High School Yearbook Photo

"More than a place, the Shady Dell was and will forever remain a state of mind." - Shady Del Knight

"More than a place, the Shady Dell was and will forever remain a state of mind." - Shady Del Knight

Sunday, May 8, 2016

Helen Ettline - Mother of All Dell Rats

Today we are observing Mother's Day

and paying tribute to Helen Ettline,

The Mother of All Dell Rats!
Three original Dell rats of the
1950s and 60s have joined us to say
a few words about the Dell's First Lady.


 It's that time of the year 
 the Dell would be waking 
 up from those cold nights 
 of winter that we spent in 
 the barn staying warm by 
 the fireplace and watching 
 TV on the old black and 
 white. It's also time to 
 remember Mom and to a 
 Dell Rat that means re- 
 membering their second 
 Mom, Helen. Helen was 
 always there to talk to 
 about things you might 
 not be comfortable talking about at home. The girls could 
 go to Helen with a broken heart or something more per- 
 sonal like being pregnant. The guys could always count 
 on Helen for a shoulder to lean on or some inside advice 
 with the ladies. Helen was always there for me with that 
 cheeseburger and cherry coke that I must have ate 
 hundreds of as a hungry teen. More than 50 years 
 have gone by and I can still see Helen like it was 
 yesterday. Happy Mother's Day Helen and till I see 
 you at the big Dell in the sky I will all Ways love you. 


 I love reminiscing about 
 Helen and the treats she 
 whipped up in the snack 
 bar for us hungry Dell rats.
 I remember her big boys, 

 sub sandwiches, and fries 
 in those red plastic baskets 
 lined with wax paper. Also 
 her CMPs - (chocolate, 
 marshmallow and peanut 
 sundaes) which most 
 people are familiar with 
 these days. Always sweet 
 and lovable.  I don't think 
 I ever pissed her off, but 
 I remember she wouldn't 
 take any guff and could 
 make a man feel pretty 
 small for trying to give her crap, and she didn't have to 
 raise her voice to do it. I don't think any woman was 
 ever over my shoulder as many hours as she was as 
 I played a pinball machine all those years. 
 Helen Ettline was a fine lady! Ron 


 What did Helen mean to 
 me? She was always in 
 good mood and a friend 
 when needed. She always 
 smiled and helped lift my 
 spirits when I sat on one 
 of her stools for a soda. 
 Helen didn't care if you 
 were rich or poor, she 
 treated everyone with 
 respect and kindness. 
 She did not put up with 
 trouble makers, but did 
 not interfere with your 
 activities as long as you 
 respected her and John. She knew all the regulars and 
 would sometimes joke with us. She wouldn't play jokes 
 on us as much as John, but she still added to a good 
 time when at the snack bar. Once my real mother 
 discovered that the Dell was not a den of trouble- 
 makers, she started calling it my home away from 
 home. She never met Helen or John face to face, 
 but she learned to know that they acted like a good 
 mother and father for all their adopted kids. Helen 
 was the light and life of the snack bar. Jerre 

Helen Ettline didn't have any children of her own.
In a way we were her kids and she was our mom.
 Clearly Helen and John loved kids. Why else
would they have put up with the aggravation
all those years? The Ettlines believed in kids.
They enjoyed counseling and helping kids.

Helen always greeted me with a warm smile.
She was an attentive listener. When I had
good news to share or a funny tale to tell,
Helen made me feel special by calling
John over and urging me to repeat my
story for his benefit. Helen made me
feel like family, like I belonged.

In observance of Mother's Day

I picked out a video that

I think Helen would enjoy.

Helen, this is for you.

"Hurt So Bad" - Little Anthony & The Imperials
(Feb/Mar. 1965, highest chart pos. #10,
Jan. 27, 1965, episode of Shindig!)

Happy Mother's Day, Helen!

We love you and miss you!


  1. Happy Mother's Day, Helen!

    Also, happy mother's day to Mrs. Shady! I hope your day is enjoyed. :)

    1. Hi, Jessica Marie!

      Thank you for posting Mother's Day wishes for Helen and for Mrs. Shady. I wish all of the moms in your family a happy day, too!

      Thanks again for stopping in, dear friend JM!

