The Fall of the Vikings

Our time in high school haunts us. Some may brush off that idea (maybe pointing to college as more important), but a lot of who we develop into starts during those four years. We figure out things about ourselves then, to put it more simply, and later we fine tune it. Good or bad, that high school version of yourself still exists someplace inside your psyche, no matter how much you wish to deny it. Yes, the pimples are there still, but just under the surface now.

For me, I had a recurring dream that lasted for about five years after I graduated. In that dream, I am always in different locations (college classroom, my evening job, etc.) and my high school band director shows up in full marching band uniform (which is weird since he would never wear a uniform), screaming that there is an emergency and he is calling everyone back.

Recently, I have learned that my old school, Wyoming Park High School in Wyoming, Michigan, was going away. And upon hearing the news, I was flooded with memories around that old building. Remembering the days when I wore blue and white and proudly told kids from other schools that, yes, I was a Viking.

When I was a freshman and sophomore I used to live a few blocks from the school and I would walk there each morning. There was something about that walk I loved, with my alto saxophone case bumping against my leg with each step. I would plan my day, think about the previous day; and for some reason, in my memory, it is always autumn. It was like a last taste of silence before the noise that was the hallways and madness of school. What made it that much more for me was how the school would come into view. There was always something grand about approaching the building from the direction of the theater, passing by it to the band room. With the high hill there, it looked big and important.

It meant something to me then (something I forgot), and that is what I tapped into with the news of the school’s end. The late night marching band practices in the dark with the football field lights flooding down, the football games with their smell of popcorn and greasy foods, the awkward high school dances (and even more awkwardly asking someone on a date), the feel of the classroom desktops under the fingers, the sound of pencils on paper, the clang of the slamming locker door…. It meant something, didn’t it?

If not, then why do sights, sounds, and smells still reside in our memory like ghosts in a haunted manor?

What makes this school consolidation a little bittersweet for us former Vikings is the fact that they are merging our beloved school with our arch-rivals, Rogers High School…


Of all the high schools, why did it have to be them? It almost makes a Viking feel that after all of the football, basketball, volleyball, and soccer games, and even band competitions, that they won in the end.

Yup, they won.

OK, that is ridiculous I know, but for us they were the “others.” They were the flip side of us, like in some weird parallel universe. We would be the normal Spock and Captain Kirk, they would be the versions with the goatees that would try to take over our Enterprise.

A few years after I graduated I was roped into seeing Rogers High School’s production of A Rebel Without a Cause. They were performing it at Park (Their school didn’t even have a stage!) and it was bad. They used the front of the stage to represent the cliff, which was an odd decision since actors would exit and enter from the front of the stage, making one wonder if they were climbing up a mountain; and they changed the ending so Plato didn’t die. Yes, Plato lived. Sigh… I tried to explain to my friend that that second chance at life ruined one of the important messages of the entire story, but they didn’t get it. Like I said, they are from a parallel universe.

But not anymore, now our worlds are crashing together, and soon will both exist under a different and new mascot. It’s a strange new world.

A few years ago, a bunch of my old high school chums and I went to the Homecoming game at Park. It was obvious to all of us that night, the school was a shadow of the past. The team lost by over 50 points (Yes, I said 50; it was so bad that they stopped worrying about the clock) and the band performed music from The Pirates of the Caribbean with a show that consisted of them merely walking on and off a set piece that was supposed to represent a ship. It was pathetic when you consider that in my years, the football team was a good team, and the marching band would win or place in state finals each year…. Movie soundtracks? Pfff! We would perform music by Berlioz and Mussorgsky.

Looking back at that night, those current kids and the empty bleachers, maybe something really isn’t being lost for them as it is for us in the audience trying to see a bit of our old selves. For me, I kept wondering if I sat in that exact same spot twenty years ago, and what does that exactly mean.

Yet, while the game and seeing the old school were hardly a homecoming, seeing my old friends definitely felt like that. Yes, almost twenty years had passed and with all of the experiences that that includes (wives, kids, travels, college, etc.), there was a brotherhood still breathing that we could fall right into. It was a nice feeling.

Kurt Vonnegut once argued that no one really dies, because someplace in time that person is still around, it’s just in your “now” that they are gone. I love that theory, and over the years, as more and more time passes, I find it strangely comforting. So maybe, for us who are losing our school and part of our identity, we should think of it that way. We are still Vikings, just not in the “now.”

