Burnley Grammar School

Childhood - Schools


Year: 1959         Item #: 1607         Views: 647,085         Comments: 2,374

Burnley Grammar School

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There's pleny of room in the modern-styled gymnasium for muscle developing, where the boys are supervised by Mr. R. Parry, the physical education instruction.
Source: Lancashire Life Magazine, December 1959

2374 user comment(s) below:-

Comments by Benny on 20th March 2016  

The comments prior to this latest one seem to have diappeared into thin air. I was agreeing with the previous writer than fellows in Britain do seem more prudish. I compared this to the fact then when abroad men wear speedo type swimming trunks and think nothing of it, whilst us English seem to try and cover our bodies whith ridicously long swimming shorts. In my school days it was brief style trunks and that was all that was available.

Why the change?

Comments by Benny on 18th March 2016  

I meant to add, I used to go to a local swimmimg pool whre there was sperate all male & female changing. The male did not have cubicles and as some did try the same as the beach dance change under a towel. Most did not bother and even carried on conversations rather like the advert.
Now whereever I go I have to be careful because all pools seem to have mixed "Changing Villages" and I have to rmemeber that any moment a female (either swimmer or attendant) could walk in and I must change in a very confined cubicle.

Comments by Sterling on 17th March 2016  

When I was young we thought nothing of the bare chest & barefoot requirement! Guys casually went naked in changing and group shower rooms. Now lads either don't bother showering (yuck) or do a ridiculous towel dance until they're in cubicle showers.

However, guys on mainland Europe haven't changed their attitude towards communal showering?

Why is it that American & British guys are so prudish nowadays?

Below is a link to an 1965 Advertisement for the water saving Bradley Group Showers. Imagine the shock if these were installed routinely today, as they once were!


Comments by Mark on 16th March 2016  

Absolutely right. Our cross country course took us over a local golf course and public footpaths in some woods. hence the footwear.
When we got back to school our plimsolls had to come off before we went into the school. This was to keep mud off the floors. Also our gym floors had just been relaid so The PE teacher was very strict about footwear in there. If we were excused PE due to a sick note we had to watch from the side. We had to remove shoes and socks before we went in. He said socks were slippery and a health risk.
Mr Anderson always wore foorware in the gym!!!!

Comments by Derrick on 13th March 2016  

Mark - our course was mainly in open country along muddy paths and around 2 sides of a field though we had to run along a rough track and pavements to get there and back. The sides of the field were probably most challenging when it had just been ploughed and stones brought to the surface. I don't remember there being any broken glass around - there was much less anyway in the 60s. I'm sure if there had been any injuries the school would have made us wear plimsolls - no trainers in those days, of course.

Comments by Keith on 12th March 2016  kjl3094@msn.com 

We were always barefoot in the gym and barechested, gym was a double session on Fridays, Mondays was cross country day and Wednesdays was football in winter and cricket in summer, not shirtless in cross country but on hot days most boys were,this was 1959-1963 in a Midlands Secondary Modern school.

Happy Days !!

Comments by Mark on 12th March 2016  

We always did PE barefoot indoors but outdoors we wore trainers etc. Surely there were health and safety issues with doing things like cross country in bare feet. wouldn't there be a possibility of broken glass etc on the course?

Comments by Derrick on 9th March 2016  

Reading through the comments brings back many memories - mostly good. My all boys grammar school back in the 60s used black and white shorts to distinguish teams so, like John and Jono, a pair of shorts was all we wore for p.e. Cross country was also done barefoot and shirtless. I don't think any-one ever complained about being cold - we just got on with it.

Comments by Joe on 8th March 2016  

Dave, thanks for the link to the Belgian PE pictures. I wonder if maybe the boys are required to take their shirts off for using certain apparatus? Although it would make more sense for them to be shirtless throughout.

Comments by Evan on 8th March 2016  

To Matthew,
No, as far as I know no one changed their minds. Most people who were shirts never wanted to take them off ever and some of hem change in the toilets because they were that shy. Also, most skins were perfectly fine with being skins.

Comments by Dave on 7th March 2016  

Here is the link for the shirtless PE lesson of a Belgian school posted some months ago. I wonder why the boys have shirts on in some pictures and shirtless in others.


Comments by James on 1st March 2016  

I'm 22.

In PE we were offered two choices, have clean underpants for after the lesson or take them off for the lesson. For a couple of weeks at the very beginning most lads had a second pair but then you and everyone else forgets so you take them off as who wants to sit for the rest of the day in underpants you've rolled around the rugby pitch in? It's just common sense really.

