Burnley Grammar School

Childhood - Schools

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Year: 1959         Item #: 1607         Views: 665,006         Comments: 2,402

Burnley Grammar School
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There's pleny of room in the modern-styled gymnasium for muscle developing, where the boys are supervised by Mr. R. Parry, the physical education instruction.
Source: Lancashire Life Magazine, December 1959

2402 user comment(s) below:-

Comments by Andrew on 26th July 2019  andrew_bx@yahoo.co.uk 

It is curious the idea of nude swimming but its so hard to know the details about it because I think the participants are of a generation that aren't often net users, no longer with us or just don't think its odd enough to them to warrant any mention. I didnt give my (limited) PE kit that much thought until hearing what is worn today and others sharing their stories.
Swimsuits for males are a more recent invention than for females so its stands to reason men/boys didnt wear them and that was the norm until some point presumably as mixed swimming in public became common.

Comments by Willy on 23rd July 2019  

Several posters have mentioned that they had nude swimming classes for boys at school.
How common was this practice and when did it cease, if it ceased at all?
We didn't have the luxury of a swimming school at the schools I went to, or knew other schools that had.

Some have even mentioned that they had swimming galas also in the nude in front of family members as spectators, including girls like sisters. Was this also common?
Also was there an age limit when the boys had to swim nude, since some mention that this was only for juniors up to 13 or so, after which they wore swimsuits.

Comments by Willy on 23rd July 2019  

It seems that the only thing that kids practice today is sitting at the computer playing video games and looking at their mobiles and tablets.
We didn't have such gadgets when we were kids and so spent most of our time outside school or holidays playing outside.
We even organized athletic races between us or played football. Unlike today's kids it was a constant physical activity when outside of school or after school.
Girls would be jumping ropes in the street and other such activities.
Yes, fat or overweight kids were very rare.

Comments by Alfie A on 23rd July 2019  

I know "things were different in my day" circa mid 60's, but I think the problem with P.E. nowadays like all subjects it is results and target driven. For P.E. my teenage son P.E. just seems to be football, cricket dodge ball or some other organised games. Any gymnastics is for the "top set" only who actually are going for a GCSE grade in the subject. This means other pupils miss out on the actual exercise that we all had to do.
Furthermore until we left school at 16 we always had to go swimming at the local swimming pool each week. Summer & winter. We did wear trunks of the briefs style(that really was all that was available and what all males wore. So P.E. sports & swimming was minimal clothing and that was that.
How times have changed. When I go to the swimming pool at my gym, I see that teen lads are not only wearing longish swimming shorts, it is apparent from waistbands that are showing, that they also wear their boxer shorts under their swim shorts!! Why? It cannot be for support because most swim shorts have a netting inside as a support.

Comments by Roy on 23rd July 2019  

The "softly softly" approach is already causing problems with obesity on the increase among children

Comments by Michael on 22nd July 2019  

The present "softly softly" approach to school PE/Games activities is creating big health problems for the future.

If we can't get the present generation "match fit" while they're young, there won't be a second chance later on, and they will go into adulthood without ever having broken sweat. It will be an obesity nightmare, if it isn't already.

I hated my PE/Games lessons because of the bullying style of teaching with plenty of corporal punishment on offer. But, even I have to admit that getting fit at that age, stood me in good stead later on.

Comments by Jo on 21st July 2019  

Hi William and John,interesting comments.
I think my 2 would benefit from that kind of teaching, especially being outside topless. It's crazy to realise the eldest hasn't been made to sweat at all during his PE/Games lessons. There needs to be some common sense applied. I went to a mixed schools and was so natural to see boys of all ages topless on any day, indoors and outside. For them it was all part of being toughened up.

Comments by William on 21st July 2019  

Jo, Yes,we were put through our paces. We could not get away with being slack or lazy. But the school recognised that some boys were better than others. There were things I could hardly do in gym, but what mattered was making the effort.

Every gym lesson started with 20 star jumps. We ran about a lot and did the usual exercises. We certainly got warm and minimal clothing was ideal. No-one flouted the "no pants" rule. We were never checked but you can see from the photo that on the ropes or beam it would have been obvious if a boy had been wearing anything under his shorts.

