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Excerpt: Tarpon Springs Florida The Early
Years, by Gertrude K. Stoughton

The first man buried in Cycadia cemetery was shot; but the killer, W.N. Conley the bookkeeper, had honestly mistaken him for someone else, and was not held.

Marshal Ruben Jones was "the law -- harsh, arbitrary and unquestioned..and he sported a pure gold badge. He is said to have used his gun too freely, and to have been greatly feared, but he had both friends and enemies. In the end he was gunned down and his killers were never traced.


Excerpt: Tropical Breeze , August 1994 - September 1994.


Talking about how Tarpon Springs was first settled, Craig said that the first people who came were from Key West, the Bahamas and from the southern states. "All the Southerners liked everybody to believe that they left big plantations somewhere in Carolina or Georgia, but that wasn't always true. Some of them were running from the law because they had lost everything they had, and a few did leave big plantations."

"We had a lot of really rough people here, and I mean rough. Tarpon Springs used to be called Murder, Incorporated. There was lots of smuggling around here and feuding families." The Ku Klux Klan was revived in 1924. One of the well-known marshals was Ruben Jones. His badge was made from two $20 gold pieces. "He'd warn people the first time they broke the law," said Craig. "And the next time he'd just shoot them."

Craig's father once competed against Ruben Jones in a shooting contest. "My dad was the best quail shot in this part of the county. In those days you had to hit what you aimed at because nobody had money to waste on shells" he said.

Barney Anderson* decided to run for Marshal against Ruben Jones. On the walkway by Spring Bayou, Jones, using a shotgun, killed Anderson. Craig's sisters witnessed the shooting. At the trial Jones convinced the judge that Anderson had threatened him, and that he was shot in self-defense. He was released. Ruben Jones won the election and continued to be marshal until he retired around 1920. He was murdered in an ambush in 1921 and is buried in Cycadia Cemetery.

Reported by: Patricia Pochurek


Excerpt: Tarpon Springs Leader Monday, August 29, 1921

R.T. Jones and H.E. Scott Murdered

Ruben T. Jones and Herbert E. Scott, residents of Port Richey, were shot to death about dark Saturday afternoon within a mile of Weeki Wachee Springs and about fifteen miles from Brooksville, in Hernando County. Their lifeless bodies, sitting in the front seat of a new Ford touring car, were found at 9 o'clock Saturday night by Mr. and Mrs. J.W. Clark and Mrs. R.T. Jones, wife of the dead men.

About a Dozen Gun Shots Heard in Camp.

Mr. and Mrs. R.T. Jones, Mr. and Mrs. J.W. Clark, and H.E. Scott had gone into the Weeki Wachee territory to camp for a few days, having settled down at what is known as the military landing on the river, about two miles from the springs. Mr. Jones and Mr. Scott left the camp very late Saturday afternoon in a Ford car for the springs, where they are said to have made several purchases for the camp. Mr. and Mrs. Clark and Mrs. Jones remained at the camp prepared supper for the party. At about 8 o'clock they heard a dozen or more gun shot explosions not very far away, but paid no attention to them as they presumed that Jones and Scott had run across some wild game and had endeavored to kill something to eat.

Dead Bodies Found in Ford Car

However, after finishing the preparation the supper and waiting for an hour, those at the camp decided to go out in another car to see if they could locate Jones and Scott. They went a short distance along the very sandy road and soon came upon a car standing still in the road, and as the light of the approaching car flashed ahead the bodies of two men could be seen in the front seat, motionless. In a second almost it was discovered that Jones and Scott had been shot to death presumably were sitting as they had been when the fatal shots were fired. Jones, at the steering wheel, bloody all about the head, neck, and left side, was leaning backward to the right while Scott was sitting almost erect with his head, half shot away, resting on top of the back of the seat.

Reign of Horror.

Mr. and Mrs. Clark and Mrs. Jones were terribly shocked and frightened over their horrible discovery. They were too far away from the springs for their voices to be heard for help and as it was almost impossible for them to get their car by the death car, they decided to make for Brooksville for assistance. It took some time to get their car turned around on the very bad highway and Mr. Clark was not familiar with the road, so it was about 12 o'clock before they reached Brooksville.

Officers Notified.