After a couple of weeks no one was shy but then we also had communal showers that were still going when I left school four years ago and AFAIK still are. Showers were compulsory and again, who doesn't want one? My view is it's life, get on with it, changing rooms don't bother me in the slightest but I do see guys who feel they have things to hide which I don't understand. If the sight of a bare bottom offends you then you probably shouldn't be there in the first place.

Comments by Benny on 25th February 2016  

Evan in comparison to my days at school, has the rules for Pe changed? Were you allowed to wear underwear? or has the ban on pants becomea thing of the past?

Comments by Pete on 24th February 2016  

Like Benny we always went topless for indoor PE and again we thought nothing of it.
Also when we did cross country most of again went stripped to the waist and again thought nothing of it.

Comments by Benny on 23rd February 2016  

During my time at secondary school (all boys school) we were always no tops when indoors and we never thought anything about it. Also in keeping with the times we did not wear any underwear even when outside.I do not remember any embarrasment.

When we went outside for sport we wore a football shirt, and short shorts.

Comments by Matthew on 23rd February 2016  

To Evan,
In time, did any of those who were initially reluctant to be "skins" come to change their minds?

Comments by Evan on 21st February 2016  

I left school just wo years ago and I can say that we did have optional shirts vs skins in our school due to the awful quality of bibs. Basically, what happened was the teacher would ask if anyone objected to taking off their shirt. Usually, around a quarter of boys (who tend to be less good at sports in general) would put their hands up to be selected for the shirts team along with a few really good players to balance the teams better. Then, the rest of us would take our tops off and join the skins team. The teams were always slightly different to ensure good competition.

It was pretty embarrassing at first to see the other team fully clothed while i was in just a pair of shorts (it did give the less able shirts guys a bit of a confidence boost though) it was something I learnt to accept and in the summer it was definitely an advantage

Comments by Toby on 7th February 2016  

At my school the teacher sometimes put us in teams of 5 then picked 2 boys to drop their vests and we played 3 against 2 basketball. We also did the full skins and shirts teams like Chris2 mentioned but indoors in the summer we all did athletics as skins.

Comments by Claire on 7th February 2016  

Ouch!! Who says girls aren't devious?

Comments by Chris2 on 31st January 2016  

I readily admit to enjoying being a skin, though I have absolutely no idea why I was picked so often. We did skins and vests both indoors and outside. The teacher always had a skins team regardless so for me and a couple of others it meant a lot of time being made to strip off outside too.
One thing I wondered about was why he just didn't make us strip off before we went outside instead of waiting until we were either on the yard or the field.

John and Jack - well I haven't come across that before. I did get into a fight outside of school, the only one I ever had! The girls egged us both to strip to the waist, which we did. I didn't realise it was a trap and after we'd been fighting a few minutes one of the girls who had soaked my vest in water, hit it hard across my bare back four times and it killed. Strangely the PE teacher made no mention of the marks during PE though other lads did.

Comments by Simon on 31st January 2016  

Hi Chris2,
Looking back, do you feel it was a good thing to be picked as a skin so frequently? My feeling is that it probably was as ultimately I felt more confident about my body.
Did you ever have shirts against skins outdoors, by the way, or only in the gym?

Comments by John Lavender on 31st January 2016  finswimmerjohn52@gmail.com 


Hello, Jack beat me to it, describing 'Running the Gauntlet', it was exactly the same at our School, which was a Co-ed Independent Grammar, I attended 1963-68. Gym was single-sex.
We loooked one in Awe at the first "Running the Gauntlet" on our First Gym Session in our First Year.
The Gym Teacher selected a Couple of the 2nd-Year Lads to "Demonstrate Running" with the rest of the Second Years doing the "Gauntletting".
If you were a slow Runner you just got more Slaps and Hits. It was as simple as that!

Comments by Jack on 31st January 2016  

Hi Chris2

Running the gauntlet was a great piece of old-fashioned schooling. In my PE lessins the two last boys entering the gym after having got changed into proper kit (which was always bare tops, bare feet and just white shorts btw)had to run the gauntlet. The other boys formed two lines and those two had to run in between them getting slapped on their bare backs and chests. As you can imagine, we got always got changed at the speed of lightning.

Comments by Chris2 on 30th January 2016  

Hi John and Simon, thanks, it's interesting you both had different experiences. Our teachers didn't bother with any kind of rotation and like you I was picked for skins more often than not throughout school.

John, what on earth was "run the guantlet" and what happened if you didn't survive?

Comments by Chris2 on 30th January 2016  

Hi John and Simon, thanks, it's interesting you both had different experiences. Our teachers didn't bother with any kind of rotation and like you I was picked for skins more often than not throughout school.

John, what on earth was "run the guantlet" and what happened if you didn't survive?

