist Enjoys Her Stay

by Dan Davidson

While some members of Dawson's business community are wondering how best to market the winter and spread our tourism industry a little further across the months, one visitor, Mary Lee Daniels, is quite certain that the job could be done and that the town really doesn't need to look that hard for things to attract people.

Daniels spent most of the month of December living at White Ram Manor on 7th Avenue, and she found that she was able to enjoy Dawson in a way that she hadn't managed on three previous visits during the summer.

"I'd been here in 1968, then in '92 and '96, and I always thought I'd like to come back here in the winter. I wanted to see the Northern Lights and I wanted to go dog sledding."

It took nearly three weeks to set those things up. The weather only cooperated a few days before she left, and dog mushers Christine and Brent McDonald took her on a ride the same week.

"It was excellent," she said. "You could do it back home, but it wouldn't be the same."

Daniels hails from Birks Falls, a community of 1,000 people about 45 minutes south of North Bay, or three hours north of Toronto. She works for the local branch of the Royal Bank. She attributes her northern fascination to a season her family spent trapping on Steamboat Mountain in northern B.C., even though she was only about a year old at the time.

It probably also helps that she knows some people in Dawson (Al Rudis and Cheryl Laing) who once lived near Birks Falls. She didn't tell them she was coming and sprung a surprise on them.

One of the nurses in town grew up near Daniels' home and they figure that they probably went to the same school at about the same time, but they don't remember each other. They had time to sort that out at one of the many community events which Daniels attended while she was here.

She hit the height of the open house season and estimates she attended some function or other almost every other night while she was here. What with open houses, the Christmas tree lighting ceremony, church events and two school concerts, she was getting to be a familiar face to a number of people by the time she left.

"People would wave as they drove by," she said as she described her daily routine. She made it her habit to walk about the town each day, strolling along the dyke and dropping into the various stores, chatting with folks and learning everything she could about life here.

She reports being offered an amazing number of jobs.

She even attended one of the winter tourism meetings and was amused to hear herself described as a "whacko!" by one hotel owner who was talking about the kind of traveller who comes here outside the normal season.

She sees potential for star gazing, dog sledding, snowmobiling, cross country skiing here, but she enjoyed simple things like the darkness in December with the unseen sun lighting the surrounding mountains and the twilight of the winter's days. There was only one day of weather in the -40's while she was here and she also found that a neat experience.

To her mind it shouldn't take anything too extraordinary.

"Just the country. What's wrong with the landscape and such? Really, It's just a quiet village in the winter." But Mary Lee Daniels thinks it's great!


Next Berton House Residents Chosen

Three writers from Montreal, Saskatchewan and California have been chosen for the Berton House writer's retreat in Dawson City for 1999.

They are:

The writers, chosen from 25 applicants, were identified in mid-January in a statement from a committee of the Yukon Arts Council.

The retreat is entering its fourth year. Founded by Canadian author Pierre Berton, it provides professional Canadian writers with time to write in a part of the country that many would otherwise not experience. It's hoped that the Yukon will influence their writing in the future.

Each writer receives rent-free accommodation in the two-bedroom bungalow, and a $500-a-month honorarium to help offset living costs. Writers must perform readings of their work in Dawson and Whitehorse.

Berton House, the boyhood home of the Ontario author, forms a literary triangle with Robert Service's cabin just across the street and Jack London's cabin two blocks south.

Brickman, living in California, will continue her second novel, The Empty Quarter, set in the Yukon and the Arabian Gulf.

The award-winning Robinson lives in Prince Albert, Sask. He has written a number of stage plays, radio dramas and other works. He plans to adapt Slag into a stage play called Ghost Trains.

Stamino is a Montreal poet whose recent collection, The New World, was published in 1997.

Helping fund the retreat are the Canada Council, the territorial arts branch, the Writer's Union of Canada and the Writer's Development Trust through Berton's efforts. Numerous members of the public have contributed as well.

The program is a cooperative effort of the arts council's Berton House committee, the Klondike Visitors Association and the Dawson City Library Board.

