Hesketh Fletcher Gym Team

Childhood - Schools


Year: 1935         Item #: 1741         Views: 161,850         Comments: 732

Hesketh Fletcher Gym Team

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Hesketh Fletcher Gym Team of Atherton, Greater Manchester.
Source: G. Smith.

732 user comment(s) below:-

Comments by Drew C on 3rd April 2019  

As a newbie to this I do not recall at any time being mistreated. We were all made to strip down to the waist for PE/Games indoors and outside for cross country and athletics during spring and summer. Punishment was being made to do a fitness test out on the field obviously bare chested regardless of weather or temperature, normally lasting a single lesson so you had to catch up after. Our teachers were fair but expected you to work and give effort regardless of ability, or lack of. Being made to strip at school was definitely a good thing. Girls were always keen to see us bare chested too, picking class teams for basketball, cross country and athletics based on what they could see in the gym or outside. When we were 11 one morning loudly suggested a lad sitting nearby should stop wearing a vest under his school shirt... and he did too.
Being stripped to the waist gives boys a sense of identity and proved a natural way to exercise. We often competed in inter school cross country competitions stripped down. That really narked some other teams but it allowed us to sweat freely and show our chests to others.

Comments by TimH on 27th March 2019  

I've not been spending too much time on here recently but like some other people I think some of the punishment stories may be a little inaccurate. Certainly in seven years in a Grammar School in the East Midlands in the early to mid 1960s I cannot recall anything relating to what has been mentioned.

Comments by NickK on 23rd March 2019  

Alan. Our PE kit was listed as vest (with stripe in school colours around the middle), shorts, ankle socks, and white plimolls. And that is what our parents bought when we joined the all boys grammar school age 11. But we quickly discovered that only shorts were allowed in the gym. No tops and barefoot. Pants were definitely not allowed but boys never learn and were quite frequently slippered for keeping them on. In second form we had a different PE master who insisted on the full kit - but by then (age 13) we were bigger and it was a tight fit. Some of the vests bought for us age 11 were more like crop tops! But the hanging from wallbars as a lesser punishment than a slippering continued.

Comments by Roy on 22nd March 2019  

Frank D I agree with you.

Comments by Frank D on 21st March 2019  

I would suggest a lot of these caning stories are wildly inaccurate!!

Comments by Alfie A on 21st March 2019  

We were not allowed to wear pants under our shorts and often everything was on view when exercising.

Comments by James on 21st March 2019  

Alfie A

It was quite brutal being caned in our shorts without wearing anything underneath and it did leave wheals for a few days,but fortunately they were covered when I wore my short trousers.
Wearing satin or nylon shorts which were fashionable at the time were ultra thin so were it was more painful.

Comments by Alan on 21st March 2019  


As we grew up with it, we regarded the risk of a caning in PE as normal.

Basically if you did something "serious" (like push another lad, cheat at a punishment, swear etc) and got caught you were told what was going to happen, then caned at front, usually at the end of the lesson. Some teachers caned more than others, one a lot and usually 4, 5 and 6 strokes. Probably in his lesson there was a caning every 2nd week, and often more than one boy.

To be honest, it was "exciting" to watch classmates line up and get caned - to see them waiting their turn, see the caning and if they cried. Naturally we saw the marks in the showers after.

It hurt of course, it hurt to take off your (usually tight) shorts after, but it was how things were.

Comments by Alfie A on 20th March 2019  

How did we all survive the corporal punishment of our day? Wearing thin white shorts and no pants when getting slippered was bad enough, but to think some teachers caned in pe lessons. It must have left wheals or marks.

Comments by Alan on 20th March 2019  


The lad caned would have been 14/15, and it was 6 strokes. It was for "not accepting your punishment" I think, thus the caning. It also illustrated clearly to the rest of us, that we had to hang unsupported at all times or face the consequences.

I assume you were shirtless and bare feet for your PE lessons.

Were you allowed pants, because with legs spread all would be on view!

We had to strip underpants off when changing, anyway with everyone stripped to the waist the waistband of the pants would have shown above your shorts.

Comments by NickK on 19th March 2019  

Alan. We too had to hang off the wallbars as a minor form of punishment. One PE master would talk about us needing to "cool our heels" and that always meant a few minutes (like you it couldn't have been more than one or two but felt like an eternity!) hanging from the top wall bar, feet free. A different PE master would always make us stretch our feet wide apart, no support, and hold the position. Anyone not making what he thought was a proper effort to hold the stress position would be slippered instead. Our gym kit was very short white cotton shorts.