  2. Kathryn AndersonMay 8, 2016 at 4:10 AM

    It was a terrific idea to have the Dell rats of the 50's and 60's give testimonials about Helen for Mother's day. Today it seems rare for teenagers to open up to adults about personal issues-- and it speaks well of Helen that the young men and women who went to the Dell trusted her to the extent that they felt safe bringing their problems to her and asking advice. Helen must have been a gentle yet strong woman with mothering instincts-- even though she never had children of her own.

    I haven't heard that Little Anthony song in ages-- I enjoyed it. Great post-- Shady!

    1. Hi, Kathryn!

      Thank you very much for commenting on this year's Mother's Day post in honor of Helen Ettline, "Mother of All Dell Rats." When I collected these testimonials from the original rats, I was amazed and delighted, because their memories of Helen matched mine. What Dell rat Greg wrote is true. Girls went to Helen seeking advice about personal problems. The guys consulted Helen when they had problems in the romance department or trouble at home with mom and dad. 99% of the time Helen was soft spoken, charming, and wore a smile. However if a trouble maker showed up at the Dell and picked a fight, vandalized the property or disrespected either one of the Ettlines, both Helen and John were capable of unleashing a fiery temper and the bully was promptly put in is place. Helen nearly kicked me out of the Dell early on, in the fall of '65, because I tried to look tough by sitting on the backrest of an outdoor bench with my dirty Jack Purcells resting on the seat surface. She came flying out of the snack bar and gave me a good scolding. :) I learned a lesson that day and from then on I minded my manners.

      Thank you very much, dear Kathryn, for getting me started reminiscing about this great lady of the Shady, Helen Ettline.

      Happy Mother's Day to you!

  3. Lovely tribute to Mother Helen and all the other mothers, Mr. Shady ... Always, cat.

    1. Hi, cat!

      Thank you very much! I'm glad you stopped by to get acquainted with three of the original Dell rats and read their stories about the First Lady of the Shady, Helen Ettline.

      I wish you a peaceful day and a happy week ahead, dear friend cat!

  4. What a wonderful Mother's Day tribute to Helen! It sure sounds like she viewed all of you Dell Rats as her kids. What a wonderful influence she had on you all. It was nice to hear from a few of the other Dell rats Ron, Greg and Jerre, and of course you Shady, as to how much Helen meant to all of you.
    She's surely beaming from the Heavens right now!

    Thanks for sharing her with us.

    Michele at Angels Bark

    1. Please send Mrs. Shady Happy Mother's Day wishes from me... Hope she's having a spectacular day!

    2. Hi, Michele!

      Thank you for taking time away from your own mother on her special day to drop by here for a visit. I'm happy to know you enjoyed reading the reminiscences of original Dell rats Greg Gulden, Ron Shearer (who went to h.s. and college with me) and Jerre Slaybaugh, who started going to the Dell in the late 50s. It's true. Helen meant a lot to us and to countless other young men and women who attended the Dell between 1945 and 1991.

      Thank you again for your kind visit and comment. I will convey your Mother's Day wishes to Mrs. Shady and know that she will appreciate your thoughtfulness.

      Enjoy the rest of your day and the week ahead, dear friend Michele!

  5. Hi Shady!
    This is so beautiful! The testimonials speak volumes of the care and selflessness that helped shape each and every one of you:-) I'm certain that Mother Helen is beaming from above. Happy Mother's Day to Mrs. Shady!

    1. Hi, Diedre!

      Thank you very much for taking time to swing by for a visit on this Mother's Day and for leaving such a thoughtful comment.

      It would make my day if I knew for sure that Helen was beaming down from above. If she is, then she knows how much she was loved by so many young people, including the three Dell rats featured in this post and, of course, by me.

      Thank you again for your visit and comment and for the M-Day wishes for Mrs. Shady, dear friend Diedre. I hope you are having a fantastic day out there in Arizona. Enjoy the week ahead, dear friend!

  6. She sounds like a better mom than many people had or have. You were all truly blessed to have 2 moms, your mom you came home to and your mom Helen that you came ...home to:) you actually seems to have 2 homes and that is so rare. She and her husband were blessed with many kids which is nice and her memory lives on through here and we get to hear about a special lady.

    1. Hi, dear Birgit!

      Thank you very much for coming over to experience my Mother's Day salute to Shady Dell owner Helen Ettline.

