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Category Archives: Toronto Blue Jays

Toronto’s Bluebell ferry (decommissioned in 1955)

1920- Tor. Lib.  964-6-41[1]

The Bluebell in 1920, in Toronto Harbour, photo from the Toronto Public Library, 964-6-41 

The Bluebell was built at the Polson Iron Works, located on The Esplanade between Frederick and Princess Streets. Constructed in 1906, the ferry was a double-decked, double-ended vessel that accommodated 1450 passengers. It was the largest in the fleet of eight Toronto island ferries owned by the Toronto Ferry Company. Two enormous side paddles propelled it forward, powered by steam generated by its coal furnaces.

In the first decade of the 20th century, when the Bluebell was launched, automobiles were beyond the means of most families, as were journeys by bus out of the city. In summer, Torontonians flocked to the city’s parks, especially Sunnyside and Scarborough Beach. The temperatures beside the water were comfortable compared to the hot city streets. Travelling to Centre Island, Hanlan’s Point and Ward’s Island was considered a special treat, the ferry ride across the harbour a major part of the enjoyment.   

My earliest recollection of the Bluebell was in the 1940s, when my family journeyed to Centre Island for picnics. My father always took my brother and me below deck, where there was a large window that allowed passengers to peer into the engine room. On these occasions, I gazed in wonder at the enormous pistons that turned the side paddles, mesmerised by their size, the loud thumping and swishing sounds adding to the thrill. However, we usually did not remain below deck long, as it was hot and stuffy, and we returned to the open deck above to enjoy the refreshing breezes of the lake.

On one of the voyages on the Bluebell, my uncle, George Brown, who was the captain of the Bluebell, invited us to climb to the top deck where the wheelhouse was located. I remember gripping the iron ladder so tight that my knuckles turned white, my heart pounding in my chest. I felt that I was danger of falling into the lake, as the ladder extended out from the side of the vessel, the threatening water swirling directly below me. The view from the wheelhouse was magnificent, but when we descended the ladder to return to the passenger deck, it was even more frightening than when we had climbed up. I was about five years old at the time, and being suspended in space from a great height was a terrifying experience. 

When the Bluebell was christened in 1906, because of its size, it was employed to transport passengers to Hanlan’s Point, where the city’s main baseball stadium and an  amusement park were located. It was not until 1928 that it commenced ferrying passengers to Centre Island and Ward’s Island. Due to increased crowds journeying to Hanlan’s Point, a sister ship, the Trillium, joined the fleet in 1910. The Trillium cost $75,000, so it is likely that the Bluebell’s construction entailed a similar amount.

By the 1950s, more people were purchasing automobiles and traffic to the islands began to diminish. The demise of the baseball stadium and amusement park at Hanlan’s Point caused a further decease in the number of passengers crossing the harbour. The Bluebell was decommissioned in 1955. Its superstructure was removed, and its hull converted into a scow to haul garbage out into the Lake, where the trash was dumped. Finally, the hull of the Bluebell was sunk to create a breakwater at Tommy Thompson Park, near the eastern gap.  The ferries that replaced the Bluebell, which remain in service today, were diesel powered.

Polson Iron Works, 1926 - pictures-r-4418[1]

The Polson Iron Works in 1926, on the Esplanade, between Frederick and Princess Street, where the Bluebell was constructed. Toronto Public Library, r-4418 

Lib.  1906  e1-25h[1]

Launching of the hull of the Bluebell in 1906. Toronto Public Library, el-25h

Chuckman's POSTCARD - TORONTO - HANLAN'S POINT - FERRY BLUEBELL - CROWD OF PASSENGERS - NICE VERSION - 1909[1]

View of the Bluebell at Hanlan’s Point in 1909, from Chuckman’s postcard collection.