How old was the lad who was caned for putting his feet on the rungs?

Comments by John on 19th March 2019  

Chris C,
I grew up in the 1970s and it was common for lads to play football shirtless in the street. Our PE teachers worked us all really hard and we always sweated a lot, there’s no way that my mates and I would have preferred to have been made to wear a t shirt or a vest for PE or cross country. I remain grateful for being made to strip to the waist for PE.

When lads were divided into teams, the PE teacher gave one team coloured bibs in order to distinguish the teams. Football was played wearing shirts, and our school football shirts were reversible with a different colour on the reverse side, so one team had to reverse their shirts. If it was a warm day the PE teacher would often make us play shirts vs skins for football. Being shirtless was normal for us, and no big deal, we enjoyed playing sports shirtless.

Comments by Alan on 19th March 2019  

Did anyone else get made to hang from the wall bars as a punishment in PE ?

Climb up, backs to the wall, hang by your arms, feet free - often 2 or 3 boys, side by side. Usually only a minute or two, but it seemed for ever.

We always wore shorts only, so with bare feet it was easy to see if you tried to support yourself. Once one boy got caught with his feet on the bars, he was called down and caned, straight away in front of the whole class.

Comments by Rob on 18th March 2019  

Andrew R, Surely, the lad realised that he had to take his vest off when he saw that you were all stripped to the waist.I was at an all boys grammar school in the late fifties so I can't recall exactly in our gym sessions when I started sweating, but it wouldn't have been because the gym was too warm. We were always worked hard at whatever activity we were doing and it was practically non-stop.I do remember that when we all had to stop to listen to the PE instuctor we had to sit on the floor with our legs outstretched and support our arms on the floor behind us. At this point the sweat used to trickle down my sides from my armpits and down my back and chest and when I got up again my legs were covered in sweat. I felt great and was very glad that I was stripped to the waist and wearing just gym shorts, looking forward to getting in the showers. You haven't said when you were at your school but I remember feeling reluctant to take my shorts off after the first gym session and then going naked into the open communal showers. If you had to shower, I wonder how your lad with have coped with that.

Comments by Alan on 18th March 2019  

In my experience we simply did as we were told in all aspects of school life.

We had a uniform, we were expected to wear all of it, and to wear it "properly" (tie/shirt done up, hair short/combed, cap on etc)

PE/games were like this, but worse. No teacher ever used first names, it was "Smith, hurry up lad" and so on. PE lessons involved circuits, controlled with the teachers whistle, and if you weren't soaked in sweat you weren't trying hard enough.

Cross country was simply change into shorts, line up outside, run, no talking to each other (or at least don't get caught talking). It may well have been sub zero, but we all knew that we had to run stripped to the waist, and anyone who complained got their backside warmed up.

Comments by Chris C on 18th March 2019  

John, I read your post saying that most boys prefer to do PE stripped to the waist - but to be honest that doesn't accord with my own experiences. The only time I can remember boys in my PE class going shirtless was if they'd forgotten their vest, or had to remove it to distinguish teams. In the sixth form PE became optional and virtually self supervised, but even then I don't recall many lads choosing to discard their vests. I was at school 25-30 years ago so not all that recent.

Comments by Andrew R on 18th March 2019  

I remember a new lad about 13 at the timestarted at our school.This was his first experience of stripping to the waist and was very reluctant to take off his vest when he was told. He got some laughs from us and some taunts from the teacher, at finally that point he stripped off. Rob, at which point in your gym sessions did you start to sweat? Was the gym too warm?

Comments by Rob on 17th March 2019  

We certainly expected to have to do as we were told about anything, but particularly when it involved school uniform. After morning assembly in the school hall we would have to file out past the headmaster who would pull out anyone who hadn't, for example, tied his tie correctly,or had a button undone on his blazer. Similarly, if we had been told to wear a vest for PE no-one would have dared to deliberately go bare chested. Fortunately, I was glad we had to be stripped to the waist and as we were made to work hard and sweated profusely. Naturally, we all had to conform to showering after every PE lesson.

Comments by John on 16th March 2019  

Your school had a sensible PE kit rule for lads. The fact that so many posts on this forum have mentioned boys deciding to switch from wearing a top to
going barechested for PE seems to indicate that most lads prefer to do PE stripped to the waist. I’m glad that I was able to do PE in just shorts and pumps and not have to put up with wearing a totally unnecessary hot and sweaty T shirt or vest.