Sheriff Will Cobb was notified and County Judge G.V. Ramsey immediately summoned a coroner's jury, the officers and jurymen proceeding hurriedly to the scene of the tragedy reaching there about 2 o'clock Sunday morning. They guarded the bodies in the car until daylight, when they endeavored to get a line on every possible clue that might lead to the identity of the guilty parties.

What the Officers and Jurymen Found at the Death Scene.

It is reported that within fifteen feet of the road where the car stood about a dozen empty shotgun shells were found, two being No. 16 and ten being No. 12. Also there were several empty pistol or rifle cartridges picked up in the same spot. Right near, several small pieces of paper were noticed, which gave the officers the idea that the gunmen had eaten a lunch while waiting for their intended victims to drive by, and two or three pieces of cake and bread were seen on the ground. From the tracks observed it seems certain that there were two or three people in the killing act, and their tracks led off for a half mile or so to a place where it is thought they boarded a car. The death car was found in a high gear with the switch on. The lower left corner of the bottom windshield was broken apparently a shot having struck there. Scott's shotgun, with the barrel up, was resting between his legs as he is said to have carried it whenever riding in the woods, and the shotgun which Jones used was standing in the back of the car, where he is said, to have kept it when out on such occasions.

Both Bodies Brought to Tarpon Springs.

Undertaker L.K. Vinson was notified at 12 o'clock Saturday night of the killing and was instructed to go to the scene and be ready to remove the bodies just as soon as the Hernando officials gave permission to do so. Mr. Vinson, with C.H. Reed and Harry Jukes, arrived there for the bodies about 7 o'clock Sunday morning, at which time the coroner's jury was still working in an effort to unravel the mystery. Between 9 and 10 o'clock the two bodies were delivered to the undertaker, who proceeded to Tarpon Springs, where he prepared both of them for burial.

Gruesome Sight in Undertaker's Rooms.

Those who were admitted to the Vinson undertaking rooms at noon Sunday beheld a gruesome sight. With his clothing partially removed R.T. Jones was found almost literally full of No. 8 buckshot. A Leader reporter counted fifty holes in his body through which buckshot either entered or left the body, most of them being where balls went in that did not go through. On his chest a half dozen blue spots revealed the presence of buckshot that stopped on their death-dealing journey just underneath the skin. The bullets could easily be felt by a touch of the finger. Mr. Jones' left arm was broken just below the shoulder one bullet cut a groove on his left cheek two inches long; a nick was taken out of his nose; bullets had entered all over his left side, ranging all the way from his head to thigh. Several balls plowed into his head, while a whole load of buck shot smashed the left hip.

The lower half of Scott's face was completely gone, he having been shot beyond all recognition. If it had not been known that he was with Jones no one could ever have identified his remains. There were not nearly so many shot wounds in Scott's body as were found in Jones', but evidently a whole load of buckshot went into Scott's face at close range, battering and grinding it into a mass of blood, skin, flesh and bones.

Possible Motives for the Crime.

No one knows with any degree of certainty just what motive or motives the murderers had for committing the crime. There are many conjectures, of course. One theory advanced is that of robbery. It is said that Mr. Jones usually carried from one to two thousand dollars on his person, and it is said that he had about fifteen hundred dollars with him on this trip. The store keeper at the springs, it is reported, stated that when he paid him for the articles purchased a short time before the killing, Jones had a large roll of bills in his hand, apparently there being a thousand or more dollars. However, the coroner's jury found only $34 in one of his hip pockets. A large diamond ring valued at about $2,000 was gone. A diamond stud was found under his shirt bosom.

Excerpt: Clearwater Sun, Sunday, July 17, 1966

Tarpon Chiefs Wear Very Unusual Badge.

The badge worn by Police Chief Nick Pappas may not be the oldest badge worn by a law enforcement officer but it could well be the most unusual. The badge has been worn by every chief, law enforcement officer, in the city since the turn of the century. The badge was made from two $20 gold coins and it was first owned by R. (Ruben) T. Jones, marshal of the city, when around 1900, he had the coins cast into a badge. The small badge is a two-inch circle topped by an eagle with spread wings. The etchings on the face of the badge showing signs of the badge are showing signs of the continuous wear, but the words "Tarpon Springs Chief" are still easily read. The laurel wreath, encircling the badge and the rays of the sun spreading from the center are also showing the hand print of time. Chief Pappas, who was appointed in 1960, said that he had a safety catch put on the valuable badge. "I feel that it should be kept for future chiefs and someday placed on display in the police museum." he said. The chief said that the only time he had to have the badge repaired was when one of the eagle's wings had to be replaced. Among the well known chiefs that have worn this badge are Oscar Hill, Pasco Morris, Albert Gnann, Ed Washington, Bill Lyons, John Kinsey, Costa Manos and Roy Phillips.