I've heard that some schools today don't push their pupils hard physically because failure might undermine confidence and even cause mental health problems. We just did not think like that. If you were bad at gym you would be good at something else in the school. Swings and roundabouts - just like real life.

Comments by John on 21st July 2019  

Jo,
I think that your concerns highlight the positive benefits of single sex Senior Schools. Boys need to be able to grow and develop their own identity and this can be accomplished more effectively without having to pander to the needs of girls.

Some of my PE teachers were ex Army and certainly knew how to put lads through their paces and make us sweat. We were worked hard and made fit and healthy and soon got used to doing gym and cross country shirtless and came to prefer not being made to wear a shirt or vest.

Comments by Stuary on 21st July 2019  

Andy, William. I couldnt agree more. As ive said before here my school had PE and games every week, all boys plus nude swimming indoors up to year 8 as it is called now. We played rugby, had Pe in shorts and white t shirt, often had skins v shirts games, were slippered if you were naughty, compulsory naked showers but looking back never felt it was abuse at all, we were fit, no kids were fat, we exercised a lot and there was no issues about being naked in front of other boys, it was normal.
It amazes me today kids dont wash after exercise and that just seems so unhealthy, whilst the levels of obesity seem to be growing as we have generations who don't do any exercise and eat crap food. Im only in my early 50s but do despair at what I see.
The implications for society and our health service are immense.
I think a good grounding in healthy exercise sets up a person for life, and so many now dont do any exercise at all.
I cant imagine how hard it must be for PE teachers today to get some kids motivated for games especially in secondary schools

Comments by Jo on 20th July 2019  

Hi William, Your school was more practical than todays are. You mentioned you went topless for athletics and cross country too along with gym which seems a sensible approach. Were you pushed by your teachers to sweat when you were being put through your paces either indoors or outside or am I expecting too much from my 2?

Comments by William on 19th July 2019  

Jo, I was at a boys' grammar school in the 1960s. Gym kit was minimal: white shorts, vest and plimsolls. We hardly ever wore the vest so that didn't wear out, and it was the practice to keep the shorts for as long as possible, turning over the waist to keep them up when the elastic got slack. We wore the same kit for athletics and cross-country. I never saw a tracksuit or jockstrap. For rugby and hockey we had dark shorts and two shirts of different colours. My shirts were second hand. It made sense for shirts which had become too small to be sold to younger boys.

Gym was never a comfort zone for me. I quickly got used to no pants under shorts, no top and the communal showers, but I was never very keen on gym, except for playing "pirates" at the end of term, which was great fun. I was no good at vaults, handstands (another boy held our legs) or somersaults, but I had to do my best because discipline was strict and protest was out of the question.

I think the regime did toughen us. Child protection hadn't been thought of so we never felt vulnerable (we were certainly not abused) and because we didn't think we had any rights we never worried about them being infringed. It was rigorous but we were happy. If children aren't pushed out of their comfort zones how do they learn what they are capable of?

Comments by Jonathan on 19th July 2019  

Hi guys, when I read these messages I remembered what happened to us. We usually do or with a shirt on outside and shirtless inside. Teacher said that it was the general rule. But if something went wrong, then there was punishment. Regardless other post, our punishment was quite simple, you have to go outside as you were, with nothing on your chest. It doesn’t seem a punishment, unless we weren’t in a very cold region of Scotland, where in winter it always rained, and it often turned to sleet or hail. Our teacher said, you must stay outside and “survive” so that you weren’t obligated to run, but obviously it was recommended if you didn’t want to feel cold. I was punished sometimes and I remember when I had to stay outside for 45 minutes with snow, I was shirtless and the only thing I could do was to run. I still remember sweat on my chest that made me feel warm. That was a strange feeling, half of my chest was covered in snow, the other half by sweat.

Comments by June on 12th July 2019  

to quote Ian
"but we went out on a showery, gusty, freezing cold day in the mid 60s in Scotland. Shorts, plimsolls and jockstraps for us, but our PE master in tracksuit, gloves and scarf with the hood up. On the final mile (of five) it turned to sleet" ... it's what made you and my hubby real men!!