On Wyoming!

UPDATE: After writing this editorial, I have received a lot of responses (as you can see as well below) about the schools being consolidated, both good and bad. So I decided to write my opinion on the consolidation a little more clearly. It is called “The ending of a story… the beginning of a new one” and it can be found here:

83 thoughts on “The Fall of the Vikings

      • Found your post through Jenny & Julie (Buist)…my brother is Kyle Jen and my sister-in-law is Michelle (Luke) Jen…guessing you know them, both Class of ’93.

      • Jenny & Julie Buist! Wow! A long time ago 1997-1999, I worked with Jenny when she was still a Buist – then got married (at Gentex in Zeeland). Found out after several months of working with her in the Systems (IT) dept that she went to WPHS as well. I graduated in ’80. Katie, can you please post the lyrics to the WP Vikings fight song? I can only remember the first 2 verses that begin “On Wyoming, On Wyoming, On to victory. Come on boys, we’ll win tonight! There’s loyalty to thee! Fight! Fight! Fight! On Wyoming, On Wyoming, For the Blue & White! Come on boys, we’ll win tonight so Fight! Fight! Fiiiiight!” Isn’t there more?

  1. Well done, Scott, thank you. I wasn’t aware that they were closing the school. Interesting that it would be exactly 20 years from our graduating class (’92). I remember them talking about merging Park and Rogers even when we were in school. Maybe it says something that they were able to hang in there another 20 years…

  2. Class of ’87 we have even something a little bit more to “boast” about. We are the “Golden Grads”. The 50th class to graduate from Wyoming Park. This year we are planning our 25th reunion. The timing of this news is somewhat bittersweet. I like to think of it the place our 200 member family came together and grew up. Not always getting along but knew our friends are there. The policital side still doesn’t make much sense to me that WP is going to Rogers – WP is bigger, has the auditorium, more space for gym etc. While we can’t fight all the political moves and such, Wouldn’t it be nice to take the last walk through, be there when the light is turned out and we fellow Vikings can gather and sing our song on that very last day?

    • Well, they are in the process of planning our 20th reunion for this year, and from how I understand it a lot of it was based around the class going to the Homecoming game… Of course, now there is NO Homecoming game.

      • The verdict is final- school is out for the summer and give us time to adjust to the new idea that is now a fact. The new digs will be great and the students of the former WP will walk with style, grace, and all that a WP Viking posses on that first day on the new grounds this fall. I’m sure Roger’s Hawks will show the same courtesy to us as well. It is the playing field, courts and such where the dirt will flyand sweat will pour when we combine all that rival power together and make one strong team and a stronger statement fhe first year. what do you think? -Melissa Peters ’87

      • It’s really quite funny. I wrote this personal recollection back in March and I am still getting posts on it (And edited version of it was also shared on mlive). The last few comments have been from your class (Is it on a reunion page for your group?). I find it fascinating how it gets around.

        Personally, I think the merger is a very good thing, and I wrote a second article stating it since I got some readers that were misinterpreting what I said in this. Whatever the case, thank you for reading my editorial and please check out some of my other posts on the site. I write on a variety of different topics. Cheers and go Vikings!.

      • The class of ’87 among ourselves do have a page created that we all communicate on since we are planning our 25th reunion. “The golden grads”. As time goes on and the news spreads, the classmates get a chance to re-connect, all the media sources will come about and you may get some fresh comments again. Especially since you wrote a second article that could be the stimulator. Count on me to follow your other stories. Thank you for keeping the facts the way they are and allowing “us” to post on your pages.Can you confirm the new colors and mascott? I have heard it will be Purple and Black, school mascott is now a Panther. Also if you know how they came about with this decison if it is true.

      • You got the purple and black right but the mascot is the wolves. Thanks for the support! I’m class of 92 and our 20th is this year. It is terrifying how fast time goes.

  3. You said that beautifully!!!! You made me remember lots of things. Hope you’re still playing that saxophone 🙂 My flute is never far away.

    • Thanks!
      I haven’t touched my saxophone in a while, and mainly that was because I was living in an apartment in LA and the idea of others hearing me in the building was terrifying. Now that I have a house in Michigan, I have taken it out a few times, but my kids have strong opinions about the “noise.”