Sheriff Don Genung said the value of this unique badge could not be measured in dollars because it is a valuable part of the early history of Tarpon Springs.

Excerpt: Clearwater Sun, Tuesday, July 24, 1984

This Police Badge Outshines them all

It's mostly gold, and if that isn't enough, it has a history too.

Largely made from $20 gold pieces about 66 years ago, this badge has been worn by 13 police chiefs before it was retired in 1968. And now it's been retrieved from a bank safety deposit box.

Acting City Manager and Police Chief Blaine Lecouris said Monday that the badge will occupy a prominent place in the police station to be built this year.

Rick Arbutine, Manager of Belleair Coins, estimated the "melt value" of the badge at about $641. Good quality gold pieces of that vintage would be worth $650 each on today's market, Arbutine said.

LeCouris, who never wore the gold chief's badge, said he is "primarily interested in it because of its history and tradition. People should take pride in things that are historical." He plans to have it framed in a shadow box and placed, along with other memorabilia, in a special section of the new station.

LeCouris said he had no idea where the badge was, but Finance Director Bob Bublitz, the keeper of the safety deposit box key, knew its exact location. Bublitz retrieved it for inspection Monday afternoon.

The badge about 2 1/2 inches long, is about half the size of the current chief's badge. It is stamped 14-carat gold on the back and is intricately marked and carved. The badge has a weak latch--its only apparent flaw.

Jones' body was found in August 1921, in a boat with 80 bullet holes. He was reported to have been wearing the badge when his body was discovered. He is buried in the city's Cycadia Cemetery.

In 1968, when popular Police Chief Nick Pappas retired, city commissioners told him to keep the gold badge he had been wearing for eight years. Pappas said he gave the badge back on the condition that it be put on display and at the time, everyone agreed. But the badge was never displayed. For years it remained in the city's safe. A city employee found it stuck behind a drawer in 1975. Then City Attorney Don Scholl wrote a resolution that would have placed the badge on display with the city's Historical Society memorabilia.

But residents, and some commissioners, objected because of its value. It was far better, they warned, to keep it stored safely out of sight. It was transferred to the safety deposit box.

According to Pappas' records, the following chiefs wore the badge between 1921 and 1960 when it was passed to him-Sam Mickler, Ed Washington, Webb Hill, W.W. Carter, C.W. Lyons. Albert Gnann, Roy Phillips, Costas Manos, Pasco Morris, Oscar Hill (brother of Webb Hill) and John Kinsey.

Pappas was delighted that LeCouris planned to display the badge at the new police station. "It's a shame for it to be hidden some place." Pappas said.

Reported by: Amelia Davis

Excerpt: St. Petersburg Times, North Pinellas Times, Saturday, August 19, 1989

Ex-Tarpon Police Chief marks 100th birthday

Charles William "Bill" Lyons, chief of police in Tarpon Springs from 1934 to 1941, celebrated his 100th birthday Thursday (Aug. 17) with two parties--one in the afternoon with friends at the Bay Tree Nursing Center in Palm Harbor and one in the evening with family members at his daughter's home in Dunedin.

Lyons, born Aug. 17, 1889, in Barren County, Ky., has been a resident of the Tarpon Springs area for more than 70 years. He first came to Florida in 1913 to work as a painter in Tampa. After completing the job there, he found work in Clearwater painting the Belleview Biltmore Hotel.

But Lyons had good reason to return to Kentucky. In 1914 he married his hometown sweetheart, Louella Healy and did not return to Florida until 1918 when he settled in Tarpon Springs.

"In the early '20s, (Lyons) drove a bus from Tarpon Springs to Clearwater three times a day," said his granddaughter, Gail Hendrickson.

"It was a nine-passenger open touring car. He had to pull off the road every time he met another vehicle because the roads were only 9 feet wide.