Comments by Jo on 12th July 2019  

Hi Sterling, you're spot on the cost of boys PE kit is mad. I have 2 boys at school which makes things challenging. Things like a Football/rugby top is £45, a hoodie another £40, don't mention trainers.. At least this year they're both at the same school but even so. I raised the kit with the school but was told "it's to give a sense of identity with everyone wearing the same thing"

I have questioned the school's approach and do not think they do enough for boys. It bothers me things are too weighted in favour of girls, for example my eldest has never sweated in a PE class. The boys need their identity too and this is not happening. There's loads of comments about doing PE in just shorts or with a vest and shorts. Either way is fine with me. It would give them both a different experience and take them out of a comfort zone for a couple of lessons while they got used to it,and that's no bad thing. I know my 2 wouldn't object especially in gym. Who knows they may be made to work a lot harder than they currently do. While safeguarding is an issue, just going in shorts and a bare chest or a vest and shorts would be more practical for them and also save me unnecessary expense which just goes into school coffers. I'd be really interested to see what others think.

Comments by David on 9th July 2019  

Ian, in our school hail wasn’t the real problem. As I said, losers went out shirtless despite bad weather. One time I was one of the winners so I had to run with a shirt and I also had my friend’s shirt. I like running shirtless so I made the terrible mistake of giving back my friend his shirt. As the rules said, I was obliged to take off my shirt and that I did, I toke it off and run shirtless. However, my friends organised a terrible joke. They hide both shirt which I used to run and the other one I had in class. When it started raining I was happy, because I like going shirtless. The problem was that it started snowing and teacher said that we could take on shirt; but I haven’t any one. I was the only one who was shirtless in a snowstorm. School gym was far so I could only run. That was a strange feeling but also an exciting one, so that after lesson, I had to go back home by bus, but I haven’t any shirt. I said to my self: “ no problem, you run shirtless, you could go back home shirtless” and that’s what I did

Comments by Andy on 8th July 2019  

Ian, thanks for posting that excellent clip from Leyton. Gym at my boarding school (all boys) in the 1960s was very like that and it brought back many happy memories.

One of the things most notable in the clip was that no lad was fat unlike the lardy lads you see today. The school regime I was part of certainly didn't allow a lad a chance to put on weight.

Six mornings a week (except Sunday) we were out for a run at 06.30, the course was either two miles or four miles dressed in shorts and plimsolls whatever the weather. On finishing the run it was straight into the outdoor pool, in winter the first lads there sometimes had to break the ice. We always swam naked although we had trunks for sports day but that was the only time we wore them.

Every lunch time there was 90 minutes of games or PE or cross country before afternoon school started. We only had shirts for rugby and everything else was white shorts, plimsolls and a coloured armband.

I loved it and wouldn't have changed anything about it, they were great days.

Comments by John on 7th July 2019  

Simon D,
Great to hear that you also enjoyed PE. I completely agree that it was much better not having to wear a top. I’m thankful for the toughening up regime, on reflection it was a good thing and a positive experience.

Comments by Sterling on 7th July 2019  

Given the huge change in PE, compared to what Baby Boomers experienced, is it any wonder the NHS is at breaking point. The large amount of obese and/or unfit teenagers we have today spells big trouble ahead.

I have read that cash strapped parents now have to pay £150 for a High School PE kit. A kit they may never break sweat in and outgrow quickly.

Comments by Ian on 7th July 2019  

Simon D
I never experienced hailstones on a run, but we went out on a showery, gusty, freezing cold day in the mid 60s in Scotland. Shorts, plimsolls and jockstraps for us, but our PE master in tracksuit, gloves and scarf with the hood up. On the final mile (of five) it turned to sleet. The cars on the road had lights on and some of them tooted on seeing us. Bizarrely I realised at that point I was actually enjoying the experience and liked shirtless running ever since.
In the gym, the "strip" command was issued at the end of the period. We were expected to obey instantly (as with all this orders) or face the consequences. Even if there were visitors. We then had to file into the showers in an orderly manner.
PE was hard - circuit training, vaulting, ropes, wallbars, medicine balls, indian clubs etc. - so we really needed the shower.
As you say, it taught discipline and fitness and always respected my teacher who was also a very strict disciplinarion.
Also, I found this clip on the web:

https://player.bfi.org.uk/free/film/watch-secondary-school-gymnastics-leyton-county-high-school-for-boys-1936-online

Our gym period was harder, although I was impressed by the vaulting. The PE teachers do appear but fully clad with boys in shorts and plimsolls. I have always felt that wearing PE kit demonstrated the authority of the master over the boys.

