January 20, 2012 at 2:49 pm #40
This is the story of Portland Radio’s long running children’s talent show “Stars of Tomorrow.” The pioneering program was an original. One of the first, if not the First Talent Shows in American Radio History. “Stars of Tomorrow” was named after it’s sponsor, Star Furniture Co. which had a long Portland history. Star Furniture was founded in 1919 at: 204 1st St. By 1933 the store was located at: 625 S.W. 4th Ave. and was one of Portland’s leading furniture establishments.
Star Furniture had been an Al Pearce “Happy-Go-Lucky Hour” local sponsor of the “Don Lee Broadcasting System” program, heard over KOIN 940kc. On March 6, 1933 the program moved to the NBC Pacific Orange Network, heard over KGW 620kc. Star Furniture followed the program to KGW, picking up local sponsorship.
At KGW, Star Furniture, which also sold Radio Sets, new Sales Manager, Nate Cohn came up with the idea to present a talent show for children in the store windows, to entice downtown shoppers and KGW listeners to come on down and watch the kids perform, as well as shop. Parents, whose children possessed talent could arrange for auditions by telephone: BRoadway 5551; asking for Uncle Nate.
Nate Cohn in 1929 while working for Cohn Bros. Furniture wrote this four years before his radio show: “The child in whose home there is not a radio is being cheated. The wholesome home entertainment, the educational influence, and the cultural effect of high quality programs now on the air is something that should be thoroughly appreciated by parents.” In 1930 Mr. Cohn was named Manager of The Lipman, Wolfe & Company’s, Furniture Department and by 1933 he had joined Star Furniture Co.
The first show was broadcast on KGW Saturday May 27, 1933 from 12:15pm to 1:15pm and was called “All-Star Kids’ Revue.” It was hosted by 42 year old Nate Cohn, known on the air as “Uncle Nate.” The audience could watch from within the store or from the sidewalk. Roy Adams Ramblers, an eight piece orchestra, furnished the accompaniments. The show was hit, blocking the street and tieing up phone service.
On Thursday June 1, 1933 a 2nd show was broadcast under the name “Star-Window Theater” also from 12:15pm to 1:15pm. There after the show was heard Saturday’s and occasionally on Wednesday’s at the same time. Performers on the September 30, 1933 broadcast were: The Bennett Sisters, Robert Brouillard, Sanford Cohn (Nate’s son), Gwen & Lois Graper, Helen Hortense Heath & Jean Anne Mognette. By this time the program was occasionally heard on sister station KEX 1180kc
On December 30, 1933 the program moved on Saturday, 2:00pm to 3:00pm. Beginning on January 6, 1934 the new time was 3:30pm to 4:30pm. By February 24, 1934 regulars on the show were: Jack Brown, Jean Anne Mognette, Haislem Pool, The Stedman Sisters, a kid calling himself Rudy Vallee & Mignon Wheeler. On March 10, 1934 “The Window Theater of The Air” began broadcasts from the “Portland Public Market” at 800 S.W. Front Ave. On April 14, 1934 the show returned to the store windows of Star Furniture at a new time, 11am to Noon on KGW.
On October 27, 1934 the program changed its name to “Stars of Tomorrow” continuing the hour show Saturdays 11:00 to Noon on KGW. By this time singer Kay St. Germaine performed on the show. In 1941 she married movie star Jack Carson. On December 19, 1934 “Star Window Theater of The Air” debuted Wednesday nights 8:15pm to 8:45pm, featuring Uncle Nate and his Stars of Tomorrow, over sister station KEX 1180kc. This program continued until May 15, 1935.
On December 22, 1934 the program “Stars of Tomorrow” also moved to KEX, continuing its Saturday time period with Uncle Nate as host. Included on the broadcast was 8 year old Virginia Becker (“The midget Sophie Tucker”), Sanford Cohn, The Hanna Sisters, Jean Anne Mognette, The Three B’s of Harmony, plus the Stars Merrymakers’ Orch. as back up. Virginia Becker would later join “Ken Murray’s Blackouts” stage variety show at the “El Capitan” in Hollywood. Then joining band leader, Jimmy Dorsey’s show, traveling back east.
