Burnley Grammar School

Childhood - Schools


Year: 1959         Item #: 1607         Views: 655,619         Comments: 2,380

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

2380 user comment(s) below:-

Comments by Paul on 6th September 2014  

We wore short trousers at my school and to maintain smartness our school maintained'the finger tip rule'which meant short trousers must not be longer than where the fingers reached when standing.
There were about 60 boys in the choir aged from 11 to 17 and every one of them were compelled to wear black short trousers and white knee socks for each of their concerts.

Comments by James on 4th September 2014  

I don't know if boys these days think this way but back in my school days short trousers were definitely an obvious marker of inferior junior status which is why we hated having to wear them.
My school had a similar rule that shorts had to be worn until you were aged 13 and 6 months but there was an additional provision which allowed boys to graduate to longs when they reached the height of 5feet 3 inches so we used to queue up at the matron's office at the start of each term to be measured hoping we had reached this magic figure.

Comments by Mike on 3rd September 2014  

I was stripped to the waist for games and PE from starting school at the age of five until A Levels at 18+.
We wore white shorts for indoors and black or navy blue for cross-country.
Although going barefoot wasn't obligatory most of us did so.
The winters then seemed to be colder but we soon got used to being bare chested.

Comments by Daniel on 23rd August 2014  

Spence, The girls were so used to seeing you exercise barechested, indoors or out, it wouldn't have bothered them.

We were barechested for PE and Games lessons from the age of 9 through to the end of A levels at 18. The cold winters were tough to start with but after your first year you knew what to expect.

Comments by Spence on 21st August 2014  

David, thanks for replying. Presumably, if you did ballroom dancing with the girls, you wore ordinary clothing and not PE kit. If you wore PE kit, the girl would have had to touch your bare shoulder when doing the waltz etc. Probably more embarrasing for them than you.

Comments by Allen on 21st August 2014  

BCG vaccination was a parental option at my (private, boys) school. Most, but not all, went for it. If my memory is correct, it was done at age 14 in 1967. It was administered on the "production line" basis with boys lining up in the North entrance lobby outside and leading into the the medical room. Jackets and shirts were removed when you had advanced to that point, and the needle was applied behind a screen not for privacy's sake, but to stop you seeing what was being done to the chap in front.

I recall that it was a case of alphabetical order, and, as I am a "W" I had had plenty of accounts of how ghastly the process was from nearly everybody else (from A to V). The fact that the chap immediately in front of me fainted and was carried out unconscious was not a good sign and did not reassure me either.

This was no ordinary injection and it was not done with a normal hypodermic, rather what looked like a pair of surgical lances, one to cut deep into the main muscle of the upper arm (which you had to hold up horizontally while the medic did the business from behind you) and the other to proddle about a bit in the hole it had made for half a minute or so, presumably administering the active ingredient. Ye gods did it hurt, and not just while it was being done! The tools were not disposable: being more or less the last in the queue of 120, I suspect they were coming to the end of their useful lives by the time they got to me, and as for the sterilization between bodies, this seemed to be achieved only by standing the instruments in alcohol!

Nobody was allowed to do PE or games for a week afterwards because the wound had to be kept dry and protected from knocks. Mine duly went septic and kept producing pus in some quantity for about six weeks before it finally healed over. so I was off games for the rest of term - whoopee!

Most chaps had a clearly visible scar as a result of this procedure, which in my case at least remains as such nearly half a century later. It was a very unpleasant experience indeed, but at least I've not had TB and it was the best excuse ever to get out of games!

I will reminisce about the terrible experiences of PE and games anon, whether anyone is interested or not!

