Archive for the ‘ Guerrilla History ’ Category

Lost History Found : Croop’s Glen Amusement Park, Hunlock Creek, Pennsylvania

 

Croop's Glen, Route 11, Just outside of Nanticoke

Croop’s Glen, Route 11, just outside of Nanticoke, PA

Sometimes, history gets lost.  And I don’t mean long ago, far away history like those places or events that are ancient, but the history of less than a hundred years ago, right outside your own front door.   History, like the generation of people who share an experience or memory, begins to fade away if people don’t document and share it.

I first became aware of this fact while looking for information about an abandoned zoo  in my own hometown in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania.  The Kirby Park Zoo  (1932-1936)  was wiped out by the flood of 1936.  Now a little less than 80 years later, all that I can find about this local attraction are little bits and pieces of conflicting and incomplete information.

The generation of people who would have visited the Kirby Park  Zoo as children is quickly dwindling in numbers, and unless someone happens to come across photos while cleaning out a deceased relative’s house and decides to donate them to one of the local Historical Societies, I fear that the Kirby Park Zoo and its Olmsted Brother designed bridal/walking path that wound through that area of the park just a few decades ago, will fade away as part of Luzerne County’s lost history.

Luckily for another Luzerne County attraction, Ellen Geisel of Honey Brook, Pennsylvania, has generously come forward to share pictures that will save Croop’s Glen, a long abandoned amusement park along Route 11 in Hunlock Creek, from the threat of fading into oblivion.

Abandoned Pennsylvania: Croop's Glen (24), Luzerne County, Route 11
I first became aware of Croop’s Glen  last spring.   I was amazed to look down into the little valley where the park is situated to see remains of buildings being swallowed up by time and Mother Nature.  In a quest discover more about the park, I first went to Defunct Parks.com and found a few lines of information along with three pictures of a rollercoaster.

Next, I visited both the Plymouth Historical Society and the Luzerne County Historical Society and found very little additional information in their collections—a newspaper article about the collapse of a pavilion on the property during a picnic and some pictures of members of the Croop family standing next to a car.  Neither organization had ever received any pictures of the park to add to their resources.

I know it seems hard to believe that an amusement park that closed during the ‘40s because of WWII, but was used for the picnic grounds (possibly, and dance hall until early 1950’s), didn’t seem to have one image available less than 70 years later.

All of that changed when I found the following comment on my blog post about abandoned
Croop’s Glen:

“Would you like some pictures from the park from 1912 to about 1930? A relative of mine just passed away at the age of 99. Her father owned the the rides at Croop’s Glen while B. Frank Croop owned the park. My relative used to sell tickets at the park as a teenager. I also have
photos of her as a baby in 1912 sitting on a carousel horse. Please let me know how I can post them for you.”

The following information and pictures were sent to me from Ellen Geisel:

“I was so excited to find these pictures. I have all the originals and all but one is an old original. The one looks like it was a photo of a photo and I do not know where it came from. I also found out that Charles Shelley built the roller coaster and the Shoot-the-Chute at Harvey’s Lake. see http://harveyslake.org/stories/amusements/story_picnicgrounds_02.htm. Enjoy! ”–Ellen

Croop 1 – My cousin Jean (2nd from left) and some friends in front of the Pop Corn stand (Croop’s Glen)

Croop 2 – carousel – photo by Croop’s Glen Art Studio (Croop’s Glen)

Croop 3 – My cousin Jean selling tickets (Croop’s Glen)

Croop 4 – My cousin Jean as a baby on a carousel horse

A little history. Charles Shelley apparently worked at Harvey’s Lake and built the roller coaster and Shoot-the-Chute. They opened in 1910. He then married Luella Britton (not sure of the exact date). My cousin, Jean was born in March 1912. In 1913, Luella died giving birth to Jean’s little brother (the baby also died). Charles, not knowing how to raise a toddler daughter, hired a live in housekeeper/nanny to help raise Jean. Charles then hooked up with B. Frank Croop and they opened Croop’s Glen and stayed there until it closed in 1940?. Charles Shelley died in 1941 and I think B. Frank Croop died in the next year or two. I know Jean told me she used to sell tickets at the park and worked there as a teenager. Several years ago, we took
her to Knoebel’s and she rode the merry-go-round. She died this past July at the age of 99”–Ellen

