From Childhood To Sasha Profile Number 4

Hi Everyone profile number 4 is from the lovely Dorisanne Osbourn.

My name is Dorisanne Weimert Osborn and I was born in Buffalo, New York on March 1, 1930. Yes, that was 85 years ago! I was a child of the Great Depression.


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(Above Photo taken by Francine Briggs at the 2008 Sasha Festival)


My Family:

I was born into an old German family which had lived in Buffalo since the early 1800s. My great great grandparents had a farm in South Buffalo; my great grandparents owned the “Weimert Tavern”, a “bed and breakfast” on the Old Post Road; and my grandfather was a grocer in Buffalo. My father graduated from Syracuse University as an electrical engineer and worked for the General Electric Company for 50 years. During the Depression years he used a portion of his salary to keep his assistants in their jobs.

My mother was born in northern New York state, near the Canadian border. My maternal grandfather, a farmer and blacksmith, was of English-Irish descent and my maternal grandmother (Dora Anna MacDonald, for whom I was named) was of Scotch and French descent. She passed away the summer before my birth, but I must have inherited my love of reading, sewing and quilting from her as my daughters and I all have her lovely quilts to enjoy in our homes today. My parents had lost a son and twin baby daughters prior to my birth and I grew up as an only child, surrounded by many cousins, aunts and uncles. We were rich in love, if not rich in money.


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(Above My Cousins—I am the youngest and in the front row with my dog and doll.)


In September 1950, 65 years ago, my family expanded when I married Charlie Osborn. I had met him first in 1942, right here on the campus of Keuka College when we attended a summer church conference, as he was the brother of a friend of mine. Seven years later, when I was a college student and he was doing graduate work at Colgate Rochester Divinity School, we began to date. We lived in Rochester, NY for 2 years while he completed his degree and I worked as a church secretary. In 1953, we were commissioned as American Baptist missionaries to work with native Americans in Oklahoma. I taught crafts and cooking while Charlie was the Director of the Anadarko Christian Centre, a recreational and educational centre. Our first two daughters, Anne Elizabeth and Jeanne Catherine, were born in Oklahoma and they adapted to “Indian ways” by sleeping in grocery cartons under the church pews, camping in tents, and playing on the wide open plains.

In the fall of 1958, we returned to the north-eastern part of the United States so Charlie could pursue his master’s degree in Social Work at the University of Pittsburgh. Our third daughter, Carol Rebecca, as born in 1959 in the steel town of Braddock, PA. We lived in an apartment over a Kosher meat market which was soon destined to be demolished for urban renewal. We then moved to Edgewood, PA, a suburb of Pittsburgh, where we lived for the next 25 years, and remodelled an old home built in 1850. This is where our children grew up and where we established our family home.


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(Above Our family circa 1960)


My Education:

I started kindergarten at age 4 and began first grade at age 5 in a small neighbourhood school—”21 annex”. There were grades K through 4 in this small wooden school, two grades per classroom. I walked back and forth to school daily. For grades 5 through 8, I went to a larger area school, walking over a mile each way, and when I was 13, I entered Bennett High School, a large city school. I often walked the 4 miles each way, and sometimes took the trolley to school. During my four years in high school, I was in the scholarship track, where I took four years of math, four years of science courses, five years of foreign languages (Latin and German), plus the usual four years of history and five years of language arts, and I was a member of the Legion of Honor. My elementary and high school years were during World War II, and I collected scrap metal, grew a victory garden, learned to fingerprint my classmates and identify aircraft, sewed my own clothes, used rationing stamps and bought war bonds. Growing up during the Great Depression and the war years shaped my early years and taught me life lessons that have served me well.

In 1947, I entered Keuka College, a small college for women in Keuka Park, NY on beautiful Keuka Lake, one of the Finger Lakes. I was now 125 miles from home and travelled back to Buffalo twice a year. I majored in Religion and minored in Italian Renaissance Art for three years and added a major in Social Studies Education my senior year. I lived at Strong Hall, the cooperative dormitory north of the campus, where students did all of the cooking and cleaning. I have served as the President of the Class of 1951 for over 25 years and keep in touch with my classmates and encourage them to support the college.