      It's safe to say that Helen did a better job of parenting than the biological mothers of some of the young Dell patrons. The same was true of father figure John. I was blessed to have two moms, two dads and two homes - two places to go "where everybody knows your name."

      I am very proud to introduce these original Dell rats to you and to have you learn about them and about Helen and the Dell through their anecdotes.

      Thank you again for coming by, dear friend Birgit. Happy Mother's Day to you and have a wonderful week ahead!

  7. One of the highlights of this blog is that so many of you Dell Rats never forgot to appreciate what they gave you. Even all this time later, that appreciation shows through, and teaches us all a lesson in how to look back at those who shaped our lives. Strive on!

    1. Hi, Chris!

      Thank you very much for expressing that, good buddy. You're the best. You really seem to get what this is all about, what I'm trying to do over here, and that makes me very happy.

      I know that I speak for Greg, Ron, Jerre and all of the guys and girls who made the Dell their home away from home all those years ago, when I tell you what you already seem to know. We all get sentimental about our old alma mater. We consider ourselves very lucky to have been in the right place (York, PA) at the right time (the 1950s/60s/70s) to have experienced a unique social experiment, a melting pot - kids from cities, suburbs, small towns and farms - all gathered together under one roof, dancing to the coolest tunes on the planet and finding a way to avoid stepping on each other's toes. It serves as a powerful metaphor and reminds me of the friendship that you and I have carved out, Chris. I am grateful.

      Thanks again, good buddy, for the very kind words. Have a safe and scrappy week ahead!

  8. She had to have been a grand lady to have been adored by so many.

    ON another note, those old student photos look exactly like some that are in my old yearbook. All of our schools must have essentially had students that looked alike. Kind of weird in a way.

    Arlee Bird
    A to Z Challenge Co-host
    Tossing It Out

    1. Hi, Lee!

      Thanks for coming by to see what these three original rats had to say about the First Lady of the Shady, Helen Ettline. As I mentioned in another reply, their impressions and memories of Helen are closely aligned with mine.

      You're right. I'm sure we could find thousands of high school pictures taken in the late 50s through mid 60s that look almost identical. Today anything goes and the emphasis is on how unique students can make their portraits. They are also produced in living color unless taken in black and white for a noir effect. :)

      Thanks again for taking a look at this year's Mother's Day post, good buddy Lee. I hope Mom's Day was a happy one for the special ladies in your family. Enjoy your week!

  9. What a lovely Mother Day's tribute to someone who was adored by so many! Helen was obviously a special mother figure to the teenagers at The Shady Dell.

    1. Hi, Debbie the Doglady!

      Thank you for getting up early (or staying up late) to view my annual Mother's Day tribute to Helen Ettline. Helen was adored by generations of kids, as was husband John. Who knows the extent of the ripple effect of their caring ways upon the youth of the community over a period that spanned nearly 50 years? This 8 year old blog is but one manifestation.

      Thank you again for making time for a visit, dear friend Debbie, and enjoy the rest of your week!

  10. Happy Mother's Day to Helen! I, too, experienced the pleasure of having a second mom, so I can relate to this post so very well. I know I'm a day late for the holiday, but I think every day should be a day we celebrate those who have influenced our lives. Thank you for sharing Helen with us today.

    Jingle Jangle Jungle

    1. Hi, Mary!

      Thank you very much for dropping by, dear friend. In my youth I tried hanging out at two or three other venues for teenagers. None of them matched what the Dell had to offer - a caring and compassionate mom and pop couple (the owners) who developed a relationship with you, took genuine interest in you and dispensed fatherly and motherly advice if asked.

      You're right, Mary. I believe the Christmas spirit should be on display year round and we shouldn't wait for Mother's Day or Father's Day to acknowledge the people who helped shape our lives in a positive manner.

      Thank you very much for your visit and comment, dear friend Mary!

  11. What a lovely tribute.
    I'm still trying to get a mental picture. Did they have a soda shop inside the barn?

    1. Hi, Sandra!

      Thanks for stopping by, dear friend! To answer your question, the Shady Dell was originally an estate that included a three story house, a barn with horse stables and an attached garage. In the mid 20th century the first floor of the house was turned into a restaurant and ice cream parlor catering mostly to teenagers. The restaurant menu was later scaled back to include mainly burgers, fries, subs and shakes plus other soda fountain drinks. In the mid to late 50s, John built a concrete block dance hall next to the barn, installed a high quality oak dance floor and a jukebox. Dell rats divided their time between visiting Helen up at the snack bar in the house and dancing in the "barn," as we called it, which was actually a structure adjacent to the barn.