Croop 6 – Charles Shelley (Croop’s Glen)

Croop 7 – Jean and Charles Shelley at Harvey’s Lake

Croop 8 – Jean and Charles

Croop 9 – The Whip (Note:  Ellen does not know if this is Croop’s Glen or Harvey’s Lake)

Croop 10 – Jean and unknown man at Harvey’s Lake

Croop 12 – Charles Shelley (Croop’s Glen)

 

 

Croop 13- dance hall? Not sure (Croop’s Glen)

Croop 15 – 4 men working on mechanics of a ride. I think Charles Shelley may be the one
kneeling on the left. This is the photo of a photo and I do not know where it came from. (Could be Croop’s Glen or Harvey’s Lake)

Croop16 – roller coaster. I believe Charles Shelley is pictured in the center looking up (Croop’s Glen)

Croop 50- carousel – Again Charles is in the center looking at the camera.

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Thank you Ellen for making our history a little more complete!

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More Recent Pictures From Croop’s Glen

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Baby Contest Pavilion Collapse at Croop’s Glen

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It was Jennifer O’Malia who introduced me to the concept of Urban Exploration

Style Photography in 2010.  Jenn, who has the unique vision of a

social documentarian, is now offering her services as a freelance photographer.

 Photo by Jennifer O’Malia 

Jenn Wedding

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Angela Park: An American Eulogy

The abandoned amusement park of your childhood memories is where I decided to stop one day. ”Drove my Chevy to the levee but the levee was dry” were the lyrics  I was singing on my way to the long rotting carcass that was once the local amusement venue known as “The Playground of Northeastern Pennsylvania “.  A hollowness hung in the air as I pulled up to the field primarily containing weeds and busted up concrete, where the remains of Northeast PA memories of happier times lay abandoned, desolate and for the most part, dejected.

So Bye-Bye Miss American Pie

How the residents loved Angela Park! Just read any number of the accounts by local historians and reporters to learn the facts about the rise and decline of this once popular roadside attraction that reads like a sadly typical American eulogy to lost community, prosperity, and small town life.

I’m not really concerned about our agreed upon history about this specific park. I feel that way about many of the places I explore, much to the bewilderment of many local history buffs. I’m always interested in something different than facts about a long gone past. I’m concerned about the history of “just yesterday” and “now”.

I think that we often forget that history evolves, and while we can’t change the past, we can choose how to shape our present and future history. History is a verb, or it can be if we choose to make it into one. And how we choose to interpret events as they occur, often tells us unspoken truths about ourselves and society at that moment in time, if we care enough to listen.

This Used to Be My Playground

Standing at the park entrance, I longed to hear the clatter of the wooden roller coaster followed by happy shrieks as the cars crest and swoosh. I would have loved to see the electric sparkle on the ceiling of the bumper car pavilion and to catch a whiff of the mixture of greasy French fries, cotton candy, diesel fuel, and chlorine in the air. That’s the stuff memories are made of!

I could still smell that scent of pine that you would experience every time you rode the train near the picnic grove. But as far as I could tell, that was the only recognizable trait left from my memory of Angela Park since the burning charcoal and the picnickers left long ago.

I’ve visited abandoned places to photograph them before, but none that had been a part of my childhood experience. It really mattered to me that I’d been there to ride the Tilt-A-Whirl and Carousel. I have fond memories of what seemed like a cutting edge arcade during the pre—Wii and XBOX era. Angela Park was a fun place to spend a day with family or friends that we all had easy access to, back when we had a real sense of shared community. During those times, small towns across the nation had local amusement parks to go to during a simpler era when even the annual broadcasts of the Wizard of Oz or Willie Wonka & the Chocolate Factory were popular shared cultural events among millions of households with children.