    • It’s definitely a change knowing that there won’t be future generations of Vikings, but like I said when I visited the game a few years ago; the school was only a shadow of what it once was.

  4. I graduated class of ’75 from Rogers and am sure I feel the same way as you about it not being the same as it was back then. Both schools were great back then, and yes we had the biggest rival known to man (or at least to us). I find it hard to believe the two will be combined. It simulates a step back in time when segregation ended and kids were bused to other schools to “mix up the colors”. Well, now we are going to mix up the colors again and I hope it is a successful move for Wyoming.

    • My first Rogers reply! I knew it was coming… haahaahaa… Personally, I feel the kids will have an easier time than us alumni. For them it is an adventure, and who doesn’t like an adventure?

  5. I’m part of the Class of 2000, and I definitely remember those night band practices. I had tennis practice right after school then color guard/band after that. I remember even using our flags to keep a bit warmer and shield us from the chill on cold nights while we weren’t moving around!

    And, what about Newhall Middle School closing? A lot of memories there too!

  6. Scott,
    Someone E-mailed the link to me. Otherwise I would have missed this news. I’m so sad, I graduated from Wyoming in 1968. Oh, dear Mr. Keech would be so sad to see what has happened to the football team, and the band. Mrs. Walcott who help the students direct many musicals. I’ve moved away from MI and haven’t set foot in Wyoming High in over 30 years. I quess I won’t go now, I’ll just haul out the old year books and remember very special times.

    Nancy Zuidema Spyker

  7. I am proud to say I am a Viking! I too have my own fond memories of those halls, the games, the dances. Some of my best memories come from the Village Inn after parties! A part of my soul is in that building, but not just because of the four wonderful years I spent there as a student, but also because of the eight years I enjoyed as an employee.
    It was in those eight years as an employee that I realized what made my memories so great. I had options! I wasn’t great at anything, but I loved everything. I could play any sport I wanted and have a chance to be on a team that was successful. I had a community that would support my fundraising so I could go on trips with my classmates! I had counselors who had the time to encourage my growth academically and could help me apply for college and financial aid. I had opportunities, and the choice was mine whether or not I took advantage of them. In fact, that is my favorite thing about Wyoming Public Schools. The system as a whole does not care if you are rich or poor, black or white, educationally advanced or struggling, they are going to give their best effort to help you achieve your goals. That is the biggest reason I chose to reside in Wyoming and send my kids to their schools. The other, is because I want to give back to Wyoming like Wyoming gave to me.
    It is as a graduate, an employee, and a parent, that I ask all of you reading this to view the change as a opportunity for our current students to have the same fond memories of high school like we have. Be there to support them as alumni, it may be a little different, but that isn’t always bad….because as long as I am around, we are going to have a homecoming!

  8. What a great article!. I am a WP Viking, Class of ’94. I remember vividly those band nights etc. My son is a Sophomore at WP! I was so proud that he was going to follow in my footsteps. My heart is sad. I KNOW it is the right thing to do for the community and for our students. It is true, the kids are pretty excited! A new adventure is right!! They are going to bring so many more opportunities to the students with their academics and hopefully with athletics too! I am hoping that this merge is going to bring the community closer together and bring back some “good” to the area.

  9. Class of ’92.. Many great memories of “The Park”. My daughter is now a freshman at Rogers (I know, I had to get over it!!). I just hope something positive comes out of this merger.

  10. I have not been back to “the Park” since 1993.
    So sad to hear its closing. I remember early morning basketball practice and running the halls for track. Always hold on to your memories.

    Class of ’92

  11. Scott, well stated. And funny that every now and again I still have dreams of walking the halls and feeling the trepidation of entering Mr. Black’s Latin class or Mrs. Wozniack’s English classes…or getting out on the football field and having the nightmare that I’d forgotten all the guard routines! Glad I’m not the only one who occasionally pulls those memories (be them slightly twisted from reality) into my dreams; guess that is proof of the impact that the school, teachers, and friendships had when they still visit me 20 years later. Guess that is part of our generation…learning to adapt. So, rather than a homecoming game, we’ll figure out another way to celebrate the memory of our 4 years of high school together and still have a great time doing it!