On May 25, 1935 “Stars of Tomorrow” moved back to KGW, continuing Saturday’s at 11:00am. This was done to complement KGW’s newest syndicated program from NBC called “Stars of Today” carried at 12:30pm Saturday’s from Radio City. The program closely mirrored Uncle Nate’s original concept, including the name. The show was locally sponsored by Star Furniture. It’s estimated Suzanne Burce first appeared on the program in 1935 as a singer. Later becoming actress, dancer, movie star, Jane Powell.
By June 6, 1936 the program was featuring: Virginia Becker, Johnny Clements, Sanford Cohn, Tootsie Hanor, Dicky Holmes, Nora Martin, “Dynamite” Jean Anne Mognette, Toby Sommers, The Three Rhythmites. All were vocalists. The Hanna Sisters were a song & dance duo and Bobby Brown was a talented dancer. Nora Martin of St. Helens became known as singer/actress: Nora Lou Martin. Later a regular on CBS’s “The Gene Autry Show” as well as appearing in six movies.
On September 26, 1936 “Stars of Tomorrow” was heard for the first time over the NBC “Red Network of The National Broadcasting Co. Today 11 A.M. Listen to these Young Artists Every Saturday. They’re going places in Radio!” The one hour show was heard one time only on the Pacific Coast stations of the NBC Red Network: KFI Los Angeles, KPO San Francisco, KOMO Seattle & KHQ Spokane. Side note: Nora Martin yodeled on this broadcast with Uncle Nate as host.
On October 18, 1936 the Sunday edition of “Nate Cohn’s Stars of Tomorrow” debuted at 3:30pm. The new half hour show was developed as an audition program for the Saturday show, to give kids a chance to “do their stuff.” This show was also sponsored by Star Furniture. The Saturday show would then concentrate on showcasing the programs previously discovered entertainers.
On January 23, 1937 the Saturday “Stars of Tomorrow” expanded its listening audience once again. The NBC Red Network picked up the first half hour of the program as a mid season replacement on its West Coast stations 11:00 to 11:30am. On January 31, 1937 the Sunday edition moved from 3:30pm to 2:30pm. On February 20, 1937 NBC Saturday segment, listeners heard the 45 member “Zollie’s Gang” from Salem as guests. Including 6 year old Cheryl Aasheim, Orville Beardsley, Seth Jane, Ralph Rogers, Shirley Thomas & Gordon Winchcomb, plus dancers and instrumentalists.
On April 3, 1937 with “Stars of Tomorrow” becoming an NBC hit, the Pacific Red Network requested a separate Saturday half hour program hosted by Uncle Nate, produced exclusively for NBC, which debuted on this date at 5:00pm. Both programs were called “Stars of Tomorrow.” On April 25, 1937 the Sunday edition moved from 2:30pm to 2:00pm.
On May 29, 1937 NBC’s “Stars of Tomorrow” ended it run, going on hiatus. On September 26, 1937 the Sunday edition moved from 2:00pm to 1:30pm. On November 13, 1937 a single NBC program was produced, airing 3:45pm to 4:15pm. On December 12, 1937 a KGW ad: “Packed with different Entertainment. Nate Cohn’s “STARS of TOMORROW.” A sparkling radio show featuring Portland youngsters who are on the road to radio fame.”
On February 12, 1938 NBC’s “Stars of Tomorrow” returned for its 2nd network season, Saturday’s from 5:00 to 5:30pm. All along the regular Saturday local hour show had been airing earlier at 11:00am. On April 24, 1938 the Sunday edition moved from 1:30pm to 2:00pm. On April 30, 1938 NBC series moved a half hour later to 5:30pm.
On June 7, 1938 the cast of “Stars of Tomorrow” began appearing Tuesday’s at “Jantzen Beach Park” (Hwy 99 & Interstate Bridge) for what was called a “banner outdoor stage and radio revue.” The free shows were broadcast at 4:00pm with Uncle Nate, master of ceremonies. All the well-known kid stars and starlets were there: Virginia Becker, Marion Butler, Sanford Cohn, Bobby Gilbert, The Hanna Sisters, Dick Holmes, Walter Moe, Jean Ann Mognette, The Reischman Brothers, Kay Stivers, The 3 Sweethearts of Harmony & Walt Weber. The Tuesday afternoon shows continued through August 30, 1938 on KGW. With this addition, four shows were airing weekly, for two weeks.