      Thank you, dear friend Sandra!

  12. You don't need to have children to be a good mother. Sounds like she kept everyone fed with food and friendship.

    1. Hi, Alex!

      Nicely put, good buddy. Helen Ettline was living proof that you don't need to be a biological mother in order to fulfill that role. Helen was a second mother and, in some cases, a surrogate mother, to countless teenagers of the 40s, 50s, 60s, 70s and 80s. She nourished our bodies with food from the snack bar and nourished our minds with sage advice.

      Thanks for reporting in, good buddy Alex!

  13. Happy Mother's Day to your heavenly Del Rat Mother, Helen. How wonderful to be remembered so fondly and given tribute here. So many Moms who are still living don't get visits or communication from their children on this day set apart for them. I so agree that birthing children doesn't make you a Mom. You can be a "Mom Of Many" without the birth certificate and Helen was one of those special ones! I hope Mrs. Shady had a lovely Mother's Day and I hope you have a great week!

    1. Hi, YaYa!

      Thank you very much for coming by and spreading joy as you always do.

      The breakdown of the family that was already evident when I was a teen is much more widespread today. We could use a woman like Helen (and a man like John) in our modern world. Helen and John rolled up their sleeves, got involved with kids and gave them a sense of family that many of them did not get at home. As the years go by, the contributions that Helen and John made to my life and to countless other lives become more evident.

      Yessum, Mrs. Shady had a nice Mother's Day and I hope you and your dear mother did, too. Thank you again for dropping in, dear friend YaYa, and enjoy the rest of your week!

  14. What a wonderful post today. You all were very lucky to have such a wonderful place to go to and have such a fabulous couple to offer it to you.

    cheers, parsnip

    1. Hi, Gayle!

      Thank you very much for stopping by and for the compliment on my Mother's Day post in honor of Helen Ettline.

      I have often stated that the Shady Dell years were the greatest years of my life. Another way I like to phrase it is that I have happy memories of "the people, the place and the times of my life." Yet another way to think about the Shady Dell experience is that it was "a perfect storm." The 60s decade with its sensational music was a great time to a teenager. The Dell, a juke joint that played awesome records, was only a 5 minute drive from my house, and the folks that owned it were great with kids and made us all feel at home, like we belonged. Dell rats agree that the Shady Dell could not exist today.

      Thank you very much for your visit and comment, dear friend Gayle!

  15. That was what I would call a most excellent tribute to a very fine lady! How nice that those three fine Dell Rats contributed to it!

    1. Hi, Sherry!

      Thank you very much for coming over! I'm delighted that you stopped by to meet all three of the original Dell rats who contribute guest posts, anecdotes and comments to SDMM. None of us is getting any younger, and there is no guarantee that any of us will still be around five years from now. That's why I am very grateful to have elicited these testimonials about Helen and to have them published.

      Thank you again for your visit, your comment and your compliment, dear friend Sherry!

  16. Those pictures are the BEST!! I adore old photographs like these. How amazing that a loving couple like the Ettlines with no children of their own, made a lifelong impact on dozens of kids in the best way. I also don't have kids but many of my friends kids call me " Aunt Holli". I love those kids!
    I would absolutely love to have a place like the Dell where teenage kids could hang out but trust that no trouble was being made. I'm sure lots of parents wish the same. What a blessing that place was to all of you.

    1. Hi, Holli!

      It's great to see you again, dear friend! Yessum, even way back in the 60s, Helen and John were part of a vanishing breed. They had no biological children but nurtured other people's kids as if they were their own, and they did a fine job of it. The Ettlines influenced and shaped the lives of not only dozens but thousands of young men and women over a 40+ year span.

      I think it's wonderful that your friends' kids call you "Aunt Holli." That is quite a compliment and means you have made a favorable impression on them.

      As I mentioned to Gayle (angryparsnip), 4 out of 5 rats agree that a place like the Shady Dell could not exist in today's culture. It was a product of its time - a very special time indeed.

