The Hills Hoist washing line has quite a history

Hanging Doughnut: Kids having fun at Maitland on Australia Day. Picture: Marina Neil.

Hanging Doughnut: Kids having fun at Maitland on Australia Day. Picture: Marina Neil.

Great news, everyone. Bunnings is holding a workshop at Cessnock this weekend.

The title of the workshop: How To Select & Install the Right Clothesline. We kid you not.

“Learn about the choices for determining the appropriate clothesline for your use, as well as how to safely install your own clothesline at home,” the blurb says.

We had no idea it was so complicated. How many clotheslines do they have, we wonder?

Taking a look on their website, we saw they have quite a few retractable, extendable and rotary options. (This is not an ad. There’s no cash for comment at Topics.)

Hanging out the washing sure has become tricky since the days of the Hills Hoist.

The Hills Hoist is, of course, an Aussie legend.

In the early part of his (fairly mediocre) prime ministership, Malcolm Turnbull banged on about innovation. Well, Aussie innovation was alive and well in the 1940s when Lance Hill invented his clothesline.

It was 1945 in Adelaide. Old Lancey boy had returned from the war. He was unemployed.

“He found his wife Sherry struggling to hang the washing between the overgrown trees in their backyard, so he took some old pipe, a welder and an innovative idea and created what was to become a world famous Australian icon,” according to the company itself.

“Word of Lance’s invention quickly spread until one day, on a tram on his way to work, Lance overheard two women talking about wanting a rotary clothes hoist they had seen in a friend’s yard.

“Lance got off the tram at the next stop, walked home and told Sherry that he was going into business to make the Hills Hoist.”

Hills Industries was born.

An article at powerhousemuseum.com said Sherry had initially complained to Lance that her traditional clothesline, erected between two posts and propped up in the middle by a stick, was in the way of a lemon tree.

“Hill's answer was to design a compact rotary line out of metal tube and wire. He turned his idea into a livelihood.”

Submarine Catchers

The first batch of Hills Hoists were made with tubing salvaged from the frame of the underwater boom that had hung under the Sydney Harbour Bridge to catch enemy submarines during World War II.

“He designed a cast aluminium winding gear to hoist the line up into the breeze. The Hills Hoist was born at just the right time and place to become spectacularly successful,” the Powerhouse Museum article said.

Hills Industries did expand and diversify into various other products. Nevertheless, company sales of the Hills Hoist hit 5 million in 1994. They now export clotheslines around the world.

The Hills Hoist, along with the lawn mower, featured in the closing ceremony of the Sydney Olympic Games in 2000.

Importantly, the Hills Hoist also led to the creation of the Goon of Fortune – a drinking game based on Wheel of Fortune, involving cask wine and a clothesline.

Games can also be played around the Hills Hoist. Kids showed us how at Maitland on Australia Day (see our main picture). We can see doughnuts and apples. But no one seems to be eating the apples. 

There’s also a thing called a spinning water slide.

Bunnings and the Hills Hoist

We didn’t realise this when we first started writing this column, but it turns out that Bunnings (in a kinda roundabout way) has been involved in changing times for the Hills Hoist.

You see, Hills had signed an exclusive deal with Woolworths to sell its clotheslines.

Because of this agreement, Hills Hoist clotheslines couldn’t be sold at Bunnings.

But the deal went kaput last year, after Woolworths closed its Masters home improvement stores.

Woolworths paid Hills $6 million to end the deal.

Only last month, Hills sold the rights to make and sell its Hills Hoist clotheslines.

The buyer was AMES Australasia, which supplies Bunnings.

We couldn’t see any Hills Hoists products on the Bunnings website yet.

But this saga might just have something to do with Bunnings running those clotheslines courses.

  • topics@theherald.com.au
A girl plays the Goon of Fortune, which involves cask wine and a clothesline.

A girl plays the Goon of Fortune, which involves cask wine and a clothesline.

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