  12. Scott, Thank you.. There are so many things to be remembered of our time there… At first I really didn’t care about the merge.. But as I think more about it, I think about all the things in our lives that happened in that short period of time there and it settles in a little more… But you’re right.. That school has lost the strength that it once had…. I consider my self fortunate to have been there in the “glory days” of Wyoming Park… I’m still a Viking, Always will be..
    Great article Scott

  13. Thanks for the walk down memory lane, Scott. Fellow WPHS alum, class of 1991. Hope closing Park truly the best decision for the district. Great article! Go Vikings!

  14. Just to be technically correct– both schools are we now know them are closing. The students will not be going to Rogers next year ( just the building) It will be called Wyoming HIgh School which was the name of Wyoming Park before Rogers was built. Reasons for chosing that building was the better athletic facilities on-site, more room for expansion if needed and more parking for events. As for the auditorium, it was/is a district facility and yet for many years RHS had to pay the district for use of the building to present plays and musicals. Biggest item other than royalties in a pittifally miniscule budget. Think RWC was done more than once but if it was in the 80’s, it would be one I directed and I do not recall it being one of our better efforts! However if it was that one, we did not change the script in anyway and there was really no other place to put the “cliff” unless you wanted the characters to fall off it!
    Athletics for both schools have fallen off. Think between the two schols they won 2 football games this year ( and one of those was playing each other) Rogers basketball team didin’t win a game and Park’s had more losses than wins. Far cry from the glory days of Park football and Rogers basketball. My kids all graduated from Rogers. I directed at both Park and Rogers and my grandson would have started at WP this fall so I was getting used to Vikings. He will still be going to the same building with a new name Wyoming Middle School. Newhall will be closed next year and reopen 5-6 the following year. There are many great things in store for the new schools and I think that looking back many will say what took so long. You will all still have your memories, the buildings will be alive and vibrant and you will alway be Wyoming Park/Rogers Class of???

    • Hahaahaa! I KNEW I would get a reply sooner or later about Rebel! haahaahaa! OK, rest assured, it was not your production. It would have been 94 or 95 or so.

      In regards to the merger, in my article I say during my last visit it clearly wasn’t what it used to be. This is a personal reflection, not a newspaper article. My hope is that if people want to know more about the decision they will go to GR Press or something. I mean, the blog has my name on it and all.

      Thanks for reading.

      • Ah the press won’t tell you anything! Paper prints three times a week and it looks like a term paper that was lifted from various internet sources. Wasn’t criticizing your article Scott. I enjoyed reading it ( have “friends” from days when I directed at Park )Think everyone feels the same way about their high school, no matter how long ago it was ! Just saying the RHS people are feeling the same way, just don’t seem to have anyone as articulate as you are!

      • Haahaahaa! I find that hilarious because I know English teachers at Rogers; so I’m really biting my little sarcastic tongue on this one. Thanks for the laugh and the compliment. Cheers.

        So in your production of Rebel, did you kill Plato?

  15. Don’t remember, I plead age but whatever the script says it what we did– and I think he died–seem to remember a solemn moment Plays like movies vs books don’t always follow each other and unfortunaly I don’t have the script anymore. Donated all my hundreds of scripts to WPHS drama a few years ago

  16. I am from the class of 1980. I have to be honest as well. I was hoping that my kids would attend Wyoming Park as well. But, we moved out of state before that happened. Although, a big huge part of my family have attended and are still attending Wyoming Park, 2 of which would have been a part of the high school this year. This saddens me for a couple reasons. I also walked to the school everyday. I only lived 3 houses away and watched as the auditorium was built. I was so excited. If I remember right, our class was the first to graduate in that auditorium. I understand things happen and changes have to be made, it just breaks my heart that when I visit my sister, who bought my dad’s house to be close to the school, will now be bussed somewhere else. I will though always look at Wyoming Park and I will always call it my school. I will hold the memories and encourage my brothers and sisters and nieces and nephews to always hold on to the good memories we have had from the high school. I went there from 7th through 12th grade, so, yes it is bitter sweet to see it not be Wyoming Park High School anymore. Good luck

    • Me too Tammy! Attended with you – from 7th grade (Mr. Schultz), Mr. Pullen, Mr. Bont, thru to 12th. No – we graduated in the old gymnasium, where the cliff was in RHS’s Rebel Without A Cause play. 🙂
      I was disappointed that we didn’t get to graduate in the new auditorium. Didn’t understand why we couldn’t. I think the following class 1981 – did.