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(Above Keuka College)


Many years later in 1964, when our daughters were in school, I completed my Master’s Degree in Education of the Hearing Handicapped, followed by a second master’s degree in Learning Problems, both at the University of Pittsburgh. With the intention of developing a curriculum for multiply handicapped children, I entered the doctoral program in Curriculum and Supervision at Pitt, and soon became a doctoral assistant while completing my coursework, and taught graduate courses. This led me in unanticipated directions.


My Career:

My first professional job as an educator was as an elementary geography teacher for grades 4 through 6, and as a 4th grade homeroom teacher. I received a scholarship to study for my master’s degree at the University of Pittsburgh and was hired as a teacher at the Western Pennsylvania School for the Deaf where I taught for 20 years (and walked back and forth to work each day). I continued to receive scholarships at Pitt and studied there until 1979 when I accepted an offer to join the faculty at my undergraduate Alma Mater, Keuka College. They, along with Hobart and William Smith Colleges in Geneva, NY, planned to start a new major in Special Education and I developed and coordinated the undergraduate program. I bought a house in Keuka Park, on Keuka Lake, on the north side of the campus, right next to Strong Hall where I had lived almost 30 years before as a student.


The Dolls in my Life:

Dolls have always been a special part of my life. Wherever I went, my dolls and paper dolls went with me. I was an only child and they were my best friends. At Christmas time, there was usually a doll for me under the tree, but often it was the doll from previous holidays with new clothes made by my mother. When I was 8 years old, I saw a McGuffey Ana doll in a down town department store’s Christmas display. She was in a large suitcase along with her wardrobe of nightgown and robe, coat and hat, and fancy dress. I wanted her more than anything in my life, and on Christmas morning I cried when I saw the suitcase beneath the tree and I cried tears of joy all day, whenever I saw her. I wonder how many simple suppers we ate or how many made over dresses I wore for my parents to be able to buy this dream for me.


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(Above My doll went boating with me on Georgian Bay.)


My father had finished our basement with beaver board walls for a laundry room for Mother, a workshop for Dad and a playroom for me. Neighbourhood and school friends were drawn to the playroom and brought their dolls over to play. We spent long hours playing “house” and “school” and “dress-ups”. We created clothes and toys for our dolls. When I went to high school I safely stored my dolls, their clothes and furniture, and my paper dolls in the closet in my bedroom and occasionally played with them in secret. When I left for college, I bid them “good-bye” and told them I would return.


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(Above My cousin “Little Jane” and I took our dolls everywhere.)


While I was away, my “generous” mother gave everything away to children who “had less than I did”. I was devastated. Our three daughters arrived during the 1950s and I was delighted that there was doll play in our home again. I sewed tiny dresses, quilts for beds, and knitted little sweaters and hats. By the time our three granddaughters and one grandson arrived in the 1980s and 1990s , Sasha dolls were a part of my life and I gave each grandchild a Sasha baby for third birthdays and a 16 inch Sasha for fifth birthdays. I also gave each of my daughters a Sasha doll for their very own. I began sewing and knitting for all of the Sasha dolls and I was thrilled when my daughters and grandchildren began attending Sasha Festivals with us.


My life with Sasha:

It was while I was teaching at the School for the Deaf that I discovered Sasha Dolls in the Creative Playthings catalogue. They were the dolls I had dreamed of having during childhood. I was an adult now and our three daughters were no longer playing with dolls; but I was hooked. I devised ways of using dolls in my language and social studies lessons and bought a Sasha for my classroom—then a Gregor. To teach diversity, Cora and Caleb joined the neighbourhood and of course, Sasha Babies followed. My Sasha family joined me as I taught graduate class at Pitt. When we moved from Pittsburgh to Keuka Park, I left the well played with doll family in my classroom. I still did not know that adults played with dolls.