      Thank you again for making time for a visit and for your terrific comment, dear friend Holli. Enjoy the rest of your week!

  17. Helen sounds like a wonderful, caring and all round lovely woman who could make everyone feel loved, needed and somewhat important.

    1. Hi, dear Jo-Anne!

      Thank you very much for coming all the way from Australia to visit me and view my Mother's Day post for 2016.

      Golly, this is a wonderful comment, too, Jo-Anne, and greatly appreciated. You have Helen pegged perfectly, and I'm glad you added the last part, because she never failed to make an insecure teenager feel special and important, something some adults fail to do or refuse to do.

      Thank you again for your kind visit and marvelous comment, dear friend Jo-Anne. Come back and see me again soon!

  18. Tom, ah, what a sweet tribute to a woman so many considered his/her second mom. It's wonderful the Dell Rats had such a special lady in their lives. Young people do need good outside influences, other than their parents, but not to act as a replacement. I'm sure that is not what Helen was, but a respectful, loving woman who knew the boundaries of trying to be "mom", if you know what I mean. Your song selection is a great choice, Hurts So Bad, to not have those you love around anymore. Great Mother's Day tribute!

    1. Hi, Cathy!

      Thank you very much for coming by, dear friend!

      I'm glad you are here to read these Mother's Day testimonials by the original Del rats. You can tell that we all loved Helen. Yessum, both Helen and John were careful not to overstep. They were there to offer guidance, advice and counseling if asked. They let kids be kids and gave us the space we needed. They didn't judge. It was a perfect balance of adult supervision and freedom.

      I'm glad you enjoyed the performance on Shindig by Little Anthony & the Imperials. You are the first person to mention to the post's featured music! :)

      Thank you again for your visit and lovely comment, dear friend Cathy. Enjoy the rest of your week!

  19. I was so moved by the testimonies of the Dell Rats. The Bible says of a good mother, "Her children shall rise up and call her blessed." She was a wonderful woman.

    I had many troubles when I was a teen. It would have helped me so much to have had a woman like Helen to go to. It was too hard to talk with my mom about anything. She was a good mom, but I just couldn't share my feelings with her. I'm sure I could have with Helen. She may have helped me get on a good path in life. Happy Mother's Day to Helen and to your lovely wife and all the moms and aunties!

    1. Hi, dear Belle!

      Thank you very much for coming down, dear friend. I am happy to have you on hand again this year for my Mother's Day salute to Helen Ettline. I'm glad you enjoyed reading the testimonials given by these three original Dell rats of the 50s and 60s. They reveal what a great woman Helen was, what an impression she made on young people and how grateful we are to her all these years later.

      I wish you would have had a woman like Helen in your life when you were my age. Girls and guys alike felt safe sharing their feelings and problems with Helen. She was a good, compassionate listener, gave solid advice and didn't judge.

      If you were not on a good path in life back then, you certainly are today, dear Belle. Look how far you have come. I hope you and your mother had a wonderful Mother's Day and once again I thank you for being here to experience my tribute to Helen.

      Enjoy the rest of your week, dear friend Belle!

  20. Those pictures sure have the senior year book of the 60s look:)

    1. Hi, Sandra!

      Yessum, these are the senior portraits of Dell rats of the late 50s thru mid 60s. Ron and I graduated together in 1967 and went on to attend the same university.

      Happy Wednesday, dear friend Sandra!

    2. Good times:)
      You and Mrs. Shady enjoy your weekend;)

    3. Thank you, dear friend Sandra!

      I wish the same for you and your loved ones!

  21. Hi Shady,
    This is another wonderful tribute to the loving and caring Mother of all Dell rats! Helen had a great listening ear and could whip up a great meal I'm told. Happy Mothers Day to Helen and all the other mothers out there.
    P.S. Sorry so late, I was out of the country on vacation! So, Yes, I had a fabulous Mother's Day, too!

    1. Hi, Toni!

      Thank you for attending our rat reunion in honor of Helen Ettline, The Mother of All Dell Rats.

      You are right about Helen. While she flipped burgers and fixed subs and sundaes, she carried on conversations with her young customers. They opened up to her and she listened to them and gave advice when asked. She was a very special lady and loved by many.