Bluebell, June 6, 1927.   s0071_it4964[1]

The Bluebell on June 6, 1927. Toronto Archives, S0071, Item 4964

Bluebell, June 11, 1932.  s0071_it9259[1]

The Bluebell at the Toronto ferry docks on June 11, 1932. Toronto Archives, S0071, Item 9259

Lib.  1942  -964-6-40[1]

The Bluebell in 1942, Toronto Public Library, 964-40 

Aug., 1943 Uncle George  photo_26[1]

This photo was taken in August, 1943, by my cousin, whose father was the Captain of the Bluebell. She wrote the word “dad” on the photo to draw attention to her father, who was standing on the top deck, to the right of the wheelhouse.

1952, s1-1419[1]

Toronto Island ferries in 1952, the Bluebell in the foreground. In the background is the Queen’s Quay Terminal Building. Toronto Public Library, S1-1419.

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The Bluebell in 1956, the year after it was decommissioned. Toronto Public Library, 1-3544.

Lib. 1957, conversion to a scow  s1-4106a[1]

The Bluebell in 1957, after its superstructure was removed to convert it into a scow. Toronto Public Library, 1-3544.

           1957, during convertion to a scow--s1-4166c[1]

Below the deck of the Bluebell in 1957, when it was being converted to a scow. Toronto Public Library, S1-4166.

To view the Home Page for this blog: https://tayloronhistory.wordpress.com/

For more information about the topics explored on this blog:

https://tayloronhistory.wordpress.com/2016/03/02/tayloronhistory-comcheck-it-out/

The publication entitled, “Toronto’s Theatres and the Golden Age of the Silver Screen,” was written by the author of this blog. It explores 50 of Toronto’s old theatres and contains over 80 archival photographs of the facades, marquees and interiors of the theatres. It relates anecdotes and stories by the author and others who experienced these grand old movie houses.  

                          cid_E474E4F9-11FC-42C9-AAAD-1B66D852[2]

   To place an order for this book:

https://www.historypress.net/catalogue/bookstore/books/Toronto-Theatres-and-the-Golden-Age-of-the-Silver-Screen/9781626194502 .

Book also available in Chapter/Indigo, the Bell Lightbox Book Shop, and by phoning University of Toronto Press, Distribution: 416-667-7791 (ISBN 978.1.62619.450.2)

                                 image_thumb6_thumb_thumb_thumb_thumb[1]    

Another book about the old theatres, which has been published by Dundurn Press, contains 80 of Toronto’s former movie theatres. It is entitled, “Toronto’s Movie Theatres of Yesteryear—Brought Back to Thrill You Again.” It contains over 125 archival photographs and relates interesting anecdotes about these grand old theatres and their fascinating histories.

Link to order this book: https://www.dundurn.com/books/Torontos-Local-Movie-Theatres-Yesteryear

                        Toronto: Then and Now®

Another publication, “Toronto Then and Now,” published by Pavilion Press (London, England) explores 75 of the city’s heritage sites. This book will be released in June 2016. For further information follow the link to Amazon.com  here  or contact the publisher directly by the link shown below:

http://www.ipgbook.com/toronto–then-and-now—products-9781910904077.php?page_id=21.

 

 

 

 

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Toronto’s CNE Grandstand and Baseball Stadium

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The CNE Grandstand in 1956, taken with Kodachrome film with my 35mm Kodak Pony camera from the top of the Ferris Wheel on the midway.

Toronto’s CNE Stadium creates different memories for different people, depending on whether a person remembers it as a baseball stadium, or as a grandstand where Canada’s most spectacular stage shows were held. When the CNE Grandstand performances ended in 1968, it was an indications that the annual fair was no longer the most important late-summer event in Toronto. The CNE continues to attract over a million visitors annually, more than any other fair in Canada, including the Calgary Stampede. However, its prominence in the life of the city has greatly diminished. Canada’s Wonderland, Rogers Stadium and the Ripley Aquarium are a few of the entertainment venues that now compete with the CNE.

Today, it is difficult to conceive of a world without the internet—Facebook, Twitter and blogging. When I was a boy, smart phones were confined to science fiction where the comic-book hero Dick Tracy sported a 2-way wrist-radio that allowed him to transmit messages. Now, the technology is a reality. However, the CNE commenced long before the era of the internet, at a time when agricultural and industrial fairs were important to disseminate information about the latest horticultural trends and technological advancements.