Several years ago, Berton donated $50,000 toward the restoration of his boyhood home. The last time he was in Dawson was in the fall of 1998.

The current writer-in-residence is Julie Lawson, who is completing her fall term, which was interrupted due to a death in her family.


Uffish Thoughts: That Annoying Photo of "Dawson"

by Dan Davidson

"Dawson", as shown in the Canadian Encyclopedia on CD-ROM.

Owners and users of the CD-ROM editions of The Canadian Encyclopedia can look forward to having a decent picture of Dawson City in the next upgrade of the popular reference tool.

When the original book version of the set appeared from Hurtig Books there was a nice Richard Harrington aerial shot of the town, taken sometime in the 1970's, by my guess.

When the whole project went to CD-ROM under new owners McClelland and Stewart that picture got lost and we were left with one that appears to be from the Whitehorse industrial area. It's a river valley shot, but that's not our Yukon River and it's not our valley.

I have dutifully reviewed new editions of the TCE in my Bookends column as they have appeared and have each time mentioned the error, sending off my tearsheets to the publisher in the hope that something would happen. Nothing did.

I recently had the opportunity to peek at the latest edition to the line-up, the Junior version of the package, an adaptation of the six volume children's set which appeared after the original. Much to my annoyance, it had the same photo.

The TCE currently appears in three editions, by the way, Junior (1 CD), World (the TCE plus another CD) and Deluxe (the TCE plus 4 other reference CDs).

This time, however, they have a web site on the InterNet, so I went there the other day and sent this letter.


I'm the editor of the Klondike Sun in Dawson, Yukon, and book reviewer for the Whitehorse Star in the territorial capital. Since the first version of your CD-ROM encyclopedia appeared I have been trying to get you to pay attention to the fact that you have a major error in the section on Dawson. The large river valley photo which has been used in all versions of your product so far is NOT a Dawson shot. as far as I can tell it is the Marwell Industrial Area in Whitehorse. With all the many images of Dawson which are available to you, this is a serious oversight and needs to be corrected in your next edition. It should even be noted at this site.

Dan Davidson

I got this e-mail reply a day or so later.

Hi Dan:

I have taken steps immediately to correct the mistake. I don't know why your previous messages did not reach me. Thanks for your concern. It is extremely difficult (impossible) to get everything right but the standard that we do have is thanks to the input that we have had over the years.


James H. Marsh
Editor in Chief
The Canadian Encyclopedia
Tel (403-469-3726)
Web site: http://www.tceplus.com

I hope this means exactly what it says and that we can look forward to a new view of Dawson in the TCE as we enter the next millennium. According to its web site, the TCE is Y2K proof, so the only errors you'll find there will be human ones.


Letter: Norwegian Seeking Info on Dredge Picture

The Red Devil Dredge.

I am writing you in order to hopefully get some information about a particular picture which I have had in my posession for many, many years. As you will see from the enclosed copy, the picture was taken by WOLFE PHOTO and is dated August 27, 1906, and shows a dredging operation near Dawson Y.T. The original picture is of very good photographic quality. I have thus been able to make some fairly good magnifications, which I also am enclosing with this letter. Perhaps some of your readers would know who these people were?

As far as the main picture is concerned, I would appreciate very much to receive any information you (or any of your readers) might be able to give. All I know, is that the picture must have been brought to Norway by my father back in 1910. The strange part about it, however, is that my father (along with many other young Norwegians) was participating in the "gold rush" in the Fairbanks area (Cleary City) in Alaska. So why this picture from Dawson City ?

Finally, I would like to mention that I find the on-line issues of The Klondike Sun to be quite interesting. So, congratulations with a fine newspaper !


Roald Skarbo,
Elgstien 9,
4637 Kristiansand,

Klondike Sun Historian John Gould Replies

It was the only sluice box dredge that was brought into the country, the remnants of it are still here. Just before you get to the bridge as you go out of town, just beyond Berny Gagnon's house, on the same side of the road, is what is left of this dredge. It was known as the "red devil". I don't know when it shut down.

Looking at the picture you can see the hill across the river from Dawson and in front of the man on the tideck you can see crocus bluff.


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