      And yes – it’s so sad that the football team is NOTHING like it was back in the mid-to-late 1970s! They can’t win 1 game! They’re like the Detroit Lions were for so long. Back in the mid-late 1970s, The Vikings were the BEST! Best football coaches (Mr. VerDuine, Mr. Locke, etc) and best players. Randy Thurkettle (RIP), Ronnie Thurkettle, the Van de Wegs, etc. And all the classes before us – can’t remember names right now.

      Kim (Brown) Mouser – WPHS class of 1980

  17. Class of 90. Don’t have any band memories or that kind of stuff, sure do remember all of the parties though. It’s fun to think back to how we were & styles back in the 80’s & of course with Facebook now I can get ahold of old friends from school. On occasion I cruise down past the area on 28th st. & nothing is hardly left from those days. Just going to the Wyoming area makes me remember how it use to be compared to how it is. I was rather sad to hear that the schools were combining since you had to hate people from Rogers. Funny thing is I still have one of my WP jackets tucked away in my basement. Good times, good memories.

  18. This is a great article and interesting to read from a different stand point than mine. I am a Rogers grad of 2000 and I was surprised and very saddened to hear that the merger went through. I would have NEVER thought Park and Rogers would merge, especially considering the schools are arch-rivals. But as the economy has worsened and more families leaving, I guess at some point it was inevitable. It makes me wonder what they will do for future reunions, what fight song they will choose, the new school colors. I didn’t like high school, but it was still my school and I also shared the same dislike towards Park…But in a way, its also a good thing. A rivalry will die, and maybe a new one will emerge towards another school (Godwin perhaps) Thank you for sharing some of your memories with us.

  19. Wyoming Park was basically my back yard. I could walk down the street to see the football game through a neighbor’s backyard. I could hear the roar of the crowd with every game. Afterwards, my brother and I would collect pop cans. We always found enough to catch a movie at Studio 28 or breakfast at a local diner, the name of which would be considered far from PC today.

    Though I didn’t attend Park myself (we moved just in time for my freshman year), my brothers did, my mother did–a whole, long line of family. My next door neighbor was one of the very early principals there, and his wife, a teacher. The Park is part of my heritage, regardless of my true alumna status.

    So, yes, I too choked when I heard about consolidation with “Rogers.” Seriously? My elementary school colors were blue and white. My junior high school colors were blue and white. And now Rogers?!

    It makes me sad, but less so out of nostalgia than because of what consolidation means: gone are the days of a neighborhood that once had perfectly manicured lawns and hedges, where the neighbors all pitched in to roof their houses together, and it was OK to walk down the street to watch the game from someone else’s backyard. Some neighbors have grown older, while many others have simply moved on. While I’m among that throng, in my heart, I’ll always be a Viking.

    No matter the physical home, may that spirit live on.

    • Hear Hear Lisa! Well said!

      I always wondered what happened to you after Taft Elementary. Where did you move to?

      Who were your neighbors (Principal & Teacher)?

      What was your Mom’s name/maiden-name? My relatives probably know her.

      I’m on Facebook or you can email me at my first initial k and my last name (present married name) with no punctuation between, at the hot Microsoft online email site (hotmail).

      Kim (Brown) Mouser – class of ’80

  20. Pingback: The ending of a story… the beginning of a new one « The Musings & Artful Blunders of Scott D. Southard

  21. I was a recent graduate from Rogers (07) and there were a couple things that struck me in your article.

    First off, I would hardly say that Rogers won. I think that overall, both schools lost in that rivalry because the recent students started to take it a bit too seriously. By all means a good bit of competition is good, but not when people are getting into fist fights or getting hurt. What we have all lost, was apparently the opportunity to close up some of those gaps between our schools. We lost the chance to see the future students come together finally because (as much as most of us would hate to admit it) we are all part of the same district.

    Secondly, we’ve passed through our time there. It is not our right to make changes for these students. It’s up to them to create something new and possibly bring some hope to our area. We’ve all seen it or felt it, that need to leave because we feel that sense of death. The life has been leaving the area. So just maybe, this change will bring about a change in the youth of the area that will re-light the spark we’ve lost.