During the 19th century, fairs were held at various locations throughout the province, Toronto hosting them several times. In April 1878, on land on the north side of King Street West, near Shaw Street, a highly successful one was held, attracting over 100,000 people. It inspired Toronto’s City Council to seek a site for a permanent fair, to be held annually. In 1878, the city leased the western portion of the Garrison Reserve, to the southwest of Fort York. On March 11, 1879, the Provincial Legislature passed “An Act to Incorporate the Industrial Exhibition Association of Toronto,” to allow the city to incorporate a fair.

The first “Industrial Exhibition” opened on September 3, 1879, for one week, the price of admission 25 cents. There were 23 buildings, one of them a grandstand containing 5000 seats. During the next few years, it hosted various events, including horse races, sports, fireworks, livestock judging, and stage shows. The fair was so successful that in 1892, the grandstand was rebuilt and expanded, doubling its capacity to 10,000 seats. The same year, the fair grounds became the first in the world to be electrified, making it possible for the grandstand stage shows to be larger and more extravagant. Another advantage was that they could be held after sunset.

In 1906, the grandstand burnt to the ground.

Fonds 1244, Item 12    

Ruins of the grandstand in November 1906, following the disastrous fire. Toronto Archives, Fonds 1244, Item, 0012.

Aug. 9, 1928,  f1231_it1253[1]

The Grandstand that replaced the one that was destroyed by fire in 1906. Toronto Archives, Fonds 1231, Item 1253.

Fonds 1244, Item 1399

Auto race in the grandstand in 1926, City of Toronto Archives, Fonds 1244, Item 1399.

The architect G. W. Guinlock designed a new stadium for the Industrial Exhibition, which opened in 1907 with a capacity of 16,400 seats. Guinlock also designed the Government Building (now Mediaeval Times), Horticultural Building, Music Building, and the Fire Hall and Police Station. In 1912, the name of the fair was changed to the Canadian National Exhibition (CNE). During the ensuing years, many of the grandstand stage shows were historical pageants—the “Burning of Rome-Nero,” “Empire Triumphant,” “Dance of the Squaws,” Siege of Lucknow (India) and “The Durbar of His Royal Highness the Prince of Wales.” The last historical stage show was “Britannia,” performed in 1941. For almost four decades, the grandstand remained the focal point of the CNE, until it burnt in 1946.

The architects Marani and Morris were hired to design another grandstand, the general contractor being Pigott Construction. It contained 20,600 seats. Facing south, it was 800 feet in length, the height of its roof soaring to 75 feet. As well as stage performances, it featured stock car racing, auto polo, rodeos, track and field events, circuses, concerts, and military extravaganzas such as “The Scottish World Tattoo. However, the most spectacular events were the grandstand shows, the largest ever held in Canada. Over 1500 stage performers were involved for a single performance, as well as a large orchestra. 

1950s, CNE archives  ad68fb7f-1f51-43c2-aa3b-ecd2a6f1f526[1] 

View of the north facade of the CNE Grandstand in the 1950s. Photo, CNE Archives

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Miss Toronto Beauty Pageant in 1951 in the CNE Stadium, Toronto Archives, Fonds 1257, Item 1696.

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Queen Elizabeth in the CNE Grandstand in 1957, Toronto Archives, Fonds 1257, S1057, Item 4989.

RCMP Musical Ride, 1950s  f1257_s1057_it5746[1]

The RCMP Musical Ride at the CNE Grandstand in the 1950s, Toronto Archives, Fonds 1257, S 1057, Item 574.

The 1950s and 1960s were the golden age of the CNE Grandstand shows. Shorty after the new grandstand was completed, Leon Leonidoff was hired to produce the shows. He had trained in Canada and after relocating to New York, had a successful career producing  performances at the Radio City Music Hall. Employing his connections, he brought the famous “Rockettes” to the grandstand. He also booked famous American stars, along with their supporting casts, costumes and sets. Almost everything was American. In 1948, he hired the famous and outrageous comedy team—Olsen and Johnson. Many citizens of “Toronto the Good” considered them outrageous, complaining that their jokes were crude. The objections voiced about the comedians created so much free publicity that the grandstand was packed every night. The comedy duo continued at the Ex until 1951.