On June 19, 1938 the Sunday “Stars of Tomorrow” ended its run, going on Summer hiatus. A week later on June 25, 1938 the NBC series also went on hiatus after the broadcast. The earlier local one hour edition continued at 11:00am. On September 25, 1938 the Sunday edition returned at 3:00pm.
On October 1, 1938 NBC’s “Stars of Tomorrow” returned for its 3rd network season but this time in the Fall, not as a mid-season replacement as in previous years. Plus the half hour Saturday NBC series moved to the more prestigious 6:30pm time slot where it aired until April 29, 1939. This was the last time the program was carried over the NBC “Pacific” Red Network. The Saturday one hour edition continued at 11:00am.
On April 30, 1939 the half hour Sunday “Stars of Tomorrow” moved from 3:00pm to 2:15pm, then on May 28, 1939 from 2:15pm to 2:00pm. On June 6, 1939 “Stars of Tomorrow” returned to for a 2nd Summer broadcast season from “Jantzen Beach Park” airing Tuesday’s from 1:30pm to 2:00pm. The regular Saturday edition continued at 11:00am as well. On June 11, 1939 the Sunday edition moved from 2:00pm to 1:30pm and after the June 25, 1939 broadcast, the show went on Summer hiatus.
On September 5, 1939 the “Stars of Tomorrow” Jantzen Beach edition, ended its Summer season after the broadcast. On September 17, 1939 the half hour Sunday edition returned at 1:30pm. On February 24, 1940 the one hour Saturday edition at 11:00am moved from Star Furniture to “The Orpheum Theater” at 743 S.W. Broadway. “Attend the broadcast and then stay to enjoy our regular program!” (Vaudeville stage attractions). “Till 1 P.M., 15c, Any Seat.” The Saturday edition continued at the Orpheum through April, 1940. No end date was announced.
On June 18, 1940 the “Stars of Tomorrow” Jantzen Beach 2nd season began on Tuesday’s from 2:00pm to 2:30pm. Free admission to all children with accompanying adult. On June 30, 1940 the Sunday edition at 1:30pm finished and went on Summer hiatus. On August 27, 1940 The Jantzen Beach edition finished its Summer season. All along the Saturday edition continued. On September 8, 1940 the Sunday edition from 1:30pm to 2:00pm began its 5th season.
On May 13, 1941 singing starlets of “Stars of Tomorrow” Virginia Becker, Betty Lou Hanna, Tootie Hanor, Jean Hanna & Celia Burley, pianist had signed a theatrical contract for a three month engagement in the Hawaiian Islands. They left on this date. On May 25, 1941 the Sunday edition finished their broadcast and went on Summer hiatus until September 7, 1941 when they returned for their 5th Sunday season at 1:30pm. Estimation is that Johnnie Ray, early 1950’s singing sensation, made his first appearance on “Stars of Tomorrow” in 1941.
On July 5, 1942 the Sunday edition “Stars of Tomorrow” ended its season and never returned. All along the Saturday edition continued at 11:00am. Estimation is that Gloria McMillan made her first appearance at age 9 on the show in 1942. Later in 1950’s, cast member of CBS Television’s “Our Miss Brooks.” KGW ad: “Tune to that hour-long program of “Stars of Tomorrow” this morning at 11 O’Clock, KGW. Hear these talented youngsters trying to do their very best for your entertainment.”
On February 27, 1943 Uncle Nate and the “Stars of Tomorrow” kids gave their last performance in the windows of Star Furniture at 625 S.W. 4th Ave. On March 6, 1943 Uncle Nate’s “Stars of Tomorrow” began emanating from the “George A. White Servicemen’s Center” at 429 S.W. 4th Ave. with plenty of room for those who wanted to attend the broadcasts. “Public Invited to See Portland’s Child Talent Show. Broadcast on KGW 11 to 12 Noon Saturday.” Star Furniture continued to sponsor the show.
On July 24, 1943 Uncle Nate the kids of “Stars of Tomorrow” brought their show to Victory Center, Saturday’s War Bond Stage. Appearing were: The Dunn Brothers, Dickey Holmes, Tootsy Honor, Jeri, 3 year old Joan Olsen & brother Donald Olsen, The Three Tappettes and others.