As I stand there and look out at this amusement park from my childhood memories, it looks back at me, all neglected and ugly. Being there felt unsettling because all I could see was what wasn’t there anymore. Then I realized that this place still had life. Maybe not necessarily pleasant signs of life—but life just the same. It was hard to tell if that rustle in the weeds was a snake, a rat, or maybe a cute little bunny retreating as I moved closer.

People still come to the ruins of Angela Park as evidenced by the makeshift skateboard park which they’ve built, like good little recyclers, by re-purposing the abandoned pieces of lumber and wide concrete pads where concessions, games or rides once stood. At least the things the last community left behind are being used by others to try to construct some sense of community for themselves.

Somehow, abandoned places always take on a sometimes infinite number of second lives. Eastern State Penitentiary in Philadelphia, an abandoned jail turned museum, has an artist installation paying homage to this concept called The Ghost Cats which represents a testimony to survival as it calls attention to the lives of a colony of cats that took over the building for 28 years after it was abandoned as a jail in 1971.

Recorded accounts of Angela Park’s first attempt at second life, during the 1990’s and into the early part of the new millennium, are portrayed as a Twilight Zone-esque creepy-carnival-nightmare-come-true with descriptions of graffiti covered buildings where local “Goths” would hang out and frighten the local community with their drawings of six-pointed stars and drug references, potentially holding astral-crossing seances—whatever that means! This was also the time of national panic about school children who dressed in black like the “The Trench Coat Mafia” at Columbine High School, with communities full of the kind of fear-mongering that led to the sort of witch hunt that resulted in the hasty conviction and imprisonment of the now free West Memphis Three.

But that was also a different era in our recent history, before the proliferation of Ritalin, before schools were required to offer Emotional Support in the classroom and before bands like Green Day  articulated the newly evolving teenage angst of millions of Jesus of Suburbia  -types living in their soul-sucking cul-de-sacs across the nation. This was the time prior to the national frenzy of worshiping the tragically cursed souls of vampire boys who sparkle, before the culture of the undead became fashionable, and before “Goth” became a label for kids who were usually intellectual in nature and prone to artistic divergences outside of mainstream culture.

It was during this era that Angela Park became a local monument to vandalism and indifference, full of “Big City” type graffiti—which was scary to small town minds because they didn’t know what it all meant. This was prior to graffiti becoming recognized as a legitimate form of art with museums and art galleries  featuring graffiti exhibits and Paloma Picasso  designing her graffiti inspired jewelry for Tiffany & Co.  According to reports prior to demolition, the arcade at Angela Park was supposedly the most graffiti covered structure of all, a fitting and cool tribute for an abandoned arcade. Those hometown graffiti artists deserve applause for a job well done.

Given the lack of understanding by the community at that time about the kids who hung out at the discarded park, and the fact that all good things must eventually come to an end, the remaining structures at Angela Park were razed. Sadly, a new, more organized purpose has yet to be realized on the property.

Second Life After Abandonment

In a perfect world, I’d like to think that communities have the insight and resources to listen to what abandoned locations are telling them about potential uses for the future. In the case of Angela Park, the obvious answer would be to turn it into a legitimate skate park. But since the prohibitive cost of insurance was a major contributing factor to the decline of the amusement park, it is unlikely that a skate park could ever be realized at the location due to the high cost of liability.

It would be wonderful if someone would redevelop the location as another community-centric space with a progressive twist such as a simple public graffiti park. It would be easy to plant some flowers, put up some benches and build a huge wall for the purpose of allowing local graffiti artists to showcase their craft. Graffiti happens, usually in inconvenient places. Why not create legitimate places for it? It could become a constantly changing art exhibit for the community, by the community, and the wall could be repainted or cleaned off at regular intervals (like the graffiti wall in front of Graceland) so that there is always room for more artwork on a regular basis. Just like history, art can also be a verb and has the power to bring communities together. In this current era of America’s post-industrial decline, communities are left with too many abandoned places, few resources for development and a complete lack of imagination when it comes to ideas for new uses for these spaces.