Comments by Simon D on 7th July 2019  

Hi John, if I gave the impression I didn't enjoy my PE/Games lessons it wasn't the case.There was a real emphasis placed on PE and toughening up with a double lesson timetabled for each day. Each session was hard and unrelenting both inside and out. In the gym it didn't take too long before each boy showed sweat, despite my skinny physique I started to sweat up (my teachers phrase!) quite early on in a lesson so I was very pleased my vest was off! My teachers also made sure my vest was off outside too when doing anything other than cross country for which each boy ran bare chested. I did have to wear a vest for the inter class basketball matches. As each team played one half in a vest before going to skins for the other half, it wasn't too bad. I'm grateful for what it did for me and it instilled discipline into us all too.

Comments by John on 6th July 2019  

Chris G,
I supposed it’s just what you’re used to and your experience was simply different from my experience. A shirtless PE rule was introduced for boys at Primary School when I was 9. Lads got undressed and stripped to the waist in front of girls, we then walked down corridors barechested on our way to the school hall where we did PE. We were seen by other classes, teachers and sometimes parents as we walked to the hall.

At Senior School lads got changed into shorts and pumps in the changing room and entered directly into the gym already stripped to the waist. We also did cross country in shorts and trainers and barechested. If you were selected to be on the skins team to play football, the PE teacher would say ‘shirts off lads’, if it was warm enough we’d play skins vs skins and were given different coloured bibs to wear to distinguish teams.

Like you I enjoyed the freedom of being allowed to exercise stripped to the waist.

Comments by Chris G on 6th July 2019  

John - not a strange practice at all. My school was about 50/50 boarding and day boys and we all used the boarders dormitory cubicles for changing. This meant two sets of stairs and a long corridor to the gym, and we were expected to wear our tops for this. This we did for the first couple of weeks, stripping off once we reached the gym. However once the no-vest-on-PE-days fashion caught on, virtually nobody bothered to take a vest to wear for just the few minutes that it took us to get toand from the gym.

Comments by Simon D on 5th July 2019  

Hi John, Honestly I don't think it bothered anyone, especially in the gym where we were all expected to show sweat during each lesson. I w tended to sweat up a little earlier than some of my friends so not wearing a vest was a good thing. It was the same outside we'd line up and be picked into teams of vests and skins until the beginning of December we'd regularly play football in shirts vs vests. Cross country was performed everyone with everyone bare chested with no exception. I don't think it was harsh telling us to "strip to the waist" or "strip" We knew what they expected but knew they'd look after us at the same time. No one wants teachers who were to "friendly" that would be creepy.

Comments by John on 5th July 2019  

Simon D,
Your school seemed to operate a strange practice, if your PE teacher always made lads strip to the waist in the gym there was no point in putting a top on the the changing room. It would have made more sense to come out the changing room shirtless. Did you never think that this was a bit of a waste of time?.

Comments by Simon D on 5th July 2019  

Hi David, we did go out to run in heavy rain. I don't recall thunderstorms but definitely remembered hail stones. Now they did hurt!

Comments by Simon D on 5th July 2019  

Our teachers used the phrase "strip to the waist" or simply "strip off" at the start of the lesson. At that point we removed our vests and dropped them in a line at the front of the gym where the girls could easily see them.

Comments by Chris G on 5th July 2019  

Rachael - Rachael - you said that a lot of boys wore vests under their school shirts and simply put a PE top over. My experience was similar, in that virtually all of my PE group wore vests under our school shirts every day, but also different since most of us didn't bother with dedicated PE tops, and just took our shirts off, put our PE shorts on and there we were, all kitted out.

All this changed when topless PE was introduced. Dad's initial reaction that we wouldn't have to buy me any more PE vests, was soon put down by Mum pointing out that I had been wearing my ordinary underwear vests for PE for a number of years. Her greatest concern came a couple of weeks later, when she realised that an unintended consequence of taking my vest off for PE was that, after the class, I generally "forgot" to put it back on again. In fact, unbeknown to her, within a couple of weeks I had stopped wearing a vest to school on PE days, and by half-term, I had given up wearing them altogether. Mum protested for a while, prophesying that I would be dead from pneumonia by Christmas, but the worst never happened, and I lived to turn my old vests into cleaning cloths.

