You could be forgiven for passing the SANZAC Secondary College in Kota Kinabulu without either a second look or thought as you do so. But on closer inspection this College in the Capital of Sabah, Malaysia, is a poignant reminder not only of the years of suffering World War 2 brought, but also a celebration of the friendship those times generated. It is a lasting and practical symbol of the strong bond of comradeship between the residents of Sabah and the Australian soldiers from the 32nd Battalion who were stationed at the site just after World War 2.
A local teenager Francis Loh, ran errands for the Australian soldiers based at the site in the then Jesselton between 1945 and 1947. His dedication and hard work so impressed the soldiers that they paid him back by raising the money he needed to complete his schooling and become a journalist. Francis later went on to pursue a very successful career in the Insurance industry.
In 1966 a year before the city of Jesselton was renamed Kota Kinabalu, Francis decided to make a permanent monument to thank the Australian Soldiers for their generosity, and so became the founder of the SANZAC School on the donated land from the Education Department.. A joint fundraising effort commenced and raised RM250,000 required for the project. Half the funds were donated by the Australian and New Zealand Returned Service League. The other half was raised by Francis himself, with such innovative schemes as local dragon dances and other activities within the local Kota Kinabalu community.
Over the next 5 years Francis oversaw the construction of the project as his vision became a reality. The seven classrooms along with the thirty foot memorial, were finally handed to the Education Department in 1971. The four pillared memorial showed the national flags of the 3 SANZAC countries, Sabah, Australian and New Zealand, and can still be seen in the present day.
Today the school has five blocks of classrooms as well as a hostel. It continues to contribute to the educational development of Sabah students as well as acting as a poignant reminder and monument to the soldiers who lost their lives for the liberation of Malaysia during World War 2.
Over the years it has become a place of pilgrimage especially for members of the Borneo POW Relatives Association of Western Australia. Their 2003 visit was greeted with a wonderful welcome from Teachers, Students and Parents alike, official welcome and many speeches, despite their visit being on a Sunday. My own visit in January 2011 was decidedly low key in comparison but left me with a lasting impression of the historical significant of such a memorial
SMK SANZAC Memorial is a legacy to the strong bond between the Australian soldiers of 32nd Battalion and Francis Loh. Australian visitors to Malaysia should include a tour of this historical memorial at Peti Surat 264, 89458 Tanjung Aru, Kota Kinabalu, ensuring that the true spirit of the SANZAC’s foundation is never lost.
Fancy a trip down memory lane? The Block Arcade in Melbourne, Australia, has lost none of the WOW factor, it had on its completion in 1893. When it was first built, the Arcade added not only glamour, but also prestige to this upstart city, which other cities on the continent could only dream of and try to emulate. It became an instantaneous success, and visiting it or “doing the block” as it had became known, became a national pastime in Melbourne. Fashionable ladies used the Block in the same way as a catwalk is used today and used the opportunity to show off their new dresses, outfits, and finery. But to the
general public it was a place to see and also a place to be seen.
Even now a hundred and twenty years later the Arcade’s magic
still draws in the crowds. They can often be seen soaking up and savoring the 1890’s atmosphere as they stroll around the Arcade with camera’s in hand, taking pictures of the beautiful interior and architecture It’s a symbol of the late Victorian age, a standard bearer and beacon to the city’s success both economically and culturally. It was this Southern city’s answer to Bond Street in London and the Boulevards in Paris. Fashionable Melbourne had finally come of age!
Built in two parts, the first section from Collins Street was finished in
1892. The second and final part of the building was completed in 1893. There are entrances from both Elizabeth and Little Collins Streets. The end result was a building with a richly decorated interior, an exquisite mosaic tiled flooring, glass canopy and wrought iron.
Despite splendor and magnificence of the structure, architect David C Askew never lost sight of its need to be user friendly for the future. After all this was a practical commercial proposition that would increase landlords’ holdings. By offering ladies and gents a refuge from the dust, heat and noise of the street he could introduce them to a large shopping area where they could view and possibly buy goods from a wide variety of shop fronts. The Arcade was also one of the first to utilize state of the art technology then, such as electricity for lighting as well as having 2 lifts (elevators) to take people to the first floor.
Visitors today can still enjoy a cup of tea in the iconic Hopetoun Tea Rooms, the only business to grace the Block original from those early days. Created by the Victorian Ladies Work Association and named after the Association’s founder, Lady Hopetoun Wife of Victoria’¦s 8th Governo. He went on to become Australia’s first Governor General from 1901 to 1903. Now in a different location in the Arcade a poignant reminder of the business’ beginnings can be seen on the back wall of the tea rooms, where an etched mirror from the original Tea rooms hangs. Patrons of the Hopetoun Tea Rooms could dwell on the George Orwell quote “All true Tea Lovers not only like their tea strong, but like it a little stronger with each year that passes,”¨ as they sit and gaze around them … especially after capturing their vision in the spectacular etched mirror.
What would David C Askew make of his creation today? A creation that that is still giving as much enjoyment and interest today as it did one hundred and twenty years ago. Whatever else he did, the Block Arcade stands as a fitting testament to this individual who turned his own personal vision into reality and was able to leave behind a building that has and will
stand the test of time.