But whatever happens to the site of Angela Park in the future, the property, just like the community surrounding it, will constantly continue to change. As it stands now, Angela Park’s once proud Olympic size swimming pool holds trees instead of water, and the parking lot is well on its way to being eventually swallowed by the plants that have forced their way through cracks in the concrete. When humans fail to act, Mother Nature always reclaims her ground with the help of Father Time as he wears away the structural integrity of the objects that people leave behind.

angela-5

For an update about the Park’s Ferris Wheel, click here:

Cheri Sundra

The Obligatory History of Angela Park

Angela Park opened during the summer of 1957 on Route 309 in Butler Township, just north of Hazleton, Pennsylvania. The amusement park started with only six rides which included a junior style wooden roller coaster built by the Philadelphia Toboggan Company. Throughout the years, a Paratrooper, Swinging Ship, Carousel, Spiral Slide, Scrambler, Ferris Wheel, Antique Cars, Tilt-A-Whirl, The Giant Slide, The Sky Ride, Tea Cups, an assortment of Kiddie Rides, The Swingin’ Gym, four refreshment stands, Porky the Paper Eater (an interactive pig-shaped trash receptacle that vacuumed paper through his mouth and told kids not to litter), several souvenir stands, a stage, an arcade, athletic fields, miniature golf, picnic facilities, and an Olympic size pool with changing facilities, lounge chair and diving boards helped the park earn the title the “Playground of Northeastern Pennsylvania”.

In 1985 the Barletta Family (the park was named after family matriarch Angela) sold the park to the Mirth Master Corporation, based in Downington, because the younger members of the family were not interested in operating the park. Less than three years later, Mirth Master filed for bankruptcy. The park closed after the 1988 season.

Several attempts to reopen the park failed. One attempt was led by Dr. Robert Childs of Hazleton, who hoped the park could continue as a nonprofit organization. Sadly, the park was put on the auction block in March of 1990 and the rides were auctioned off.

The structures at the park fell into disrepair and were vandalized after the park closed. The location was used for several years in the late 1990s as a training facility for the Lackawanna Junior College Police Training program.

In 2004, all remaining structures were demolished. All that remains at the location today are a few concrete footers, crumbling pavement, and a swimming pool filled with dirt and plant life. According to Wikipedia, the land is currently owned by New Land Development of Lackawanna County. Fishing is permitted on the property by courtesy of the landowner.

***All nostalgic images of Angela Park were captured by photographing a brochure from the collection of the Luzerne County Historical Society

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Cheri Sundra © 2011
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Croop’s Glen: “Lost” Amusement Park

Abandoned Pennsylvania: Croop's Glen (24), Luzerne County, Route 11

You could drive right past the ruins of Croop’s Glen Park daily without even realizing that an amusement park once thrived right on Route 11, near Nanticoke, in Hunlock Creek.  The ravages of time and nature, along with the valley where the remains are situated, help to keep the location protected from prying human eyes, unless those eyes are already aware of the park’s existence.

TURN HERE AND LOOK TO THE LEFT

(Luzerne County) Abandoned Amusement Park Entrance Sign: Croop's Glen  {EXPLORED}
The park was opened in 1908 by B. Frank Croop when it was primarily used as a  picnic area with the stream and waterfall as the park’s main attraction.

Abandoned Pennsylvania: Croop's Glen (19), Luzerne County
Between 1926 and 1927, two wooden roller coasters were added.  There was a full size coaster named Twister, and one Kiddie Coaster.  Other attractions added to Croop’s Glenn were a whip, carrousel, bumper cars, a dance pavilion plus a swimming pool.  During the 1928 season, Croop’s Glen advertised parking for 2000 cars.  The park was closed in 1943 because of the conservation efforts for World War II and rising insurance costs.  The dance pavilion was converted into a skating rink which was commercially successful until it burned down in the early 1950’s.
Abandoned Pennsylvania: Croop's Glen Amusement Park (68)  Route 11
There are just a few remnants left of Croop’s Glen Park– a rusted sign at the entrance and a few tattered buildings—and once they disappear,  Croop’s Glen will become another lost chapter in the history of  Luzerne County.