Comments by John on 5th July 2019  

Roy F,
I didn’t mean to be pedantic I was explaining from a personal perspective that I was entirely happy that I was not allowed to wear a top for PE. Unlike some guys who’ve posted on here we went into the changing room stripped off completely and put on a pair of white gym shorts and pumps, no underwear was allowed to be worn under the shorts. We all entered the gym wearing just shorts and pumps, we weren’t made to ‘strip to the waist’ in the gym.

Some lads have posted that they were made to strip to the waist as soon as they entered the gym and there was a line of vests or shirts left at the side of the gym. I still think that when guys post ‘we were made to strip to the waist’ it sounds as though they disliked the rule or regarded it as some form of abuse. People could have posted that their PE teacher said ‘shirts off lads’, I personally don’t find the word ‘made’ appropriate because I was perfectly happy with the stripped to the waist/no shirts allowed rule.

Comments by Luke on 5th July 2019  

John, I understand the point you're making - you were just wearing the required PE kit, which didn'f happen to include a top. However, at my school, boys were indeed 'made to strip to the waist' in that you might begin a PE lesson wearing your vest or T-shirt, but be told to take it off during the course of the lesson. Sometimes that came about if we were playing shirts against skins, but teachers might also make a boy take his top off as a form of discipline. It could be surprisingly effective if you were singled out to do extra press ups or laps of the playing field wearing only shorts, with every other lad in the class in full kit.

Comments by Matthew on 5th July 2019  

To John,

I think we know what Simon meant! He had to do PE stripped to the waist whether he liked it or not. It was a practice imposed upon him and, in that sense, he was "made" to do it.

Comments by David on 5th July 2019  

Hi Simon D. I want to ask you if you ever run shirtless in ram thunderstorm. Because you wrote that you were shirtless whatever weather conditions. I’m asking you this because mee to had a similar experience. Our lesson was always the same. We used to play inside the gym a basketball match, then those who lost the match had to take off the shirt and to give them to winners. At that point we started cross country run which was through mud pitches and wood nearby school. The rules were the following ones, guys who won had shirts of guys who lost, and they could decide. If one of the winners wanted to give back shirt to a guy who was shirtless, he could do this but then he had to run barechested, so that always half of the class had to be shirtless. In this way, losers went always shirtless regardless weather or mud which made very dirty chests of guys who run without a shirt

Comments by ROY F on 5th July 2019  

At the risk of sounding pedantic what is the difference between "being made to strip to the waist for PE" and "not being allowed to wear a top"?

Comments by John on 4th July 2019  

Simon D,

We weren’t ‘made to strip to the waist for PE’ the rule was that we were not allowed to wear a top for PE. The rule was shorts and pumps only, we went in the changing room and we weren’t going to do gym in our school shirts and at Senior School all lads I knew had given up wearing vests underneath their school shirts. So in reality all we did was to take off our school shirt and simply not put on a vest or a t shirt in the changing room.

When guys on here comment that ‘we were made to strip to the waist’ it sounds as though it was harsh or in some way a punishment; we were glad that we could enjoy the freedom of exercising shirtless and were not ‘made to wear a top’.

Comments by Rachael on 3rd July 2019  

A lot of boys wore vests under their school shirts and simply put a PE top over. You'd see boys strip both t-shirt and vests off in the gym which was good to watch. I didn't object to seeing boys show their upper bodies either indoors or outside. Watching boys strip off on a cold morning was an experience.

Comments by Rob on 3rd July 2019  

Julian, Surely, in the 1960's it would have been normal for boys to be stripped to the waist and in many schools, barefoot, in the gym and for cross country. If the girls reacted in this manner at the sight of a lad in just shorts
at your sports day, what did you all normally wear for PE?

