You spin me round
On page 18 of the edition date 18 July 1973, The Leader Messenger advertised a sales promotion for the Hills Hoist at Myer in its feature Tea Tree Plaza News. Did you know that not only was the Hills Hoist a revolutionary invention but that it was created in Adelaide?
When her washing kept falling off a propped up clothes line, motor mechanic Lance Hill created the first ‘Hill’s Hoist’ for his wife. He built it in the back yard of his home on Bevington Road, Glenunga in 1945. Mr Hills was not the first person to come up with the idea of a rotary clothesline. Gilbert Toyne of Geelong had patented four rotary clothes hoists designs between 1911 and 1946. In 1925 Toyne had designed a rotary hoist with and enclosed crown and a wheel and pinyon winding mechanism.
On Lance Hill’s original structure metal ribs spread out from a central steel pole. He strung rust-proof wire between the ribs, on which the clothes could hang. Lance Hill invented a way to raise and lower the height of the hoist and he attached a handle to make this happen. You could hang the washing on the lines with the hoist set to your height, then wind it up higher. Combined with the rotating square structure, this feature allows your washing to dry more effectively in the wind. His design was so successful that Hill’s neighbours started putting in orders and he happily manufactured the hoists from scrap metal in his shed workshop.
In 1946 Lance Hill and his brother-in-law, Harold Ling, established the Hills business in Glen Osmond. They bought some army surplus trucks to make deliveries. Lance and Harold opened a factory at Edwardstown to manufacture steel tubing in order to create a quality product at a reasonable price. Demand was high, even though the hoist sold for 11 pounds, which in 1948 was twice the weekly wage. Hills then expanded its operation to include the manufacture of other laundry products. Lance Hill was awarded a patent for his Hills Hoist in 1956. Renamed Hills Industries in 1958, the company exports its range of clothes lines around the world. The Hills Hoist is listed as a National Treasure by the National Library of Australia.
In recent times, with the rise in construction of medium density housing in Adelaide, such as townhouses, there is usually only room for a pull-out clothes line. Let’s hope that we will continue to see the Hills Hoist as an iconic fixture in the Australian back yard.