 


Abandoned Pennsylvania: Croop's Glen Amusement Park (outhouse)  Route 11 poster-style HDR {EXPLORED}

Since posting this article, I’ve had some people contact me with some new information about Croop’s Glen. 

Baby Contest Pavilion Collapse at Croop’s Glen 

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Lost History Found: Pictures of the Park when Open

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Cheri Sundra © 2010
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Kirby Park Zoo : Take A Walk With History

My article about the Kirby Park Zoo is now available at Independent NEPA Magazine at:

Take A Walk With History

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Cheri Sundra © 2010
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Hanson’s Amusement Park: Abandoned but Not Forgotten Ruins

All photos are from June 15, 2010

Located on Harvey’s Lake, in Luzerne County Pennsylvania, this site opened in 1891 as the old Lehigh Valley Railroad Picnic Grounds. Early attractions at this location included a carousel, bowling alley, dance hall, a small roller coaster and an arcade.

Roller Coaster Skeleton

The Hanson family purchased the park in the mid 1930s after the addition of a Pretzel dark ride, which was later renamed Pirate’s Cove. The family continued to add numerous attractions to the park such as a skating ring, Ferris Wheel, Whip, and a kiddie land with boats, pony carts and fire engines.

Interest in the park started to decline during the 1970s. In 1980, when the “Speed Hound” roller coaster shut down because of structural damage, the park lost the ability to draw much of a crowd. The park closed after the 1984 season and its contents were auctioned off. In local newspapers, Don Hanson attributes the decision to close the park to the fact the liability insurance skyrocketed in 1984. For a few years after the park closed, a Bud Light Amphitheater operated on the picnic grounds.

To see more abandoned places in NEPA, visit my collection at:
http://www.flickr.com/photos/cheri_sundra/sets/72157625528264284/

Cheri Sundra © 2010
All Rights Reserved

Bud Light Amphitheater Remains

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Take a Peek Inside the Huber Breaker Ruins

All Photos by Cheri Sundra

Up the Coal Chute

Eleven stories of tar-coated steel, scads of partially dismantled machinery, hundreds of broken steel-reinforced windows and more insight into the ravages of time than you can hope to absorb in one visit make the Ashley/Huber Breaker a popular site for urban explorers in Northeastern Pennsylvania. Since closing in 1976, this mammoth structure has had to survive salvage operations, vandalism and Mother Nature, in addition to fears about typical Luzerne County style politics.

When it was built in 1939 to replace an older and out-dated structure, the Huber Coal Breaker was considered a technological marvel. The facility was operated by the Glen Alden Coal Company to process coal from three nearby mines. Seven to ten thousand people have worked at the Huber Breaker sorting, washing and loading 7,000 tons of coal daily into train gondolas.

Long before companies like Nike and Ralph Lauren embraced the color “Pop” merchandising display technique to seduce consumers into buying their products, the Glen Alden Coal Company painted their coal blue as a marketing ploy that resulted in the moniker “Blue Coal Company”.

Because of the decline of the mining industry in the region, the facility was abandoned in 1976. The Huber Breaker Preservation Society was formed in 2001, hoping to turn the location into a local tourist attraction and historical sight. You can read about their current efforts at:
citizensvoice.com/news/huber-breaker-pre servation-society…

Unfortunately, local residents seem to have little confidence that this endeavor will achieve success because the restoration costs are so prohibitive and many doubt that this vision will actually draw additional tourism to the area.

Incidentally, I’ve had conversations with some urban explorers who would like to see the Huber Breaker Preservation Society adopt an Eastern State Penitentiary-esque approach to their efforts to save the Huber Breaker before this structure is forever lost to history.