"The fare was 50 cents. Can you believe that in a day when people worked all day for not much more? Two of his brothers-in-law drove buses to Tampa daily."

Mrs. Hendrickson has heard many wonderful stories of life in Tarpon Springs in the "early" days -- about her grandfather's garage on Hibiscus Street (the building is still there, she said) and his career as a Tarpon Springs police officer. "He joined the police force in 1930," she said. "He worked 12-hour shifts from 6:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. There was no automobile he did everything on foot. "In back of the Tarpon Springs train depot there was a little shack with a phone in it. That served as the local police station." Lyons' badge, made from two $20 gold pieces, is now in the historical society in Tarpon Springs, she said. "Hunting was his hobby and, in the early 40's he and Ed Becket formed and built a sheet-shot club in the Tarpon Springs area. I can still remember that place." Lyons and his wife have two daughters--Kathlyn Guthrie of Clearwater and Betty Hutto of Dunedin. They have eight grandchildren and 12 great-grandchildren. Their son, John Wesley Lyons, was killed in a car accident in the late '60's.

Reported by: Pat Scarberry

Excerpt: Clearwater Sun - June 8, 1977

Badge survived Blustery Decades

For 10 years, a gold police badge has gathered dust i
n the vault at city hall.

Several weeks ago the Tarpon Springs Historical Society petitioned the city commission to put the badge on display in Tarpon's new historical museum. But Commissioner Kettrell Powell balked at the idea, saying the badge might be stolen.

Why all the fuss about a badge?

Esten Albaugh, 87, remembers Ruben Jones, the Tarpon Springs marshal who had the badge cast from two double eagles ($20 gold pieces). Albaugh was city clerk during the latter part of "Ruben's rule, as we called it then." "He ran the city," Albaugh said. "He was a blustery bluffer--he didn't stand for no nonsense. Ruben's father was marshal before him--he was a kindly old fellow with part of his ear bitten off in a fight. They didn't cry at the sight of blood in those days.

" Jones was elected marshal for 12 straight one-year terms beginning in 1906, even though he once shot and killed his deputy. He spent some time behind bars, Albaugh said, but that didn't keep him from being re-elected.

"Everybody was afraid to run against him," Albaugh said. "Ruben enforced the law as he saw fit, but sometimes he lost interest in enforcing the law."

Tarpon Springs had a population of about 500 then, and it was a tough port town. Albaugh remembers about half a dozen assassinations during the Jones era.

"The first man buried in our cemetery was shot," he said.

Tarpon had a thriving red light district in those days too. Jones was charged with its administration. He shepherded a carload of girls from Tampa each week and then make sure they went back. "Each month, Ruben came to the city clerk's office with a whole pocketful of bills," said Albaugh. The bills were fines levied against the prostitutes.

In 1918, the city experienced a change in city government including a new charter calling for the marshal to be appointed rather than elected. Jones resigned and turned to bootlegging for a living, Albaugh said.

Although Jones had many friends and was famous for his "How's your fat?" greeting, he also had many enemies. In 1921, while on a hunting trip up at Brooksville with his man Friday, he was ambushed.

"The undertaker told me he had 80 slugs in his body," Albaugh said.

Sam Mickler was appointed chief of police in 1918 and given the badge, officially ending the gunslinger's reign.

C.W. Lyons, 88, who later served as police chief for six years wore the badge, characterized Mickler as "just an old Florida cracker, a short heavy-set fellow with kind of sandy face. A lot of people didn't like him."

Mickler was followed by Ed Washington, then Webb Hill, a plumber before he was appointed chief in 1928.

"I was working at my garage when Webb came down with a Colt and asked me to try it on," Lyons recalls.

And so Lyons became the second half of the town's police force. In those days, he said, law enforcement experience was not mandatory, and "the police chief was largely a political job."

Hill was chief when the city's most celebrated unsolved murder occurred. On Jan. 6, 1931, Dr. Archibald McCallister Jr. was shot and killed at Tarpon General Hospital. Although several people professed to know the killer, nothing was ever proved, Lyons said.

Lyons took over as chief in 1934, "and the only thing the city furnished us was the badge," he said. His salary was $115 a month, however, quite an improvement from the $20 per arrest Ruben Jones had been paid.