On September 23, 1944 KGW moved the one hour “Stars of Tomorrow” from 11:00am to 11:30am. “Portland’s Own Star-gazing Program, Every Saturday at the George White Servicemen’s Center. You’re invited to be part of the audience to see and hear the children who may be Tomorrow’s Headliners.” By February 1945 “Baby Beth” & Karen DeLashmitt were appearing on the show.
It’s estimated Bob Amsberry first appeared on the program in 1945 as a singer. Becoming Uncle Bob in 1948, hosting his KEX “Squirrel Cage” show and later cast member of ABC Television’s “Mickey Mouse Club.” On March 2, 1946 Uncle Nate did a “Stars of Tomorrow” benefit broadcast for the “American Red Cross.” Instead of regular cast members, talent was selected from Portland Public School children.
On July 6, 1946 “Stars of Tomorrow” made two changes. The broadcast was moved from 11:30am to 12 Noon and the broadcasts moved from the “George A. White Servicemen’s Center” to “Norse Hall” at 111 N.E. 11th Ave. Uncle Nate continued to host and sponsorship continued to be Star Furniture. On October 12, 1946 the program moved an hour earlier to its old time period 11:00am. On January 4, 1947 another time change, back to 12 Noon.
On September 27, 1947 “Stars of Tomorrow” moved its emanation from “Norse Hall” to KGW studios in the “KWJJ Building” at 1011 S.W. 6th Ave. Broadcasts were also adjusted to 11:30am to 12:30pm but most programs were cut to a half hour because of NBC Football Games. This must have caused a rift between Star Furniture & KGW. On May 23, 1948 the show featured: The Swing Kings” a 5-piece dance band from Clatskanie. They played two songs by Lucille Frazier also from Clatskanie.
On July 24, 1948 for the first time “Stars of Tomorrow” was not heard live. It was recorded on a transcription for a later broadcast at 3:00pm after NBC’s coverage of the GOP “Third Party” Convention from Philadelphia. This must have furthered the growing gap between Star Furniture & KGW. On December 25, 1948 Uncle Nate & the “Stars of Tomorrow” kids performed their last show on KGW.
On January 8, 1949 Uncle Nate’s “Stars of Tomorrow” moved to KEX. The station was no longer KGW’s sister. (KEX was sold in 1944.) Ad: “The Original “Stars of Tomorrow” for 15 Years Portland’s Famous Juvenile Revue. Now! New Time!!. Full Hour 10 to 11 A.M. Each Saturday Morning. New Station (logo: Westinghouse, KEX. 50,000 watts. Dial 1190). Today! Public Invited to Attend The Broadcast! Bring The Kids! KEX Studios — S.W. 13th & Main. Free Parking!” (“KEX Radio Center” Studio A.: 1230 S.W.Main St.) The program continued to be sponsored by Star Furniture.
On April 24, 1952 a new KEX Thursday evening talent show debuted for adults, hosted by “Star Finder” aka Uncle Nate. Ad: “Search For Stars” 9:30 P.M. Featuring The Top Talent of The Northwest. Spectacular Radio Revue, Broadcasting Direct From KEX Studios — S.W. 13th & Main. You’re Invited to Attend The Big Broadcast.” The half hour program was sponsored by Star Furniture. “Stars of Tomorrow” continued in its regular Saturday morning time slot from 10:00am to 11:00am.
“Search For Stars” was Uncle Nate’s first program devoted to discovering adult talent, with a Hollywood Television audition on the line! The first night winner based on listeners’ balloting was the duet of Betty Jean Mullen & Phil Green. Each week, one of the acts was declared a winner through a popularity vote by mail and by the studio audience. “Are You Talented? Want to Audition For “Search For Stars”? Write KEX Portland. You’ll Be Notified When to Appear.” The Producer of “Search For Stars” was Claude Blackwood.
On July 3, 1952 the “Search For Stars” lineup featured: The Rose City Four, a barbershop quartet; Nancy Sellene, vocalist; Buddy Darco, vocalist & guitar & Bill O’Leary, operatic tenor. On November 13, 1952 Ad: “Search For Stars” 9:30 P.M. Each Thursday Evening The Northwest’s Famous Talent Program. Tonite featuring Dan Huston — vocalist, Bernie Otterness — marimba, Pat McDowell — soprano. Listen Every Thursday. VOTE For Your Favorite. Send Cards to “Search For Stars” KEX Portland. (logo: Westinghouse, KEX. 50,000 watts. Dial 1190. KEX-FM 92.3 Megacycles).”