Comments by David on 20th August 2014  

Hi Spence,
In the 1960's most houses where we lived didn't have central heating or double glazing, that is why our parents insisted we wore vests and jumpers even though they kept us in short pants up to 12-13, so in a way you got used to the cold.
The school had central heating so was actually warmer than home - but it was noticeably cooler first thing in a morning especially when it was really cold in winter until the heat built up.
Regardless of the time of year the boys PE kit was white cotton shorts and plimsolls, bare-chested, no underwear and no socks. This applied from us being 11 year olds up to leaving at 16.
In winter if you had a lesson first period - you could have goose bumps and be shivering, we all were on occasion - but if you moaned about it, you were considered a wimp.
When the lesson began you soon forgot about the cold and soon were warmed up if not sweating.
We weren't particularly noisy either - we were young, relatively fit and light footed.
The classrooms round the sides had solid wooden walls to about 4' 6" (137cm) then wooden frames with glass to the ceiling.
When we were doing lessons our in class you didn't particularly notice any PE class in the hall, so it was reasonably soundproof.
PE was generally always done separately with girls - there were only a few occasions during my time there when we had to share lessons. Boys PE was generally more focused on physical fitness than the girls from what I saw. I can't even remember what we would have done together -probably practiced ballroom type dancing.
Yes girls could wear cardigans or track suit tops if they were cold. The boys kit list also included a track suit ironically - that was a waste of our parent's money because we never got to wear them.
When we had a games period - it was done about 300 metres from the main school in an annexe by the school playing field. There were a couple of other classrooms and a sports changing room and shower block each for boys and girls.
Now that was cold in winter! After slogging away at cross country or whichever sport you were doing - as soon as you stopped whatever it was - the cold was bitter. Talk about being numb! you looked forward to a hot shower just to get some feeling back into your fingers and toes.
Hope that answers your questions.

Comments by Simon on 20th August 2014  

Like Daniel, I was at school in the 80s and boys' PE kit was very much at the teacher's discretion. In my first year of senior school we all wore a vest for PE, as specified in the official uniform list along with shorts and trainers. However the next year we had a different PE teacher and at the first lesson he made it clear that we were required to do it bare-chested. There were one or two murmurs of protest but he then announced that any boy wearing a vest in 10 seconds would get detention for the whole term! Without hesitation everyone did as they were told and our vests remained unused for the rest of the year. For outdoor PE you still wore a football top but you frequently ended up losing that too as the teams were often shirts and skins.

Comments by Spence on 19th August 2014  

David, one wonders what it was like for the teachers and pupils in the classes adjoining the gym, with the noise created by 30 teenage boys running about and presumably exercising their vocal muscles as much as the rest of their bodies. Perhaps the classrooms had thick walls.

How cold was it in the in the gym in winter? Did you have lessons with the girls on cold days? If so, were boys shivering and covered in goose pimples while the girls were fully covered apart from bare knees. Were girls allowed to wear extra clothing in the gym on cold days? I assume boys were not allowed additional kit whatever the temperature.

Comments by Daniel on 17th August 2014  

David's comments were spot on. Though I was at school in the 80's this was how you did PE. Although officially our uniform kit sheet stated boys required a vest, our teacher had other thoughts.

At the start of our first PE lesson our teacher randomly picked me to face the class, remove my vest and run to the back of the gym drop it on the floor and run back and made it crystal clear it would never be worn again. A couple of minutes later my classmates were told to do the same thing and the vests remained there until picked up at the end of the lesson. From then on all lads were bare top for their time at school.

David is absolutely right in pointing out no one (girls aside) paid any attention to lads exercising indoors our outdoors in all weathers, it was considered 100% normal. The gym was a suntrap all the year round and with our teacher being very demanding it wasn't unusual for lads of all ages to sweat especially during fitness sessions and basketball games for which one team would have a coloured sash to identify the teams.

Unlike David, though cross country was always performed with vests off regardless of the temperature and one team had their sach on for identification during House competitions.