However, many felt that the grandstand shows should feature more Canadian talent and Jack Arthur was hired to fulfill this mandate. American stars continued to be employed as drawing cards, but the remainder of the casts were Canadian. As well, costumes were supplied locally, by Malabar Limited, and the stage sets were all constructed in Toronto. Jack Arthur’s wife, Midge, trained a group of dancers to replace the “Rockettes.” They were named the “Canadettes,” and were advertised as “the longest line of show girls in the world.” Alan and Blanche Lund, a famous Canadian dance team, created the choreography and the immensely talented Howard Cable took over the musical arrangements. Hugh Hand was the mastermind behind the wondrous fireworks displays.

The grandstand shows became spectacles that showcased Canadian talent, featuring Canadian themes. In 1955, Marilyn Bell  appeared on the stage, as that year she had successfully swam the English Channel. In 1959, the opening of the St. Lawrence Seaway was the theme. In other shows, Max Ferguson portrayed his self-created character “ old Rawhide.” Celia Frank danced with the National Ballet. Concerts included the opera star Teresa Stratas, and Wally Koster, a star of the TV show, “Cross Canada Hit Parade” performed.

Hollywood stars that appeared during the golden years of the CNE Grandstand shows included Bob Hope, Jimmy Durante, Roy Rogers, Dale Evens, Bill Cosby and Danny Kaye. Jack Arthur was also responsible for the creation of an enormous moveable stage, at a cost of $500,000. Jack Arthur retired in 1967, and the last great stage show was in 1968. Its theme was “Sea to Sea—The Iron Miracle,” written by Don Herron.

As the dawn of the 1970s approached, the grandstand shows were no more. However, those who attended them will never forget their grandeur.

DSCN0636  

This photo of a performance at the CNE Grandstand was taken in 1956. It is another photo that was taken in Kodachrome film with my 35mm Kodak Pony camera.

However, the CNE Grandstand’s fame did not end with the termination of its stage shows. In 1959, the seating capacity was expanded by constructing a south stand and a new section of seats. The facility now possessed 12,472 more seats, and it became the home field for the Toronto Argonauts football team. In 1962, the Grey Cup was held in Toronto, with Hamilton and Winnipeg the participating teams. The conditions on the field were so foggy that it could not be verified that the final touchdown was converted, and the the Tiger-Cats lost the game by a single point. The game became known as the “Fog Bowl.” 

In 1975, construction commenced to reconfigure the stadium to accommodate baseball games, the seating capacity now 54,254. In 1976, Toronto received a major league baseball franchise in the East Division of the American League. The team was named the Toronto Blue Jays. They played their first game in the CNE Stadium on April 7, 1977, against the Chicago White Sox. Toronto won the game, the score being 9-5.

However, because the stadium was located close to the lake, weather conditions were unpredictable. Also, there was a desire for a multipurpose stadium. As a result, construction on a new stadium, with a retractable roof, commenced in 1986. The final game played at the CNE was on May 28, 1989, and the Blue Jays moved into the Sky Dome on June 5, 1989. Their first season under the dome was not particularly successful, attracting only 1.7 million fans. However, the Blue Jays went on to win the World Series in 1992 and 1993.

In 1999, the seats at the CNE Stadium were sold and the structure was stripped of anything that might be recycled, only the concrete and steel girders remaining. Explosives were employed to implode the CNE Stadium. A half century of entertainment history ended.

Note. I am grateful for the information contained in: “Once Upon a Century – 100 Year History of the Ex,” by John Robinson, published in 1978 by J. H. Robinson Publishing Limited.

20101011-exhibition-stadium1980s[1] 

CNE Stadium in the 1980s at the height of its popularity as a baseball venue. Ontario Place is visible in the background.