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(Above Creative Playthings catalogue)


When I began teaching future special education teachers at Keuka College I realized that dolls would have to be a part of my teaching tools again so I found catalogue and local sources and bought the School Girl and School Boy—for starters. When I was using Sasha dolls in my classrooms, I looked unsuccessfully for clothing patterns so I could vary the dolls’ persona’s. Finally I wrote to the Stockport address in the UK which I found on a catalogue. When I received an reply, a whole new world opened for me. I found that doll collectors created clothing patterns, and that there was a newsletter for people who had Sasha dolls and that adults played with dolls. When Charlie and I went to our first Sasha Festival in New England I met wonderful people who became good friends. We exchanged letters and phone calls and began to compare dolls, ask questions and do research about the history of these wonderful dolls. I began to realize that I was not a “collector’’, but an educator. I wanted to learn all that I could, and I wanted to share my new knowledge with others.

I was fortunate to live near the US office of Goetz Puppenfabrik, the original producers of the manufactured Sasha dolls (1954-1970). Whenever I heard that Franz or Marianne Goetz would be at a doll show or a doll shop nearby I went to talk with them and ask them many questions about their early production. They were pleased to find someone who appreciated their work with Sasha Morgenthaler and their early efforts and were very generous with information. I wrote articles and shared them with the Sasha Doll Collectors’ Newsletter.

By 1988, the original newsletter was discontinued after the English production of Sasha dolls ended. Subscribers encouraged me to begin a newsletter. In January 1989 the international newsletter Friends of Sasha was launched and for the next seventeen years it took over my life as I met quarterly deadlines, collated, punched, folded, stuffed, addressed, stamped and mailed 250 to 750 issues four times a year. My research continued and I wrote many articles, took photos and corresponded with my subscribers. Fall of 1988 found us in Switzerland visiting Puppenmuseum Sasha Morgenthaler in Zuerich and we met Laura Knuesli and her family for the first time. Laura was to play a significant place in the success of Friends of Sasha with her wealth of knowledge about Sasha Morgenthaler and Swiss toys. Laura contributed many of her “Swiss Vignettes” to the newsletter and opened our eyes to the production, marketing, development, and exhibitions of Sasha’s Studio Dolls. Heddy Frick, a Swiss collector of Sasha Studio Dolls, also came into our lives on that trip and her letters and counsel over the years added much to my knowledge base. I decided on a format which would include a clothing pattern and an article on Sasha Doll history and identification in every issue. Through the “Sasha Dolls Through the Years” section every manufactured doll ever produced in Germany or England was photographed and described in depth. The patterns in each issue provided styles for Sasha, Gregor, babies and toddlers, and also all of the Migros patterns were added. Over the years many subscribers made worthy contributions to Friends of Sasha with their patterns, paper dolls, photos, stories and reports of regional activities. As I learned more about Sasha dolls, I was able to share more. I realized that I was still an educator as I shared the history of our dolls.


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(Above Friends of Sasha)


Being editor and publisher of Friends of Sasha opened many doors and requests came my way to be more involved. Over the years I have attended and often participated in 25 Sasha Festivals. Recently, to refresh my memory I read through all 68 issues of Friends of Sasha and subsequent issues of Sasha Friends, and was amazed to find out that I put on 15 programs at Festivals, participated in more than 20 Dress-a-Sasha contests, and contributed to over a dozen Festival Journals. Friends of Sasha sponsored the Sasha Doll Forums at fourteen Festivals as we looked closely at a selected manufactured doll or focused on a topic of interest. The newsletter also sponsored the Sasha Doll Forum and paper doll contests based on the Festival theme and provided prizes to the winners.


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(Above Glenn Curtiss, the pioneer aviator, built his planes on Keuka Lake and he was my entry in the 2009 Dress-a-Sasha contest)


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(Above Dress-a-Sasha scenes from a NYS Sasha Fun Day. The theme was celebrating the 120th anniversary of Sasha Morgenthaler’s birth and
Birthday Party’s was the theme for the contest.)