Comments by David on 15th August 2014  

I went to a mixed Secondary Modern school in a small village school on the outskirts of a city in West Yorkshire between 1961 - 1966 probably with about 300 pupils in total & each year's intake would have about 30 girls & 30 boys.
On my first day after the register was taken our first class was double PE for us boys and it was taken in the School Hall. The hall was used for morning assembly & gym with apparatus to the sides hinged to open out. A number of the classrooms in the school were off the main hall. So while the girls went off to do their lesson, we boys were told to go & change into our pe kit which consisted of white cotton shorts & plimsolls with no socks & no underwear. It felt a bit strange wearing so little but that was soon forgotten because the lesson was quite intense and I actually enjoyed the freedom without the restriction of clothes.
Then the bell rang for the next lesson. We were directed to sit in the middle of the hall cross legged on the floor. All the classroom doors opened & the pupils came into the hall & in an anticlockwise direction walked round the edge of the hall to their next class.
We were on view to the whole school but no one seemed bothered in the slightest - them or us and like Michael said in his post earlier- it was considered healthy & manly in those days and wasn't just our class - it was any double pe. Sometimes the PE teacher decided to do the lesson in the playground so again you were on open view to the passer-by but it was never something you thought about - you were more concerned making it through the lesson without upsetting the teacher & all that entailed!!
Discipline was strict, and any transgression was dealt with swiftly with the pump administered on the spot and in front of the class.
This happened quite often.
For team games half of us were given coloured bands to distinguish sides.
One of the best games I remember was pirates - the sea was the floor & you had to avoid being caught by jumping across the various apparatus and mats laid about and not falling into the sea whilst being chased by the opposing team. The chasing side started with two people & as you were caught you joined their team - great fun.
When we occasionally shared PE with the girls it felt quite normal since we did swimming together anyway so had got used to wearing minimal clothing. The girls kit was knickers, gym-slip, vest, T shirt, socks & pumps. In winter I was sometimes quite envious of them but in warm summers I think they might have been a bit jealous of our freedom.
Outdoor games & cross country was done with a football top in House colours or it could be shirt v skins if the teacher decided. I can't remember if anyone did cross country without shirts but you could take your top off if you wanted.
Boys were only ever called by their surnames even amongst their friends, and the girls by their first names.
I only ever knew of boys being given the pump or cane - I think girls got detention or lines. We did PE twice a week plus a double games lesson & a swimming lesson
We boys had to shower after games lessons & swimming so everyone got used to being naked in front of others pretty quickly & it was no big deal.
I did come across a You Tube classic- typical of boys PE at the time. It's only a short clip of about 30 seconds (Starts around 1m 30secs- but just as I remember it).
Go to YouTube & enter:- Teacher Gwyn Evans

Comments by Allen on 12th August 2014  

BCG vaccination was a parental option at my (private, boys) school. Most, but not all, went for it. If my memory is correct, it was done at age 14 in 1967. It was administered on the "production line" basis with boys lining up in the North entrance lobby outside and leading into the the medical room. Jackets and shirts were removed when you had advanced to that point, and the needle was applied behind a screen not for privacy's sake, but to stop you seeing what was being done to the chap in front.

I recall that it was a case of alphabetical order, and, as I am a "W" I had had plenty of accounts of how ghastly the process was from nearly everybody else (from A to V). The fact that the chap immediately in front of me fainted and was carried out unconscious was not a good sign and did not reassure me either.

This was no ordinary injection and it was not done with a normal hypodermic, rather what looked like a pair of surgical lances, one to cut deep into the main muscle of the upper arm (which you had to hold up horizontally while the medic did the business from behind you) and the other to proddle about a bit in the hole it had made for half a minute or so, presumably administering the active ingredient. Ye gods did it hurt, and not just while it was being done! The tools were not disposable: being more or less the last in the queue of 120, I suspect they were coming to the end of their useful lives by the time they got to me, and as for the sterilization between bodies, this seemed to be achieved only by standing the instruments in alcohol!

Nobody was allowed to do PE or games for a week afterwards because the wound had to be kept dry and protected from knocks. Mine duly went septic and kept producing pus in some quantity for about six weeks before it finally healed over. so I was off games for the rest of term - whoopee!

Most chaps had a clearly visible scar as a result of this procedure, which in my case at least remains as such nearly half a century later. It was a very unpleasant experience indeed, but at least I've not had TB and it was the best excuse ever to get out of games!

I will reminisce about the terrible experiences of PE and games anon, whether anyone is interested or not!

Comments by Michael on 7th August 2014  

My mixed grammar school was steeped in traditional values, and boys being shirtless for games was in no way viewed as indecent. In fact, it was viewed as 'healthy' and 'manly'.

So, it was entirely routine for groups of boys to be put in teams of 'skins' and 'shirts' for games, either indoors, or out of doors in good weather.

Not that it made much difference indoors, with one side of the gym being made up entirely of glass panels and open to view to anyone passing by outside. From what I can remember no-one ever gave us a second glance.