 

To view the Home Page for this blog: https://tayloronhistory.wordpress.com/

A link to view previous posts about the movie houses of Toronto—historic and modern.

https://tayloronhistory.wordpress.com/2013/10/09/links-to-toronto-old-movie-housestayloronhistory-com/

A link to view posts that explore Toronto’s Heritage Buildings:

https://tayloronhistory.wordpress.com/2014/01/02/canadas-cultural-scenetorontos-architectural-heritage/

Recent publication entitled, “Toronto’s Theatres and the Golden Age of the Silver Screen,” by the author of this blog. The publication explores 50 of Toronto’s old theatres and contains over 80 archival photographs of the facades, marquees and interiors of the theatres. It relates anecdotes and stories by the author and others who experienced these grand old movie houses.  

                          cid_E474E4F9-11FC-42C9-AAAD-1B66D852[1]

   To place an order for this book:

https://www.historypress.net/catalogue/bookstore/books/Toronto-Theatres-and-the-Golden-Age-of-the-Silver-Screen/9781626194502 .

Book also available in Chapter/Indigo, the Bell Lightbox Book Shop, and by phoning University of Toronto Press, Distribution: 416-667-7791 (ISBN 978.1.62619.450.2)

Another book, published by Dundurn Press, containing 80 of Toronto’s old movie theatres will be released in the spring of 2016. It is entitled, “Toronto’s Movie Theatres of Yesteryear—Brought Back to Thrill You Again.” It contains over 130 archival photographs.

A second publication, “Toronto Then and Now,” published by Pavilion Press (London, England) explores 75 of the city’s heritage sites. This book will also be released in the spring of 2016. 

 

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Before the Toronto “Blue Jays” there was . . .

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Maple Leaf Stadium at Bathurst and Fleet Streets, photo from The City of Toronto Archives, F0124, fl0015, id0012.

Prior to the ascendency of the Blue Jays baseball team to soaring heights of popularity during the 2015 season, Toronto already had a long history of being an avid baseball town. The city’s first baseball stadium was built in 1886, in Sunlight Park, located south of Queen Street East, between Broadview and the Don River. Constructed entirely of wood, at a cost of $7000, it was four storeys in height. The Toronto’s Maple Leaf team was part of the International League (minor league). The cost of admission to Sunlight Stadium was 25 cents. The map below shows its location.

                        Map

In 1887, the team relocated to a new stadium at Hanlan’s Point on the Toronto Islands. The first ball flew across home plate in May of that year. Admission was now 50 cents, which included the return ferry fare across the bay. The stadium at Hanlan’s burnt twice, in 1903 and again in 1909. When it reopened in 1910, it contained 17,000 seats. The legendary Babe Ruth hit the first home run of his professional career in the stadium on September 5, 1914, the ball landing in Toronto Harbour. Attendance at games eventually dropped due to the inconvenience of travelling across the harbour, especially on stormy days during early autumn and spring. The Toronto team departed Hanlan’s Point for the mainland after the 1925 season. The map below shows the location of the Hanlan’s Point Stadium.

                                  Map

The new Maple Leaf Stadium was on Fleet Street, at the foot of Bathurst Street, on a site created by landfill. The team president, Lol Solman, who was also the owner of the team, arranged the financing of the stadium by raising $300,000. Its architects were Chapman and Oxley, who also designed the Princes’ Gates and the Government Building at the CNE, where Mediaeval Times is now located. Maple Leaf Stadium was a steel structure with solid concrete floors, containing 23,000 seats. By the time the structure was completed, the cost had risen to $750,000. It was soon nicknamed “The Fleet Street Flats.” The map below depicts the approximate location of the stadium.

Map of Bathurst St & Fleet St, Toronto, ON M5V 1A5

On opening day, Wednesday April 28, 1926, a prize was offered to the person whose estimate was the closest to the actual number of fans that attended. Mayor Thomas Foster was to unfurl the Union Jack and former Mayor Tommy Church was to throw the first pitch. However, it had rained the previous night and as there was no sunshine on the day of the game to dry the field, the game was cancelled. The field was too soggy.   

The game was played the next day, with 12,871 fans in attendance. The “Queen’s Own Rifles” were present to play “God Save the King.” Mayor Foster threw the first pitch to former Mayor Tommy Church. The game that had been cancelled on April 28th because of rain was held on May 1st, as part of a double-header.