I enjoyed sharing and educating through exhibits of the manufactured and Studio Sasha Dolls. I participated in the Special Exhibit, “Sasha for all Seasons”, at the 1989 national convention of the United Federation of Doll Clubs (UFDC). My contributions were the 1915 school room and playground in the Autumn setting, adding several dolls to the line-up of manufactured dolls, and sharing in the presentation of the Studio Dolls. I curated exhibits, with help from friends, at several Festivals and helped with others. In 1993 we put together an exhibit of Studio Dolls in honor of the 100th anniversary of the birth of Sasha Morgenthaler. At the 1995 Festival, an exhibit of the early production of Sasha Dolls by Goetz Puppenfabrik welcomed the new production of the German Sasha Dolls. In 1998, all of the later Goetz Sashas produced to date were in an exhibit. When the 2009 Sasha Festival was being planned for the Rochester, NY area, I was thrilled and offered to curate an exhibit of Studio Dolls for the Sunday morning Brunch. I contacted owners of Studio Dolls who were coming to the Festival and asked “The Three Anns” to help. The resulting exhibit was beyond our wildest dreams as almost 50 dolls provided the viewers with the many examples of Sasha Morgenthaler’s art. My swan song for exhibits was at the 2011 Sasha Festival when over 80 miniature quilts were brought together, many made by the owners and others won in the festival auctions.


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(Above Francine Briggs took dozens of photos of the Studio Doll Exhibit at the 2009 Festival Brunch)


I’ve enjoyed participating and sharing in the wonderful Sasha Festivals over the years, but 1991 was the year that it was our time to host a Sasha Festival. The early festivals were put on for a day or day and a half with participants coming from all over the United States for a program, Dress-a-Sasha contest, auction and sales room. When we went to the early festivals I came away wanting more time with friends and events, so in 1991, with the help of my husband and two of our daughters, and many Sasha friends, we decided to have a week long festival on the campus of Keuka College.

The events from Monday evening though Friday afternoon were optional and festival goers joined us throughout the week with about 30 coming for the whole week. Daytime was for workshops. The Marcy Street Sasha house was built in our garage, while a furniture workshop was held on the roof of our boathouse. Children had their own workshops while adults spent a day learning the art of smocking. Cross-stitch tee shirts were produced, oriental carp banners were made and tiny soft sculptured Japanese dolls were created, carrying out the theme of “Children of all the World”. In the evenings everyone gathered together in the dormitory lounge for Show and Tell programs on miniature quilts, hats and hair styles, and shoe making. On Friday, 40 people headed for the Margaret Woodbury Strong Museum in Rochester, NY and toured the doll and toy collections. The people who stayed behind were hanging and labelling an exhibit of 50 framed posters and photos of Studio Dolls in the library’s Art Gallery, setting up tables and pedestals for the forthcoming Dress-a-Sasha contest, recreating the summer and fall scenes from the 1989 UFDC exhibits and the workshop projects. Hundreds of Sasha Dolls in original outfits were placed in chronological order, covering about 100 feet of glass shelves in the library. A Sasha Wonderland was ready for Saturday morning when the exhibits and the contest entries were enjoyed. Laura Knuesli presented two slide programs on “Impressions of Sasha Morgenthaler” and following the luncheon the Sasha Doll Fashion Show was held with 63 Sashas in clothing created by “designers” from around the world showing their special fashions. The first Sasha Festival souvenir outfit was unveiled at the luncheon.

The first Children’s Fund Auction—a silent auction—was held during the sales room. In the evening, everyone gathered in the library, surrounded by the 250 Sasha dolls in the “Sasha Dolls Through the Years” exhibit, for the Sasha Doll Forum. Brenda Walton was the resource leader and told of her years working at the Sasha Factory in England. The Forum was followed by a party celebrating the 700th birthday of Switzerland with a big Swiss flag, and the three cakes decorated like Swiss flags were cut by our three guests from Switzerland. On Sunday morning, following the Brunch, a whimsical presentation “Cooking for Sasha” was presented by our daughter Anne, with tiny pastries for all. Our marathon festival accomplished its goal of expanding all future festivals to at least three days, giving an opportunity to develop many more friendships. Over the years I have enjoyed contributing to every Children’s Fund Auction. The year after Laura Knuesli and I had the first Children’s Fund Auction with the proceeds going to children’s charities worldwide, the 1992 Sasha Festival combined the CFA and the Fashion Show ideas into the format which has continued ever since.