Comments by Simon D on 3rd July 2019  

Our school did not hesitate in making boys strip to the waist for everything bar football, which we wore either a pale blue or white vest depending on whether you were in an odd or even numbered class. Cross Country was always done stripped regardless of temperature or condition and we waded through brooks and shallow water. One teacher's favourite thing was to make lie down in the freezing cold water. Reinforced windows ran the whole length of the gym so it was easy for girls to see us. We our school competitions in all sports in addition to sports day. For things like basketball one team would wear a vest for the first half, strip for the second and vice versa so the girls who were allowed to cheer and watch would see both sets of boys stripped to the waist. For cross country and physical fitness competitions coloured ribbons tied round each competitors arms so all boys could be stripped. There's so much lacking for males. It's it's ridiculous making boys exercise in tops and I wonder at the effort going in. For us it really was a case of no sweat, no effort! And I cannot believe girls no longer want to see boys stripped off!!

Comments by Rachael on 3rd July 2019  

Hi Matthew I'd volunteer to take messages to other teachers and took a detour to the gym to see boys topless and if I were lucky and see them glisten with sweat. There were always a line of PE vests down by the front of the gym. Were you singled out to go topless by teachers or was the whole class the same.

Comments by Chris G on 2nd July 2019  

James - my memories of topless PE was that our shorts were somewhat more extensive, and less anatomically revealing, than our "speedo - style" swimming trunks. We were more likely to have been embarrassed on the beach or at the swimming pool than in the gym.

Comments by Julian on 2nd July 2019  

I remember a School Sports day in the 1960s.
One of the sixthformers-a tall well-built 17 year old youth- was running stripped to the waist and barefoot.
When girls saw that he was bare-chested they flocked over to get a closer look at him.

Comments by James on 2nd July 2019  

To Mathew,

We were were often watched by the girls when they were passing through the corridor on the way to their lessons, but there was no segregation from the girls and we often shared the gym when the weather was unsuitable for them to go outside.

Comments by Andrew on 2nd July 2019  

John, it was a mixed school but PE lessons weren't so boys outside while the girls were inside and vice versa. There were direct doors from both changing rooms into the gym but another into a public corridor so we wouldnt see each other or at least not in theory.

Claire, you sound like what our girls must have been like! I felt happier about being shirtless as I got used to it so that tallies.

Comments by Matthew on 1st July 2019  

To James
How were the girls able to come and watch you? Should they not have been in lessons themselves?

Comments by Matthew on 30th June 2019  

To James.
How was it that the girls were able to come and observe the boys? Should they not have been in lessons themselves?

Comments by James on 29th June 2019  

Claire,I'm sure most boys were extremely shy and self-conscious about stripping down to just our shorts.
The gym had huge viewing windows and we frequently had an audience,mainly of girls who obviously enjoyed watching us exerting ourselves in our strenuous exercises.It probably had the benefit of making some of the boys more self confident,but some us remained inhibited about displaying our bodies in minimal clothing.

Comments by Maltamon on 28th June 2019  bisha7@hotmail.com 

I teach PE at a school in Allentown. I make the boys go barefoot and topless so I can look at their bodies.
My friend Phil likes it too.
Bob says I am a pedifile.

Comments by Claire on 28th June 2019  

Andrew, no doubt your girls would have loved to see you all shirtless in gym! We used to hang around longer then we needed to in order to see which boys were stripping their shirts off,until the teacher yelled at us to get a move on.Often we could sometimes find a way to sneak back and watch them. I did notice as time went on most of the boys overcame their shyness and did enjoy the attention the girls were paying to their bare chests.

Comments by John on 27th June 2019  

Andrew,
I know some people won’t agree but I think that girls eyeing up lads doing PE shirtless makes a good case for single sex Senior Schools. Confident lads might be happy showing off in front of girls but other lads might feel embarrassed being barechested with girls watching them.

A shirtless PE kit rule makes a lot of sense but lads need to become confident with their physical appearance; they can gain this confidence better without girls watching and commenting on their appearance whilst they are developing as teenagers.

Comments by Andrew on 27th June 2019  

Claire, I also remember our girls being curious about boys not wearing tops. While indoors we went barechest and they couldnt see but they did know, but outdoors its was optional. More precisely not optional but not our official kit, but teachers turned a blind eye to anyone doing it and the girls did appear to like gossiping about who did this based on any glimpses they might get or information from other boys.

Comments by Alfie A on 27th June 2019  

Regarding the last message and prudish , I read in the newspaper that an elderly lady has been told not to wear her bikini in her garden because children in a nearby nursery can see her sunbathing!!! Parents have objected!!! What will any of the parents do if they go on holiday and people are in swim wear including bikinis.



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