Comments by Claire on 30th January 2016  

Hi Jack, One has a mole on their right forearm and no parting while the other had no mole and no parting. I know they had a great deal of fun. I thought they'd be put in different classes at High School but academically they were virtually the same too. Being on the skins team would be tough for anyone to pick them apart - even mum and dad got them confused at times but it didn't stop them from stripping off.

Comments by Jack on 24th January 2016  

Hi Claire, were there any physical characteristics with which you could distinguish your twin brothers from each other?
There were two sets of identical twins in my neighbourhood when I was at school and there was no way anyone could distinguish between them. It always amazed me how their parents could easily distinguish between them on sight, and called each distinctly by name.

Comments by Claire on 23rd January 2016  

Hi Simon, My twin brothers were exactly the same. From the age of 9 to 18 they were both nearly always made to strip off. My friend's brother who was the same age and in the same class was rarely picked to strip. It's strange how skins teams were picked.

Comments by John Lavender on 22nd January 2016  finswimmerjohn52@gmail.com 

To Chris2
Hi Chris, an interesting Question , but actually No, Our PE Teacher tended to alternate Skins Teams each Week - we only had 1 x 1.5Hr PE Session p/w so generally Lads didn't have to strip off more than that unless of course they were slow in getting changed at the start of Lesson in which case the Last 2 Lads from each (2 of ) House had to 'Tops Off' and "run the Gauntlet" before we started the Session, in which case assuming they survived that, they stayed Topless for the rest of the Lesson , only putting tops On again if they were in the Shirts Team for Team Games eg Killerball, at the end of the Lesson.
Hope this Clarifies.

Comments by Simon on 22nd January 2016  

I don't know how it was at John's school but at mine it was certainly the case that some boys were skins more than others. For some reason I was one of them. We were actually divided into four teams rather than just two and only one team had to take their vests off. The first time we did PE I was on the skins team, but the teacher said he would pick different teams for the next lesson. So I was a bit taken aback to be a skin again. Next time we were told to keep the same teams, so yet again I had to go bare chested. Sometimes I did get to keep my vest on, but more often than not I took it off. In theory there was only a 25 per cent chance of that so it seemed a bit unfair. It wasn't just me though, there was another boy who usually played skins as well and we ended up becoming good friends as we were on the same team so often.

Comments by Chris2 on 21st January 2016  

John Lavender. Hi John, did you find having skins vs vests that some boys were made to strip to the waist more frequently than others.

Comments by Mark on 21st January 2016  

I think it is their usual PE kit, this was 1972.
Still I don't think this was really such a hot day there in Denmark because nearly all the people watching are wearing jackets.

Comments by Dave on 17th January 2016  

If you watch this video from 5:45 you can see students doing gymnastics in a danish secondary school. Boys are shirtless. I wonder if they wear their usual PE kit because it is a sports day.


Comments by Benny on 10th January 2016  

Hello Chrid

Interesting to read that you had no hang ups about the exposure of your body. I an all boys Secondary school in the early 60's, and As I think I remember,it was common getting changed for pe meant all the boys stripping off together and changing into white shorts and no pants. No tops. Of course communal showers after. Like you this was the norm. I do not know what happens nowadays, but it was the same at Scout camp. Six to a tent and all undressing for bed in the one tent, bearing in mind it would be a patrol of different ages from about 11 to 15. ( the youngest soon learnt about puberty from the older boys) perhaps this was the idea.

At camp we were supposed to all take some form of nightwear, but being away from home it seemed daring to sleep au natural.

Are lads as adventerous nowadays all is it all cover up. I am sure pe is now longer shorts, underwear and tops. Does any one know?

Comments by Chrid on 10th January 2016  

I think there appears to be different aspects to PE depending on school type and size.
I went to a small private school from 73 - 78 in the UK. The school was a converted large house in which residents still resided between floors.
PE was very much part of this all boys school.
We had no changing rooms and had to get changed st our desks when ordered to do so, where you would strip down to your underwear and we had a dare of not wearing any to school on the day when we were 12/13 as we had a female elderly teacher whom would walk around and examine boys for marks and bruising (signs of abuse) I was examined once in side room or small book room because of marks on my buttocks from a belting my step dad gave me the night before - they rang home and were satisfied it was a valid and justified punishment so those and future markings were dismissed.
PE was performed only in white shorts or underwear if you had neither you were caned.
We had two shower heads on the corner of the toilets - which meant going back to your desk - stripping naked and wrapping a towel around yourself or just sitting on a towel until you were called up for the shower in pairs.
Any fooling in the shower which were overseen by prefects would result in lines (issued by the prefects) or a report for a caning by the headmaster.
Post shower and to speed things up, you returned to class to finish drying by the gas heater (warm) and get dressed.
I had no issues with the process and found that it removed my hang-ups on my body with regards to being a little chubby.