So, none of us boys was concerned if we were chosen for the 'skins' team, as we deemed it irrelevant in itself. We wanted to start the game as quickly as possible, and were far more interested in who else was in the same team, and hence how likely we were to win.

No male at the public swimming baths covers their chest, and few men feel it necessary to cover up at the seaside, whether on the beach or walking along the promenade. On my local housing development in sunny weather, many of my male neighbours routinely do their gardening, car washing or even local shopping errands shirtless.

On sunny days I cover myself up because I'm fair-skinned and tend to burn easily. Otherwise I'd happily walk down the street shirtless without a second thought.

Comments by Monty on 6th August 2014  monty1962@outlook.com 

Yes I got my BCG in 1976 and remember it well. Not a very pleasant experience. Some (though not me) had appallingly bruised and swollen arms as a result of the carelessness or incompetence of the nurse jabbing the needle. I believe that when it started in the 1950's it was a very valuable way of preventing TB but by the time it ended, in 2005, it was no longer really needed because TB had been all but eradicated, at least in this country.

I remember that although it was generally compulsory one boy in my form was exempted on medical grounds. He didn't say why but the rest of us presumed it was because he was very weedy and would probably faint in terror at the sight of the needle. But maybe like Phil he had some kind of immunity.

I must say that I am a bit puzzled by Phil's comments about exposure of the upper body being "disgusting". It made me wonder if times changed so radically between 1976 and 1989 (and 2014) that taking your shirt off in public now induces feelings of panic and paranoia.

I consider male shirtlessness so normal that I generally wouldn't even notice it. This got me thinking that maybe things have changed and it is less prevalent in contemporary Britain, I just hadn't noticed the change. So I've just been in to town and deliberately kept my eyes open to see if there was anyone baring "nipples and navel", as Phil describes it.

Now it is a warm sunny day today but the town is small (population 5,000) and almost deserted mid afternoon. But almost the first person I saw was fellow of about 20 wearing long trousers, a cap - and no shirt. He wasn't carrying a shirt with him either. He walked right past me and exhibited total unconcern. Walking round the corner the very next person I saw was a youth of about 14 on a mountain bike, wearing what I think are called "jogging pants" and trainers, but nothing else - no hat, no shirt. Again exhibiting total unconcern.

This confirms my belief that for the vast majority of males, even today, taking your shirt off in public is no big deal. Why should it be "disgusting" to be asked to temporarily remove your shirt in school when it is considered normal to do so in a public place on a warm day? I must say Phil I am at a loss to understand your comment.

I will be the first to admit that a sight of an overweight, heavily tattoo'd member of the English working class revealing mounds of naked pink flesh while sizzling in the summer sun is not a sight which holds any aesthetic appeal. But surely it is, on the whole, a good thing if people feel so comfortable in their skins that they think nothing of exposing their upper bodies - just like the lads in the photo here? (....so I arrive back on topic by a roundabout route!)

Comments by Andrea on 5th August 2014  andreatwo@hotmail.co.uk 

I think I was about 14 when I had the BCG jab; we all had the pre-test first but unfortunately I was amongst the ones who didn't already have the immunity and so had to have the big needle!

We were allowed to keep our blouses on until we got into the medical room and then remove them while we had the injection. I think we were pretty much all wearing bras by then, so weren't actually topless when we had the injection.

I went to an all girls secondary school, so don't know what happened with the boys, although I can't really see that wearing a vest would get in the way.


Comments by Phil on 3rd August 2014  

I remember the BCG Tuberculosis jabs back in 1989 when I was 16. I was lucky I had a pre-test on my arm and had plus +1 TB immunity so did not need the jab.

Girls that failed could take their shirts of in the medical room and have the injections done with their bras on.

The boys that had to have the innoculation had to take of their jumpers, shirts, ties and vest and were made to stand outside in the school foyer for up to 15 minutes waiting for the jab in the medical room.

Imagine having to stand their in a school with your nipples and navel showing. They said it was to "save time" but this topless rule did not apply to females.

Today with all the equality and diversity legislation this would not be allowed. Absolutely disgusting!

Comments by Roy on 30th July 2014  

I certainly remember the BCG vaccine against TB.