During the 1950s, several times the attendance at Maple Leaf Stadium attracted more people than any of the major league stadiums of the day. In 1959, I attended an evening game and won a “Trans Canada Airline” shoulder-bag. This was prior to the airline changing its name to Air Canada.

Jack Cook Kent purchased the team in 1951. By this year, the stadium was in poor condition, as though it was owned by the Harbour Commission, its the upkeep was the financial responsibility of the team’s owner. Cook spent $57,000 renovating the stadium, and during the next few years, by employing many various promotional techniques and improving the team, the Maple Leafs prospered. However, attendance dropped during the early-1960s, and Cook sold the team in 1964, the price reputed to be a mere $50,000. The new owners struggled, but to no avail as fans were discontented with the minor league, preferring a major league team. The Maple Leafs were sold to an American investor in 1968, who moved the team to Louisville Kentucky, where they became the Louisville Colonels.    

Maple Leaf Stadium was now without a team and was demolished in 1968, the same year the team departed Toronto.

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Maple Leaf Stadium on March 5, 1929, three years after it opened. Toronto Archives, Fonds 1251, Item 0465.

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Aerial view of the stadium c. 1929. The Lakeshore Boulevard and Bathurst Street are visible. There was no Gardiner Expressway. The Tip Top Tailor Building is in the lower right-hand corner. Photo from Toronto Archives, Fonds 1244. Item 7297

2011713-maple-leaf-stadium-context-f[1]

View of Maple Leaf Stadium from old Fort York in June 1934. This was the year that Fort York opened after being restored as Toronto’s centennial project. The building containing the Tip Top Tailor factory and showroom is to the left (east) of the stadium. It is now a condo. Photo Toronto Archives, Fonds 1251, Item 0602.

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Maple Leaf Stadium in 1937, photo Toronto Archives Fonds 1257, S 1057, Item 0950.

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     Maple Leaf Stadium, City of Toronto Archives, Fonds 1266, Item 7683.

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View of stadium from the field. Toronto Archives, Fonds 1257, s. 1057, Item 0867.

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Site of the site in 1968, after the stadium was demolished. The airport on the Islands is visible in the background, and the Gardiner Expressway in the foreground. The Tip Top Tailor Building is prominent. Toronto Archives, Series 1465, Fl.0240, Item 0092.

I am grateful for the information for this post to torontoist. com, blogto.com,  and torontohistory.net

To view the Home Page for this blog: https://tayloronhistory.wordpress.com/

A link to view previous posts about the movie houses of Toronto—historic and modern.

https://tayloronhistory.wordpress.com/2013/10/09/links-to-toronto-old-movie-housestayloronhistory-com/

A link to view posts that explore Toronto’s Heritage Buildings:

https://tayloronhistory.wordpress.com/2014/01/02/canadas-cultural-scenetorontos-architectural-heritage/

Recent publication entitled, “Toronto’s Theatres and the Golden Age of the Silver Screen,” by the author of this blog. The publication explores 50 of Toronto’s old theatres and contains over 80 archival photographs of the facades, marquees and interiors of the theatres. It relates anecdotes and stories by the author and others who experienced these grand old movie houses.  

                          cid_E474E4F9-11FC-42C9-AAAD-1B66D852[1]

   To place an order for this book:

https://www.historypress.net/catalogue/bookstore/books/Toronto-Theatres-and-the-Golden-Age-of-the-Silver-Screen/9781626194502 .

Book also available in Chapter/Indigo, the Bell Lightbox Book Shop, and by phoning University of Toronto Press, Distribution: 416-667-7791 (ISBN 978.1.62619.450.2)

Another book, published by Dundurn Press, containing 80 of Toronto’s old movie theatres will be released in the spring of 2016. It is entitled, “Toronto’s Movie Theatres of Yesteryear—Brought Back to Thrill You Again.” It contains over 130 archival photographs.

A second publication, “Toronto Then and Now,” published by Pavilion Press (London, England) explores 75 of the city’s heritage sites. This book will also be released in the spring of 2016. 

 

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