On May 7, 1953 KEX’s “Search For Stars” ended, with the selection of the 7 winning contests announced: Anna Cheng – vocalist; Dorothy Thorbergson – accordion; Betty Jean Mullen & Phil Green – vocal duet; Jack Knapp – vocalist & piano; Bonny Newburgh – vocalist; Geneva Culbertson – piano; Bruce Burden – vocalist. Each was a 7 week winner. Ten trips to Hollywood were awarded.
On May 15, 1953 it was announced Bonnie Newburgh had been judged Top Talent of The Northwest in “Search For Stars” past season contest. She won a trip to Hollywood for an audition at ABC Television.
On Sunday March 13, 1955 “Stars of Tomorrow” made the jump to Television, while continuing its radio program on KEX Saturday’s from 10:00am to 11:00am. Ad: “See And Hear On TV Uncle Nate And The “Stars of Tomorrow.” Portland’s Original Juvenile Show. KLOR Channel 12. 2:30 to 3:00 Sunday.” The show was broadcast from KLOR studio’s at: 915 N.E. Davis St. Star Furniture continued to be the sponsor. The program would show up on Sunday’s at different times depending on games. Some of the 1955 starting times were: 1:00pm, 2:00pm, 2:15pm (45 minutes shows), 4:00pm & 5:00pm.
To see pictures and to read more about the Television version of “Stars of Tomorrow” check out this link: http://home.comcast.net/~kptv/Shows/stars.htm
On Sunday May 5, 1957 “Stars of Tomorrow” continued on the schedule from the new KPTV channel 12 from 2:00pm to 2:30pm. The show now emanated from KPTV studio’s at: 735 S.W. 20th Place. On Saturday January 18, 1958 “Stars of Tomorrow” aired for the last time on KEX from 10:00am to 11:00am. Nothing was noted in print on the radio shows’ passing.
On Saturday April 25, 1964 at 12 Noon, the last telecast of “Stars of Tomorrow” was broadcast from KPTV studio’s, although at the time it wasn’t known. The following Saturday (May 2nd) the program was off the schedule. It’s believed 74 year old Uncle Nate had been checked in to a Portland hospital sometime during the week. The following day Sunday May 3, 1964 “Uncle” Nate Cohn died of an undisclosed illness. The funeral took place on May 5th at 1:00pm at Edward Holman & Son Mortuary, with burial in the Congregation Nevah Zedek Cemetery.
On Sunday May 31, 1964 KPTV presented a 15 minute memorial program titled: “Stars of Tomorrow” Salute…To Uncle Nate” at 1:30pm. A tribute to Nate Cohn for 31 years on Portland Radio and Television. The program featured a surprise guest, Johnnie Ray.
Uncle Nate Cohn was a Portland Original, Pioneering the Talent Show genre we see today. In 1952 he was asked how many had performed on his show. He estimated 25,000 children had appeared. And I would gather countless were forever changed by the exposure.
This history was inspired by Lisa Karr’s question on facebook.
References: The Oregonian, Portland Pacific Telephone Directories, Yesterday’s KPTV.January 21, 2012 at 10:12 pm #2213semoochieParticipant
” On February 20, 1937 NBC Saturday segment, listeners heard the 45 member “Zollie’s Gang” from Salem as guests. Including 6 year old Cheryl Aasheim, Orville Beardsley, Seth Jane, Ralph Rogers, Shirley Thomas & Gordon Winchcomb, plus dancers and instrumentalists.” Would this be a different Ralph Rogers? I believe he was in his twenties, at the time.January 22, 2012 at 5:45 am #2214
Great question Semoochie! I wondered the same thing.
After checking, I don’t think it is the same Ralph Rogers. Portland Radio’s Ralph Rogers was born in 1912 and would have been 25 at the time, consider a little too old for the program. Ralph was also born in Walla Walla.January 22, 2012 at 10:16 am #2215semoochieParticipant
I didn’t remember his birthplace. I knew he went to WSU, as he was always talking about how Edward R. Murrow did also.January 18, 2013 at 7:37 am #2216BJParticipant
For some reason while telling my son about this program that I listened to as a kid, the song they sang at the beginning came to mind. But, I can’t get past the first line: “Stars of Tomorrow, broadcasting her today”. How does the rest of it go? And does anyone have an audio of the program?