Comments by Jono on 7th January 2016  

Hi Joe, It was just a very ordinary mixed school. The way the gym was with reinforced glass running all down the corridor side meant it was unavoidable that girls would look in, especially with one of the dinner halls just opposite and with staggered lunchtimes, barechested boys provided their distraction when queueing up . There was always friendly banter exchanged and it common for girls to point out an older/younger brother in the gym, and even sympathy if they sometimes thought it was just a bit too cold to be barechested on a particularly cold day. It always meant you went that bit harder to attract a girls attention. Happy days!

Comments by ROY on 3rd January 2016  

I did PE and also cross-country while stripped to the waist in the 1960's
It was the normal practice and we thought nothing of it.

Comments by John on 1st January 2016   http://i1053.photobucket.com/albums/s463/hagi52156/13304105325_2b9e52d27a_o.jpg

Click on link for image

Comments by John on 1st January 2016  

Can anyone confirm that some schools in Belgium impose a shirtless PE uniform on boys in 2015 as seems to suggest the photo posted earlier. Is there a comeback of the shirtless PE lesson in continental Europe??


Comments by Joe on 1st January 2016  

Jono, thanks for the additional details about your PE classes - sounds fairly intense! From your comment at the end I just wondered; were girls often present when you did PE then? If so how did boys feel about being barechested in front of them? I'd imagine it was an extra incentive to work hard and look good.

Comments by Mark Procter on 1st January 2016  Mbprocter@hotmail.co.uk 

It's Burnley Grammar School, Lancashire, England.
About 1977. Remember it well. Mr Parry taught PE and Geography too I think.

Comments by Jono on 31st December 2015  

Joe and John, thanks for your comments. Having the whole group split into different coloured shorts worked well, with the only occasional grumble from some coming during the winter. Our timetable always gave 3 double PE sessions and 2 singles a week. We did do indoor games like basketball, 3 onto 1 where you had to pass a football between the 3 and stop the 1 from catching it, boxing and fitness sessions, which were done alternate weeks indoors then outside regardless of time of year(outdoors was the usual, football, cross country runs and in the summer, athletics) Being worked like that made most of us sweat regulary, regardless of age, and no girl would have wanted to see a vest sticking to you!

Comments by John Lavender on 28th December 2015  finswimmerjohn52@gmail.com 

Jono has a valid Point, in my Opinion.
At Grammar School (1960s)we asked several times to be able to be allowed to wear just Shorts for PE instead of Tee Shirt and shorts , and to have different coloured Shorts to diferentiate Houses and therefore Teams.
It was to no avail, we had 'skins v.vests'until Form/Year V .
I don't think there would have been a big problem in Games like Killerball ( a sort of Indoor Rugby with fewer Rules) apart from the odd misplaced Pass in a ruck or the odd misplaced Punch!

Comments by Matt on 27th December 2015  

Don't know, if this Belgium but the brickwork and apparatus look European, could also be Germany.

Comments by Joe on 27th December 2015  

Sounds to me like Jono's school had the most sensible system for splitting boys into teams. When you think about it there's no reason why different coloured shorts can't be just as effective as different coloured tops. I also think it might be better if every boy was barechested than just half the class, if it's the same for everyone that might make it easier for those who feel embarrassed about standing out from the crowd.

Comments by Mark on 26th December 2015  

How do you know this is Belgium, Christophe ? I live here and as far as I know shirtless PE is not common practice here unless it is a special school for gymnastics.

Comments by James on 25th December 2015  

This photo looks very recent indeed. Thrilled to seen that in some countries and schools old PE traditions are still respected. The boys look fit and strong and seem not bothered at all about having their photo taken which seems to suggest that this is actually their normal PE kit. Even the slightly fat boy on the right doesn't seem unduly concerned. They are really at ease with being stripped to the waist for PE. Good for them, great school!

Comments by Jono on 25th December 2015  

We were split the same way except half in white shorts and half in white. Which colour you wore was down to which class you were in. Odd no's wore black, evens wore white. This meant all boys had shirts off regardless. Simple but very effective!

Comments by Christophe on 25th December 2015  


Comments by John Lavender on 25th December 2015  finswimmerjohn52@gmail.com 


I - and I assume others - have tried to copy and paste the Link you gave in your comment but it doesn't seem to work . The URL seems to be repeated in the text.
My email is shown on the heading at the top if you hover your Mouse above the email symbol, could you email a copy of the image , or show a working URL , please?