Comments by Alan on 16th March 2019  

There have been a couple of comments about new boys going shirtless, and the others switching.

Certainly at my school (which had a shorts only policy inside, stripped to the waist for xc), new boys had to conform, irrespective of what they were used to.

There was no debate, and the cane enforced this.

Comments by Rob on 15th March 2019  

Julian, when I started at an all boys grammar school our uniform list stipulated T shirt and shorts for PE, but when we arrived for our first gym lesson we were told to get changed into just shorts and plimsolls, no pants or socks and stripped to the waist. This continued throughout our time at the school. When we were in the sixth form, a group of boys from the local secondary mixed school joined us to do A levels.They had all worn vests and shorts for PE and it was they who now had to be stripped to the waist. They all agreed that it was much more comfortable, especially when they were able to enjoy the freedom and fresh air outside on a cross country run.

Comments by John on 15th March 2019  

Really interesting post. It’s great that your PE teachers allowed you to choose to be barechested for PE after being positively influenced by the new group of lads. Doing PE shirtless is much more comfortable than having a hot, sweaty shirt sticking to your back, it just makes total sense. I feel sorry for lads in the present day who are made to wear shirts or vests for PE.

Comments by Chris G on 15th March 2019  

Julian, how did your PE teacher respond to the newcomer going topless? And then to the rest of you doing likewise? Encouraging, tolerant or against the idea?

Comments by Rob on 14th March 2019  

Philip, thanks for confirming what I thought was probably the case.I could imagine the boy, who was not a disruptive chap,may have gone to his next lesson at one of his chosen option subjects looking decidedly'unhappy'and telling the master why and setting off a speedy investigation which led to the student teacher's instant dismissal.

Comments by Julian on 14th March 2019  

When I started secondary school the uniform list stipulated vest and shorts for PE but in one year a new boy joined us and he always stripped to the waist.
In Fourth Form(Year 10 today)a group of boys joined us to do O levels and they came from a neighbouring school that didn't do O Levels.They all did PE bare-chested and gradually the rest of us went topless as well and so we all ended up stripped to the waist and many of us went barefoot as well.

Comments by Philip on 13th March 2019  

To Rob. A student teacher would not be authorised to administer corporal punishment. What he did obviously became known to the management of your school and he would be removed so that would be why you never saw him again.

Comments by Alice on 13th March 2019  

Hi Andrea

I couldn’t imagine any school forbidding PE kit at that age nowadays! I guess that all have kit and even have spares for anyone who forgets theirs.

Once I was in year 8 I normally did wear a vest on PE days. I still didn’t need a bra so it was a choice of vest or going bare. A few times when we had PE when it wasn’t timetabled we had to just undress and then some of us without bras weren’t wearing vests, so maybe 10 or so of us would have to do it in just our knickers.

Comments by Rob on 13th March 2019  

Alfie A, That's why I remember it so vividly.I don't know why he was wearing underpants; we had all been at the school long enough to know that we were not allowed to wear anything under shorts for any activity,in the gym or on the playing fields. It was the first, and indeed, the only time that I can recall anyone being discovered wearing anything and I believe we were all shocked at the punishment and the manner in which it was carried out in front of us all. We never heard any more about it, but also we never saw the student teacher again in the school.

Comments by Alfie A on 11th March 2019  

Re that last comment about punishment, that was savage

Comments by Alfie A on 7th March 2019  

With regards to shorts for pe, in my secondary school (1961 to (1966) there was no specific uniform design or colour and so there was quite a mixture. At one games session one lad who always had to be the first to have any new design, wore a pair of white nylon shorts. The problem was we were outside and it started to rain hard and because of the no pants rule his shorts very quickly revealed everything. After that lesson he went back to wearing black shorts. Most of the lads wore shorts that were quite baggy and when we had to do handstands with a partner supporting our legs in the upright position these shorts became quite revealing. However we were all had to take our turn doing the handstand and of course after the lesson we would all be stripping off in the changing room and no one was bothered. I understand it is quite different.
these days.

Comments by Rob on 7th March 2019  

A student teacher took our PE class once when we were about aged 15 and caught a boy wearing pants under his shorts. We all had to stand in a circle around the boy while he was told to remove his shorts and underpants plus plimsolls and he was given six of the best on his backside with one of them. He was then made to stand under a cold shower for the remainder of the lesson.