Also, I kind of remember part of the Star Furniture ad, but again, can’t remember more than “Star Furniture Company, 4th and ?????? – In downtown Portland!” What was that cross street?
I was at Grant Hi in the same class as Dorothy Wymore who was a regular on the program. Wow, thinking of this program brought back lots of memories.January 18, 2013 at 7:57 am #2217
4th & S.W. Morrison.January 18, 2013 at 6:39 pm #2218BJParticipant
Thanks, Craig. Morrison is what I thought, but glad you confirmed it.
No additional words to the song? No audio? Darn. The first line of that song is stuck in my head with no where to go:>)July 4, 2014 at 3:41 pm #2219
Just researched the early life of Uncle Nate, which was not covered originally in this thread history:
Today July 4, 1890 Nathan “Nate” Cohn was born in Portland, Oregon to Mr. & Mrs. F. Cohn. Nate had four brothers: Michael W., Simon, Edward & Meyer. The family began in Bismarck, North Dakota, where Simon & Michael were born. Mr. Cohn had died in Portland and Mrs. Cohn was in poor health.
On July 2, 1902 a fire broke out at the Cohn home (5th & Hall St.) shortly after 1:00am. Mrs. Cohn arose to take some medicine and in an effort to reach the bottle on a bureau she was overcome by a fainting spell. In the confusion the lamp was upset and broke, setting fire to the furniture. Hearing the noise Micheal Cohn 13 years old, rushed to help his mother and assisted her outside. Then returning to help his four little brothers escape.
On December 4, 1905 Nate began as a singer in vaudeville at age 15, to support his mother. Nate was known on stage as Harold Hoff at the “Grand Theater” at 352 1/2 Washington St. Ad: “Master Harold Hoff, The Juvenile Illustrated Ballad Singer. Matinees 10c.” On July 8, 1906 billed as: “Harold Hoff, The Boy Wonder.”
On December 26, 1906 Harold Hoff debuted as an actor in the Allen Stock Company production of “Little Lord Fauntleroy” at “The Star Theater” location at Park & Washington. “The young chap shows decided ability in this direction and it seems that Manager Errickson had discovered a genuine infant prodigy.”
On March 18, 1907 this all came to a grinding halt. The Grand Theater & Star Theater were breaking Child Labor Laws. Harold was doing well making money. W.M. Davis, Secretary of The Grand Theater: “He was getting an education, too and it wasn’t hurting him. Now he is traveling on a vaudeville circuit. There are only a few states in which he cannot preform. Now he is getting no education at all.” Harold traveled to Tacoma where he lived for a while.
In 1908 Nate Cohn, now 18 years old, was back in Portland, beginning work at “Cohn Bros. Furniture”, founded in 1899 by Eugene E. Cohn, President with brothers Joseph & Harry Cohn. Nate was a relation. By December 1912 Nate was coaching the Jewish Boys Athletic Club, basketball team. On January 22, 1915 Nathan & Sonia announced their engagement.
On August 22, 1915 Nathan “Nate” Cohn, 25 married 17 year old Sonia “Sonie” Rosencrantz. (“Sonie” was also spelled “Sunnie”). They were living at the Buena Vista apartments at: 434 Harrison St. In 1918 Nate & Sonie welcomed daughter Merylen D. Cohn. In 1921 Nate & Sonie welcomed son Sanford Jerome Cohn.
On December 5, 1929 Nate Cohn, while working for “Cohn Bros. Furniture” at 290 Washington St. location, wrote this four years before his radio show: “The child in whose home there is not a radio is being cheated. The wholesome home entertainment, the educational influence, and the cultural effect of high quality programs now on the air is something that should be thoroughly appreciated by parents.”
On January 7, 1930 Nate Cohn was named Manager of The Lipman, Wolfe & Company’s, Furniture Department. Meanwhile “Star Furniture” had been an Al Pearce “Happy-Go-Lucky Hour” local sponsor of the “Don Lee Broadcasting System” program, heard over KOIN 940kc. On March 6, 1933 the program moved to the NBC Pacific Orange Network, heard over KGW 620kc. Star Furniture followed the program to KGW, picking up local sponsorship.
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