    Finally, things will be hard enough for these students without our silly rivalries. They are moving into bold, new territory and they should have our support. If we tie them down to our pasts, then this new venture is going to be stopped before it can ever start moving.

    It has long been time for the era of Rogers and Park to see it’s end, but it’s the start of something that has the chance to be something much better! It is time that we let these students create their own memories 🙂

    • I think you are confusing a personal reflection with a serious discussion on the merger. And in NO WAY, do I try to dictate to anyone about how it should be done. It’s a personal reflection, merely.

      I fully support the merger of the schools (I even say at one point that in my return visit to the school it was a shadow of the past). I think you should re-read my post to see what I am actually trying to say, because you seem to be confusing my article with something else.

      And your final point is exactly what I say in my follow-up entry that can be found here:

  22. Pingback: My March 2012 Update « The Musings & Artful Blunders of Scott D. Southard

  23. Pingback: “We are losing our school with consolidation, but not our identities” « The Musings & Artful Blunders of Scott D. Southard

  24. How we identify as a Viking or Hawk is not found in the “brick and mortar” of each building. Each of us didn’t cross the stage and get handed a diploma along with a brick from the building. Our identity comes from each other, participating in all the events that occurred as a Viking/Hawk. Its was being part of the football, basketball, baseball or swim team; Being a part in the marching band, choir, theater; Joining one of the various clubs (yearbook, chess, etc.). Or even just plain everyday classroom/teacher interactions. You can’t hold in your hand, or re-construct that experience, nor can it be destroyed by consolidation or even destruction of the buildings. This consolidation isn’t taking away our school pride or identity because we took that with us along time ago.

  25. I am currently a student at wyoming park, and i am in the marching band. I would have to say, even if we dont win that often, we still can identify with your memories. We also have late night marching band rehersals. And heck, we have school spirit. It is hard for us, we are being showered with excitment for the now school (the purple silver and black wolves) but in the time being we are still rivals. These moments are definitly bitter sweet for us. In student council, we are currently planning parks last ever spirit week and we are getting ready to host parks last top talent. Everyday we think about how a year from now our school will be a thing of the past. Our whole lives we have been raised as either vikings or golden hawks, and now that we have finaly reached high school it is being taken away from us. We are proud of what we do, we exceed at acedemics and we have one of the best drama deprtments around. We will always look back at park with bitter sweet memories.
    Park Pride!

  26. Reblogged this on The Musings & Artful Blunders of Scott D. Southard and commented:

    UPDATE: Today the edited version of this article was published in the Grand Rapids Press, my hometown paper (making me feel a little sentimental). Also, I learned the new school will be the Wyoming Wolves, which I think sounds awesome (and a little scary). I really think this change is a very good thing for the next generation of Viki… I mean, Wolves.

  27. Wyoming Park High School has been a special place with lots of special people. Several of our class of 1945 still meet twice a year for lunch at Russ’s on 28th St. My favorite high school teacher was Kenneth Davis (geometry, chemistry, and also the principal), When I wrote sports for the Grand Rapids Press during my junior and senior years, I’d often be at the sports desk before going to school in the morning and would arrive at WPHS hours late. Mr. Davis, aware that this reluctant student was learning more at the Press than in the classroom, always cheerfully wrote a pass for admission. His attitude paved the way for nearly 70 happy years of writing,

    If the column is reprinted you may want to change this paragraph:

    “Yet, while the game and seeing the old school were hardly a homecoming, seeing my old friends definitely felt like that. Yes, almost twenty years had past and with all of the experiences that that includes (wives, kids, travels, college, etc.), there was a brotherhood still breathing that we could fall right into. It was a nice feeling.”

    In the second line, “past” is an adjective. The word should be the past tense of the verb “pass” — “passed.”

    But pass it on. It’s a neat column!

    • Haahaahaa… Over 2000 views on the article over the last month (and reviews by two editors) and you are the first person to point out that error! Well played.

      Thanks for writing! I’ll correct it now on my site.

  28. If you can get to a copy someplace, you might want to take a look at my book — Grand Times in Grand Rapids — which was published about a week ago by History Press of Charleston, SC. It’s a collection of about 50 articles written during the past five years for Grand Rapids magazine. The book mentions Kenneth Davis in a prefatory section, “Gratitude for Grand People,” and one of the stories concerns Wyoming history.

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