Comments by Jono on 6th March 2019  

Alan, it's good to know that cold showers as punishment wasn't unique to my school. It was certainly an experience.

Comments by Andrea on 6th March 2019  andreatwo@hotmail.co.uk 

Can you imagine the reaction if any school tried to impose that rule nowadays!

Like you, I was still flat chested when I started at secondary school, but some of my classmates weren't. I would estimate that about half were wearing bras by the end of the year. Some could probably have done without, but some definitely needed them!

Did you wear a vest for PE in Year 8?

Comments by Alice on 5th March 2019  


I don't remember our PE teacher ever actually saying why we had to be topless in Yr7. I thinkw e were all quite shocked when she first told us so no-one thought to ask, even if we'd been brave enough, and afterwards it was just accepted as what was required.

I think it might have been uncomfortable for the more developed girls, but I don't remember anyone in my form being that large. I myself was basically flat chested until I was much older, so having to do gym with no top on wasn't physically uncomfortable.

I started senior school in 1992, and I know the "no PE kit" rule was still in place when I left in 1996.

Comments by James on 5th March 2019  

FrankC,we must have been brought up in similar backgrounds where we had to wear short trousers past the rite of passage ,usually about 13.
My mother also'thought it was healthier having legs open to the elements'but in freezing weather it was bitterly cold on our bare legs.Probably the reason I had to wear shorts was so my mother could impress her authority over me and took delight in keeping me in short trousers through adolescence.

Comments by Rob on 3rd March 2019  

James,I was afraid that your shorts were loose and short like ours in the late fifties and the girls would have been able to see more than they were supposed to.Being at an all boys school it was of no consequence to us. No doubt your shorts would have been white, very brief, but tight, like the 1966 England World Cup team.I can understand how the girls enjoyed seeing the boys up close wearing nothing ,but their shorts, leaving very little to their imagination.

Comments by Frank C on 2nd March 2019  

Nice to see the Hesketh site filling up with comments once more! Hi James,Last year I published a comment on the Burnley site about me being fourteen at Grammar school before I wore long trousers to school mainly Due to my parents preference.I think my mother thought it was healthier having legs open to the elements!My Scottish cousin visited us in the summer holidays and was quite jealous of him! After a meaningful discussion they relented to my preference.

Comments by Alan on 2nd March 2019  


Yes, it was colder where I grew up. In those days kids didn't travel much, so we really only knew where we lived.

We'd seen boys from the school out running, and it seemed very grown up for them to run stripped to the waist - so in some ways when we wanted to be like this. When we got the kit list, I remember my Mum questioning the fact there was no t-shirt/vest (or socks), and my Dad saying soemthing like "he doesn't need a shirt, it won't kill him"

Yes we had hot showers, kind of hot anyway. One teacher used cold showers as a punishment, and I got punished like this a couple of times.

Comments by James on 2nd March 2019  

Rob,we weren't segregated from the girls and participated in the same activities.The shorts that we wore were we also absurdly brief and that was the fashion in the sixties and strict rules didn't allow us to wear anything under our shorts.Wearing shorts that were so short often led from derogatory remarks of mockery and derision.

Comments by Rob on 1st March 2019  

Alan, thanks for your response. Yes, very much further north than us living in the shelter of the South Downs in Sussex; I can imagine how cold it gets in winter. I was at a grammar school in the late fifties and like you we had to do as the teachers told us without question.
We wore the same as you to school and had to strip off completely in the changing room and then back into the gym or outside in just our PE shorts and plimsolls. As you say, it was normal for boys to run cross country shirtless, and we also ran on local roads and onto woodland and fields.I hand it to you though, Alan, I reckon you had it a damn sight tougher than us down south. I hope you had some decent hot showers to get under when you returned.

Comments by Andrea on 1st March 2019  andreatwo@hotmail.co.uk 

I was rather surprised at first, but didn't really question him about it. He started doing it during the summer when it was warm. I did worry about him being too cold in winter, but I think he sometimes wore his pants and a T shirt in really cold weather.

Did your PE teacher say why you had to be topless in Yr7?
I would imagine it would have been uncomfortable for the more developed girls! What era was this?
In contrast to yours, our PE teacher encouraged several of my classmates to start wearing a bra.