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(Above I enjoyed being the auctioneer at the 2009 Sasha Festival and gathering over 100 donations. Photo by F. Briggs)


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(Above One of my annual donations to the Children’s Fund Auction. I donated Baby Lilac and her trunk and my Aggie friends added many accessories.)


Sasha Fun Days have been a great addition to our Sasha Year. These regional gatherings are mini Festivals and give us a chance to meet Sasha Doll collectors nearby. It was fun to write articles about Sasha Fun Days in Arizona, Washington and Oregon, California, New England, Florida, Minnesota and New York State even though they were far away. These day long events follow the Sasha Festival format with a Dress-a-Sasha contest, souvenirs, workshops, Children’s Fund Auctions and sales rooms. We hosted the first New York State Sasha Day in 1988 at our home and have had several events here since then. Many close friendships have begun at these smaller gatherings and wet our appetites to attend the International Sasha Festivals. Our NYS Sasha group hosted the 2009 Sasha Festival and are now planning to welcome the 2016 Sasha Festival.


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(Above A New York Sasha Day gathering)


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(Above An article I wrote for Doll Reader (February 2005 pp. 24-29)


Over the years I have written numerous articles for magazines such as DOLLS, Doll Castle News, Contemporary Doll Collector, Doll World and Doll Reader. Theriault’s Doll Auctions contacted me many times to help them document Sasha Morgenthaler’s Studio Dolls and the manufactured dolls as they came up for auction. In 1998 they asked me to present a seminar prior to one of their auctions. While there I was asked “Why haven’t you written a book for us on Sasha Dolls?” And there began work on Sasha Dolls Through the Years which was published in 1999 in both soft cover and hard cover editions. Both editions are now out of print, but a few soft cover editions are still available from the author. My years of research for Friends of Sasha held me in good stead as I laid out the proposed book. We had already planned to go Florida in March 1999 to visit our youngest daughter and her family. I packed up dolls and ephemera and we headed for the Theriault offices in Annapolis, Maryland. Each doll was tagged and numbered, ready to be photographed by their staff photographer. After a week setting up scenes to be photographed, we took the near-by auto train to Florida. I worked on the text and captions for photos each day while we were in Florida and when we left for the Sasha Fun Day in Tallahassee my rough copy was ready. By the end of the month we were back in Annapolis, where I laid out the book using the wonderful photos which were waiting. After a week of steady work, the Sasha Dolls were packed into our car and we returned home. For several months, I was in contact, by phone and email, with the Theriault staff as I edited various copies. By the fall of 1999, Sasha Dolls Through the Years had come back from the printers in Hong Kong. 1999 was a great year for Sasha Dolls as three books were published: Sasha Dolls by Michael O’Brien in England; Sasha Puppen published by Benteli Press in Switzerland; and Sasha Dolls Through the Years in the United States.


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(Above Sasha Dolls Through the Years)
I was asked to tell about my favourite Sasha Dolls, and this would be as difficult as to name your favourite child or grandchild. I can tell about the Sasha Doll which came to me in a very special way. In 1993, Laura Knuesli suggested that we celebrate the 100th Anniversary of the birth of Sasha Morgenthaler with a gathering In Zurich and Bern, Switzerland. We planned our visit so that we could be there on November 30th, the day of her birth. Six people were invited to participate in a week long session in Sasha’s atelier in Hongg, a suburb of Zurich, where Sasha had created her dolls several decades earlier. We each made two “course dolls” under the tutelage of Trudi Loeffler, Sasha’s long time assistant. The dolls were the 20” Type A1 dolls with cloth rag-doll bodies and cloth covered moulded gypsum heads, with a choice of human hair wigs or hemp hair. The following week we were joined by some American and European Sasha friends and we toured special exhibits at the Puppenmuseum Sasha Morgenthaler, Zuercher Spielzeug Museum and then we spent November 30th in Bern, visiting the home in which Sasha was born and grew up. A luncheon with Sasha’s son, Nicklaus Morgenthaler, visits in several homes of Sasha doll collectors, and a tour of the Lindt and Sprungli Chocolate factory added to the wonders of this anniversary trip.