Lyons replaced W.W. Carter, "a rough kind of a fellow -- he had hands as big as two of mine." Carter kept tabs on the black side of town. "He had a lot of pimps that would tell him what was going on," Lyons said. Carter was fired after an argument with one of the commissioners.

Although Tarpon was rank with illegal immigration, gambling, and prostitution, there were no murders or violent crimes during the '30's and '40's, Lyons said. One of the highlights of his career was when he killed an eight-foot alligator that was terrorizing people in Spring and Whitcomb Bayous. Lyons put the beast on the hood of his cruiser and drove through town with it.

Lyons passed the badge on to Albert Gnann. Then it was worn by Roy Phillips, Costas Manos, Pasco Morris, Oscar Hill (Brother of Webb), John Kenzie and Nick Pappas, the last chief to wear it before it was retired.

Pappas had a safety catch put on the badge and had one of the wings replaced. Despite these minor modifications, it has survived as a symbol of the rough and tumble pioneer days of Tarpon Springs.

Reported by: Stephen Magagnini

Excerpt: Suncoast News- Date Unknown

Olden Days had it's share of violent times

In the past for tonight, here on the Suncoast, many violent acts have occurred, with resultant deaths or injuries to number of people from stabbings, shootings, fights, strangling and the like.

Question: Was it ever thus, or is it a case of criminal elements now coming to this area, as it is elsewhere in Florida in recent years?

Well, it seems to be getting worse as the years roll by, and our population increases, while our quality of life decreases. And yet, I can remember quite a few terrible happenings in this area, and elsewhere in Florida, here are some of them.

Just for instance, because it's one of the oldest and more established towns in this area, lets mention some of the bad moments in Tarpon Springs olden days. I had been told some of these tales by old-timers, and some were in print by historians Bob Pent and Gertrude Stoughton also.

A century ago, one of the principal people in the birth of Tarpon Springs was Maj. Mathew Robinson Marks, who came from Orlando, bringing his family with him. He came to lay out the city, on behalf of the famous Disston interests, and so he did, staying a few years. A large hotel was built and named for him, it burned down in 1884. Soon after he had a narrow escape from being shot in a quarrel, some say after a long chase in downtown Tarpon. A few years later, after returning to Orlando, he became the mayor there, from 1889 to 1893.

Incidentally, when Tarpon officially became a city in 1887, one ordinance was that there was no shooting allowed within the city limits. The town marshal, by the way, was also the health officer and general trouble shooter. They say that the first man buried in Cycadia Cemetery was shot, but the killer, W.N. Conley the bookkeeper, had honestly mistaken him for someone else, and he was not held.

There was a time when Tarpon Springs was quite unhealthful, and a doctor had to be good on gunshot wounds. Located on the edge of open-range cattle country, there were thousands of head cattle and hogs roaming freely, guarded by a handful of range riders. There were disputes, thefts, and outright murders, with no questions asked. Saturday night shootings in Tarpon were common, and two families conducted a blood feud which claimed a dozen lives.

Families in outlying cabins feared to light their lamps at night, and one man was shot in his field, again in bed and once more in his field--the final time fatally. Marshal Ruben Jones was "the law," harsh, arbitrary, and unquestioned, and he sported a pure gold badge. He is said to have used his gun too freely, and to have been greatly feared, but he had both friends and enemies. In the end he was gunned down, and his killers were never traced.

The same held true in 1931, when the Tarpon health officer Dr. Archie McCallister was murdered on the steps of the hospital. Also in '31, three young sponge divers were stabbed, bludgeoned to death, then put in a jail cell at Cedar Key, it was set on fire to conceal the crime. The two drunken officers who did it were sentenced to life in prison.

Reported by: Glen Dill

Excerpt: Tampa Tribune, June 29, 1951


Tarpon Springs today got an entirely new police force after the former police chief and four-man department quit Wednesday, complaining they were considered "a big joke." The four new policemen appointed this afternoon by the city commission are George W. Little, Nick Pappas, Elmer Manos and Gordon Young.

E. Pasco Morris, a barber and for two terms chairman of the Pinellas County School Board, was named to succeed the former police chief, Costas Manos, at a commission meeting Thursday morning.

Manor Lauds Morris

Ex-Chief Manos congratulated his successor, E. Pasco Morris, and offered him his assistance. Chief Morris told the commissioners he would do his best to give them a force they could be proud of. The police department "is not a joke," he added.