Comments by Rob on 1st March 2019  

James, When you had mixed PE lessons were boys and girls segregated at either ends of the gym? If you wore just PE shorts with nothing underneath, as we did, little wonder some of the boys were very shy and embarrassed. I remember the problems we had, and we were an all boys school.In the fifties our parents bought us a pair of gym shorts and most of us continued wearing the same pair all through the school and they became dangerously short.

Comments by James on 1st March 2019  

Andrew,I attended a mixed school and we often had mixed PE lessons.We wore just our shorts, as usual and as there was no alternative we accepted it,although some of the boys were very shy and embarrassed.
I'm sure the girls enjoyed the spectacle of seeing so many boys participating in the games wearing nothing,but their shorts.

Comments by Jono on 1st March 2019  

Although our school was mixed the girls would see you stripped off outside on the yard from whichever classroom you were in for they all looked out over the yard and field or through the huge reinforced glass panels that separated the corridor from the gym. Alan, like you, we were expected to strip strippto the waist for x-country and for outdoor fitness sessions too which in winter were held weekly regardless of the weather or temperature. It made you appreciate the luxury of the heated gym all the more. It was always common for cold showers to be given as punishment. You would spend a set period of time, usually 5-6 minutes, with your your shorts on and freezing water hit your back and chest together. You didn't come out until your time was up which felt an age. During my time at school I received two cold showers. My first came age 12 and the last at 14 for being lazy and not showing sweat on my upper body following gym.

Comments by Andrew on 28th February 2019   andrew_bx@yahoo.co.uk

Much like Alice we were a mixed school but separate PE lessons but I wonder how many here would have felt differently about how they were dressed had their lessons been mixed though?

I got used to our PE kit in the end, but I wonder if in a mixed lesson may have resented it.

Comments by Fiona on 28th February 2019  


"I think my son was influenced by some of his friends who he saw going without PJs at a sleepover."

Did you have any opinion on this development, one way or the other?

Comments by Alice on 28th February 2019  

Hi everyone, I thought I'd add my school experiences. I went to a mixed secondary school that had single sex PE lessons. When we were outdoors the boys used the gym, and when they were on the field, we were inside. Because of this we never saw each other, and that meant our teachers didn't worry about what we wore. In Year 7 we weren't allowed to wear our new PE kits in the gym, and we had to undress right down to our knickers, and the girls who had bras even had to take them off as we all had to go topless. In Year 8 we were allowed to wear our vests or bras for indoor PE, along with our knickers. A lot of us chose to wear a vest on PE days as they covered more than a bra, and it was strictly one or the other. After Year 8 we were finally allowed to wear PE kit.

Comments by James on 28th February 2019  

Rob,we too had to participate in games in very harsh conditions and we were only allowed to wear shorts.
Shorts in the sixties and seventies were inexorably short with an inside leg of about three inches,very similar in length to my shorts that I wore for school.
It was amazing how we withstood the bitterly cold weather wearing nothing but our shorts, while teachers who supervised us wore every item of clothing available to keep themselves warm.

Comments by Alan on 28th February 2019  stu151@hotmail.com 


I went to a grammar school just outside Newcastle, so east side of the country, and very cold winters.

As other people have commented, the world has changed, one room heated at home, ice inside bedroom windows etc. The other difference is that basically we did as teachers told us without question, or faces the consequences. When I was caned, my Dad 110% supported the teachers, in fact he often thought I got off light !

Cross country was always done shirtless, so it wasn't unusual to see boys from the school out running (woodlands, fields as well as local roads around the school). It was “normal” - that's how boys did cross country.

You were freezing of course. At school in the winter you wore vest, shirt, sweater, blazer etc, then into the cahnging rooms and strip it all off, and outside in just your shorts. Usually the wind was biting as well, but there wasn't a debate, it was “right boys, cross country today, just rugby shorts, plimsolls if you have them, MOVE”

Lined up waiting, all you wanted to do was get running.

If anyone had complained or wore a vest/shirt, they would have been made to strip it off and caned, so you didn't.

Comments by Graham on 27th February 2019  


Looking back from this distance, it was probably a bit of both. I was about in the middle of my class age-wise and development-wise, so seeing older boys wearing their newly-acquired jock-straps was intriguing, as I had never heard of these garments before. Having borrowed one to try, I lost no time in getting my parents to get me one of my own. I found it comfortable to wear and it made me feel more grown-up.