 

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Cheri Sundra © 2010
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Post-Apocalyptic Chic Ghost Town: Concrete City, Nanticoke PA

 

By Cheri Sundra

 

Abandoned: 1924

Pictures from June 1 and June 7, 2010

Nanticoke has its own post-apocalyptic-esque ghost town—the only thing missing is the roving band of marauders.  Referred to by some as one of the failed technological experiments in Pennsylvania railroad and coal mining history,  and by others as the first example of modern-day cookie-cutter or tract housing, the Concrete City ruins still stand as a monument to the “company housing” living arrangements experienced by some area workers during the late 1800’s and the early 1900’s.  Described as “virtual villas” by the upper class of coal mining families, these houses were regarded as a futuristic marvel when first constructed.

“Company Housing” in Pennsylvania usually referred to villages comprised of frame-built wooden houses, commonly called “shanties” by county assessors, that were hastily built by industrialist owners for their low-paid employees.  By controlling their housing arrangements, employers maintained more control over the lives of their employees and had more opportunity to exploit workers and their families.  A great example of this “traditional” company town can be seen at Eckley Miner’s Village, located just 9 miles east of Hazleton, Pennsylvania.

Concrete City is “company housing” with an architectural twist.  The “city” is a very early example of International Style Architecture which is characterized by buildings with rectilinear forms, unadorned of ornamentation or decoration and constructed with steel, glass and reinforced concrete.  This architecture style is a minimalist concept that stresses functionalism.

Pennsylvania railroads were using concrete, a novel building material at the start of the 20th Century, on a wide variety of projects.  Concrete City was built by the Coal Division of D L and W Railroad for employees of the Truesdale Colliery. The homes, which were built in 1911 and opened in 1913, were rented out to a hand-full of their current employees for $8.00 per month. Called the “Garden City of the Anthracite Region” by its designers, the requirements to be met by employees for residency consideration in this cutting-edge, model worker housing community included English as a first language and employment with the company in a position of “high value” such as mine supervisor, foreman or technician.

Concrete City consists of 20 buildings.  Each one was a duplex that housed two families.  Each half of every single standing structure contained a kitchen, living room and dining room downstairs and four bedrooms on the second floor.  Concrete outhouses were constructed behind each house.

All of the houses were arranged around a central plaza that was about the size of a football field which contained a pavilion, baseball field and a tennis court.

There was a wading pool for children and a waist deep, circular swimming pool with constantly flowing water for adults which are said to be the first in-ground pools built in the Wyoming Valley.  The pool was emptied in 1914 after a boy drowned.  Concrete sidewalks illuminated by electric lights and landscaped yards completed the futuristic community.  Concrete City residents were said to be plagued by dampness because moisture constantly seeped thru the porous concrete which led to condensation on the walls.

This is a picture of an item from the archives of the Luzerne County Historical Society.

Eleven years after it’s construction, Concrete City was abandoned because the owners did not want to install an expensive sewer system as required by

Concret City Now

the township in 1924. Ironically, demolition of the modern “Garden City of the Anthracite Region” was halted when it was discovered that the implosion of 100 sticks of dynamite in one of the houses had very little impact.  The concept of demolishing the city made of concrete was deemed too expensive, despite the fact that coal was discovered under the site after it was abandoned.

Currently, many of the structures exhibit fire damage because the Luzerne County Volunteer Fireman’s Association has used Concrete City as a training center.

Despite the fact that it has been designated as an historical site in 1998 by the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission, locals frequently use Concrete City for paint ball games or parties as evidenced by the numerous paint balls and beer cans scattered about the grounds. Graffiti covers all of the buildings throughout the entire abandoned community.

Concrete City ruins photographed on June 1 & June7, 2010

NEED MORE CONCRETE CITY IN YOUR LIFE?

***To see how Concrete City seems to be experiencing new life as a frequently changing urban art gallery, go to Spontaneous Acts of Art–Concrete City Ruins

***Want more in-depth history of Concrete City, with a twist?  Check out   Of Concrete City, Mermaids and the Ghost Town Stairs to Nowhere (Part 1) and  Of Concrete City, Mermaids and Ghosts (both Past & Present) Part 2

***And visit Vimeo to watch my Concrete City mini-Movie!

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Cheri Sundra © 2010              
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Ghost Town Graffiti

 

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