By Melissa Sheil
THE son of one of Australia’s wartime heroes is appealing to the community for help to restore a Midland icon.
Barry Sue set up a crowdfunding page to raise money to restore the exterior of 6-8 Helena Street in Midland, locally known as the Jack Sue building.
Opened by Barry and his father Jack in 1984, the store sold skin diving equipment, operated diving tours and ran scuba classes until Jack’s death in 2009.
The building has a rich history, first constructed in 1898 as Loco Coffee Palace, a café and rest-stop that was later taken over by Mary King who bought it via compensation provided after her husband’s death aboard the RMS Titanic.
Since then, it has been a Chinese restaurant, a brothel, a hotel, a café, a diving shop and a popular haunt for ghost hunters who believe the building contains paranormal activity.
It has been unoccupied since 2009 and Barry hopes it can see new life.
“I love this building and my father loved this building, it has many memories in the walls,” he said.
“But it’s in dire need of some TLC and the outgoing cost to fix it up is getting too high for me to manage.”
Barry said he found it difficult to ask the public for help.
“We’ve always found it much easier to give to the community rather than taking and I’ve never asked the community for anything, so I found it really hard to admit I needed some help with this,” he said.
“Dad was a bit of an icon – people used to call him one of Australia’s favourite sons and they used to flock to the shop to see him.
“For decades to come, I want this building to stand proud for my dad, and it still be in good shape for the community after I’m gone.”
Jack Sue was a covert commando agent in Australia’s Z Special Unit behind Japanese lines in Borneo in World War II, awarded Australia’s second highest military award.
His successful biography, Blood in Borneo was written about his experience.
Following the war, Jack opened Perth’s first retail outlet in underwater diving products, set up the Jack Sue Dive School, and wrote Ghost of the Alkimos with Barry, donating much of the book’s profits back to community projects.
Barry is now 72 and unable to complete the restoration work – which includes repainting the exterior, restoring the floorboards, creating new rear stairs, and fixing the awning – himself.
“I’ve been trying my best to get it looking up to scratch again but there’s just too much to do and I’m older now so it’s hard.
“I’m looking at running little museum tours on dad’s life in the building as well as paranormal ghost tours to get a bit more money, but really hope the lovely people in the area can give us a hand.
“I think we’ve done alright by the community and lots of people come up and say how much they enjoy the legacy of the building – hopefully that will be enough to see it through another hundred years.”
Donate to the ‘Please Help Restore the Jack Sue Building Midland’ at www.gofundme.com