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(Above This is the “course doll” which I made in Sasha Morgenthaler’s atelier in Switzerland, my dolls outfit was made by Ruth Hartley)


When I first discovered Sasha Dolls in a catalogue, I had no idea how meaningful they would be in my life. At first they were a teaching tool and a longed-for special doll. Then they challenged my curiosity about their creator and history. I was privileged to share what I learned through the newsletter Friends of Sasha, the book Sasha Dolls Through the Years and through magazine articles, exhibits and programs. I enjoyed the role of educator as well as learner, but I received so much more than I gave through my adventure with Sasha Morgenthaler and her dolls. My life is richer because of my travels around the United States and trips to Switzerland and the United Kingdom. Most of all the friendships made, which continue to this day, have blessed my life.


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(Above The high point of each Sasha Festival is being with special friends.)


Where are we now?

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(Above Charlie and Dorisanne (Photo by Carmen Murphy at a NYS Sasha Day)


My family has supported and encouraged me on this Sasha trip. Charlie travelled to Sasha Festivals with me until 2000, unpacking the car, helping to set up exhibits and sales tables, making props and making friends. At 91, he now has Alzheimer’s but continues to enjoy our home on the lake. I no longer am able to attend all of the Sasha Festivals but I participate in the Children’s Fund Auction, contribute to Festival Journals, and I go to our annual NYS Sasha Days in the Rochester area. I continue to sew and knit for my dolls and find the little Sasha settings around our home to be enjoyable and relaxing.

Our daughters are busy young women and do not live close enough to us to visit often. Anne and John live in the Adirondack Mountains where Anne is a professor at Paul Smith’s College and she has a French restaurant in Saranac Lake which provides a living classroom for her students. Our granddaughter, Elizabeth (Ema) graduated from Boston University as a biologist. Three years ago she taught in South Korea for a year and visited Thailand, Vietnam, Cambodia and India on her way home. For the past two years she has been teaching Biology and training teachers in Shanghai, China and soon will come home via Indonesia and Australia. This fall she will begin her graduate work in epidemiology at the University of Utrecht in the Netherlands. Many of you will remember Anne and Ema from past Festivals.

Jeanne has accompanied me to several recent Festivals and NYS Sasha Days. She has been a widow for 9 years and works as activity director for a senior community in Connecticut after 27 years as an administrator at Fairfield University. Our only grandson, Christopher, is a senior at James Madison University in Virginia, majoring in hospital administration. He attended his first Sasha Festival in 1993, at six months of age, in New Jersey and also attended Festivals in Virginia, Iowa and Massachusetts.

Carol and Eric have lived in Florida for 30 years which means that they and their daughters have not been able to be a part of most of our Sasha activities. Carol is a librarian and Eric is a lawyer in Hobe Sound, and Carol was able to join me for the Festival in Florida in 2004. Rachel (who introduced us to the word “philtrum” long ago) graduated from Butler University and remained in Indianapolis, IN. She is busy with her work, owns her own home, and recently became engaged. Sarah went to Stetson University in Florida and now works in Oregon. Carol and Sarah joined us for a Sasha Fun Day in Tallahassee many years ago.


our family


(Above Our family in 1975)


Life is good and has been made better because of our family and many Sasha friends.

Thank you Dorisanne for your wonderful life story. Once again everyone please do not copy any of the photos in this profile without permission from Dorisanne Osbourn.

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