      No need to apologize for being late, dear friend. This post runs until Sunday. I'm glad you are:

      "back in the U.S....
      back in the U.S....
      back in the U.S.S.R.!" :)

      I'm happy to know you had a nice Mother's Day, Toni. Enjoy the rest of your week and prepare to bask in Spectorian splendor this Sunday!

  22. Hi Tom! I love that every year you dedicate posts to Helen on Mother's day and her birthday etc. It's amazing to know that someone can have that long lasting effect on the lives of others. Glad you're keeping her memory alive year after year, it's wonderful! I hope you're keeping well!

    Emma x

    1. Hi, Emma!

      How nice of you to swing over for a visit, dear friend! I appreciate it.

      You have been following me for a long time and you know that I pay tribute to the Ettlines six times every year. I am always pleased when Dell rats Greg, Ron and Jerre come forward on these special occasions to share their stories with readers new and old.

      Yessum, Helen Ettline and her husband John made an indelible impression of me and countless other young people. Decades later here we are, gathering together to remember and thank them.

      Thank you very much for your ongoing friendship and support, dear friend Emma. I hope you are in good health and in good spirits. Enjoy the rest of your week and come back and see me soon. Bless you!

  23. As always, sounds like an awesome time was had at the Dell. I love the testimonials to your 'second' mother. I had a few of those growing up as well.

    1. Hi, Jeffrey!

      Thank you for popping in for my annual Mother's Day tribute to Helen Ettline, this one featuring testimonials from original Dell rats.

      You're right, Jeffrey. My friends and I had an awesome time at the Dell. Having a close relationship with Helen and John was part of it. I'm happy to know that you had a few extra mothers growing up.

      Thanks again for dropping by, good buddy Jeffrey. Take care and I'll see you on BOTB day!

  24. Kathleen Mae SchneiderMay 14, 2016 at 3:18 PM

    From what you, Ron, Greg and Jerre describe, Helen served much more than burgers and shakes at her Shady Dell snack bar. There were specially prepared recipes for understanding, patience, and acceptance as well. Though they never appeared on the menu, they filled some of the empty spots in your young lives as much or more than her food satisfied your hunger.

    Like any good mother, I bet she wasn't just giving you a disciplinary tongue-lashing about your unmannerly and creative bench perching, Tom. She cared enough about you to not want you to get hurt; the anger was borne of affection. As a mother myself, I recognize such as a protective and righteous anger.

    The other thing both Helen and John obviously taught you and your friends was respect - not only for them, but ultimately for yourself. What a necessary requirement for success in all walks of life!

    Much as she looked over those teenage shoulders at the Dell's pinball machine, a part of heaven for Helen might be being able to watch over you still, Tom. It's obvious that she is very much there with you in your heart as you compose these posts about her and John, and their labor of love that was the remarkable and irreplaceable Shady Dell.

    Delighted with your choice of Little Anthony to provide a cultural setting, I would guess she is fascinated and pleased to see how her "kids" turned out - good manners and all - and very flattered by these tribute memories of her. She sees her loving efforts at "raising" you coming full circle, returning to the world exponentially, extending her wise and caring ways.

    That is the gift all mothers everywhere treasure the most!

    1. Hi, Kathleen!

      Thank you very much for coming to see what three of the original Dell rats had to say about Helen Ettline on Mother's Day.

      Your musings about Helen and the influence she had on Greg, Ron, Jerre and countless other rats, including Shady, are spot on. Helen whipped up more than burgers, fries and shakes. She served a heaping helping of hospitality along with motherly wisdom and advice. Regarding that incident when Helen gave me a tongue-lashing, I think she looked at 15 year old me and could tell that I was trying hard to fit in by acting tough. She saw through my facade and decided to teach me some manners before I fell in with the wrong crowd and ruined my life. I wised up went on to have a wonderful relationship with Helen over the next 5+ years.

      Regarding the Little Anthony video, Helen loved black groups and played them often on her snack bar jukebox. The Imperials were one of her favorite acts and I wanted to post their live Shindig performance of "Hurt So Bad" because I never got around to doing it in the past. I can't help wishing that I could see Helen's smile again and get her reaction to all the annual hoopla for her and John much the same as you elicit Mother's reaction to her celebrity status on SDMM.

      Thank you again, dear Kathleen, for making time to read my annual Mother's Day post and leave such an excellent comment. I wish you and Mother a happy Sunday and a wonderful week ahead!


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