Mayor O.F. Baynard called for public support of the new force.

The four previous patrolmen resigned this week because they said they were ridiculed and laughed at. Former Chief Manos quit soon after the city commission returned a $10 fine to Manuel Tsourakis, who had been arrested for shooting firecrackers.

For the next three months Chief Morris, who's salary is $245 a month will be on probation.

Excerpt: Tarpon Springs Leader, August 22, 1961


Sergeant Nick Pappas was appointed chief of police by the Civil Service Board of the City of Tarpon effective today. Pappas passed an examination on Aug. 22. He has been acting chief since the recent resignation of John Kinsey. In accepting the appointment, Pappas said, "We will proceed as we have been for the time being. There will be some changes as we progress." Quiet, unassuming and kind, Pappas was born in Miami on April 22, 1918. He came to Tarpon Springs in 1927 and attended local schools. In 1931 another move to Perry, Florida where he attended school for a while, but because of hardships known to many, he quit school and went to work. Beginning in 1935 and until 1951 he was captain of a sponge boat which brought him back to our town in 1942. 1951 saw him join the local police force where he was promoted to Sergeant in 1955.

Excerpt: Clearwater Sun, Sunday, November 3, 1968


Former Police Chief Nick Pappas was honored Friday night for his 17 years of service in the Tarpon Springs Police Department, eight of them as police chief, in a celebration that included telegrams from J. Edgar Hoover and Gov. Claude Kirk at a testimonial dinner at Pappas Restaurant.

A telegram from the governor said, "I salute you as a first line soldier in our defense." The telegram from Hoover congratulated Pappas for his record in the police department.

Fred Ryder, Anclote Manor administrator, master of ceremonies introduced Lt. Carl Hernandez, of the Sheriff's Department. Lt. Hernandez presented Pappas with a plaque from Sheriff Don Genung and said, "The plaque represents your outstanding job with the Sheriff's Junior Deputies program and I wish all the kids in Tarpon Springs were here to present this plaque to you to show their appreciation."

Hernandez said, "You have put many years into efforts that have helped the outstanding record of keeping down delinquency in your city."

Mayor George Tsourakis, who planned the affair, presented Pappas with the gold badge that he wore for so many years. The mayor said, "This is presented to you on behalf of the city and the city commission and is for your outstanding service and personal sacrifice while serving the citizens of this city."

The Mayor also presented Pappas with a key to the city and a certificate of appreciation. The said, "The work on this badge was done by those who gave of their time to be sure that you would have this momento to remind you of our appreciation and to remind you of your dedicated service."

Ryder said, "You have helped make Tarpon Springs a wonderful place to live."

Reported by Eva Burley

Excerpt: City Archives

National "Nick Pappas Day" proclaimed August 18, 1965 by Radio Station WLCY- Tampa/St. Petersburg in recognition of outstanding service for the Police Department of Tarpon Springs, Florida

Nick Pappas was entered into the 1971 Edition of Outstanding Floridians, which was published as a special tribute to Senator Spessard L. Holland and included people who contributed to the strength of the State of Florida.

Nick Pappas was first Sergeant.

Hired first woman employee, Mrs. Marguerite Clement served as Police Dispatcher.

Hired first Black Officers, Willie C. Wilson served as part time officer and Norman Gavin served as full time officer.

Hired first Canine Officer, Timothy Timmons and Schotzee. On March 7, 1996, The Badge was mounted at the Cultural Center, as a permanent historical display with the photographs of Marshal Reubin Jones, the first law officer to wear the Badge, and Chief Nick Pappas, the last law officer to wear it. The decades only can tell us the real stories that evolve during an era when a new community is floundering, trying to establish law and order to a chaotic backwoods justice.

In a recent interview, Retired Chief of Police Nick Pappas was asked if he had any recollections of Marshal Ruben Jones. Chief Pappas replied that his father told stories about the Marshal protecting the Greek immigrants. It seemed that in the early 1900's, the Greeks were always in danger of being beaten or mistreated when they ventured out of the bounds of the area designated as "Greek Town". Marshal Jones was very protective of these immigrants and they were safe when he was around. As a result, Marshal Jones was well respected by the Greek community that was just beginning to develo

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