Comments by Andrea on 29th July 2014  andreatwo@hotmail.co.uk 

I can't recollect having medicals at Primary School, but we did have one not long after starting at Secondary School.

I can remember having to strip down to my vest and knickers in a room next to the medical room and then go in to have my height and weight checked by the school nurse. She also checked hands for warts and feet for verrucas. The worst bit was having to lift up my vest so the doctor could use his stethoscope, which I can remember being cold!

Some of my classmates told me that they had to unfasten their bras so the doctor could check how their breasts were developing, but I wasn't at that stage yet!

Does anyone remember the dreaded BCG injections from Secondary school?

Comments by Monty on 26th July 2014  monty1962@outlook.com 

I remember medicals in primary school where we all had to stand in a line outside the head's office - which the visiting doctor was using - in our awful white 1970's Y fronts. My primary school was co-ed and I remember girls walking past us - though I think they had their medical exams separately, and I don't recall seeing them have to stand in a public corridor in their knickers - I doubt they had to, as in those days girls were thought to have a greater need for privacy than boys. None of us boys thought it odd and we even horsed around a bit in front of the girls. I don't recall feeling even slightly embarrassed at this.

I remember nothing of the actual medical and I was spared a medical at my public school because only boarders had to have one when they joined the Upper School, and I only became a boarder in the sixth form. I remember other sixth formers telling the new boys to watch out for when the doctor said "How do you like school dinners?", because this was inevitably the prelude to having your testicles grabbed and being asked to cough. The same doctor had been visiting the school for years and must have used that line hundreds of times. Actually I think it was a good idea of the doctor's - most 13 year olds would have found this experience a bit awkward, even in the 70's, and I think this helped reduce the embarrassment a bit.

(Apologies for straying off topic a bit)

Comments by David on 26th July 2014  

We had our yearly medical exam and had to line up stripped to the waist outside the medical room.
I could never understand why we had to have our eyes and ears tested while stripped to the waist but that was the rule.
Then still stripped to the waist we went individually before the doctor and nurse.

Comments by David on 26th July 2014  

The school I attended had a typical uniform of navy blue blazer,stripped tie and long trousers.However what intrigued me was that included in the uniform requirement were short pants,knee stockings showing the house colours and garters to hold them in place.The shorts were invariably brief and trim and after being tried on and purchased were deposited in the wardrobe,hopefully never to be worn.
At my first visit to my new school the majority of boys were wearing their school uniform and only a few were wearing shorts,even some of the older ones.I never found out why and didn't enquire,i just thought it was their parents quaint custom.
I never got into trouble at school until I went into the library,when it wasn't my turn,I liked reading and went in to avoid going out in the cold.When the teacher came in although I tried to hide I was caught and told to see her after lessons.I awaited my punishment with trepidation and after waiting for the bell after the last lesson expecting lines or even the cane.After being giver a stern lecture and told to straighten my tie I was told"you will wear short trousers for six weeks".I was devastated and confessed to my parents who could do nothing to get me out of my predicament.

Comments by Andrea on 20th July 2014  andreatwo@hotmail.co.uk 

At my all girls secondary school in the early to mid 1970s we had those divided games shorts (culottes)and a long sleeved cotton shirt for outdoor PE in winter.
Indoor PE kit was always navy gym knickers and a white T shirt or polo shirt. For the first couple of years our outdoor kit in summer was the same as the indoor kit but from the third year we were allowed to wear a games skirt over the gym knickers if we wished.

We only had swimming lessons for the first couple of years and had to wear a regulation navy blue swimming costume.

Comments by Barney on 20th July 2014  

To Jeff
I agree with your final sentence. I think that these days there is too much inhibition. We never thought twice in secondary school about minimal wear for pe or games. Perhaps it was better for being single sex school. Only one female teacher who never went near the pe classes.

Comments by Jeff on 20th July 2014  

From the posts here it seems that schools had different requirements for PE kit. Some schools had white shorts and vests for both boys and girls, as at my school, some schools required both boys and girls do PE in just underwear, others had bare chested in just shorts for boys. Still others required that no underwear be worn under shorts.
I can sympathise with Monty and others here who had to wear just tiny white see-through shorts which they found embarrassing, especially in mixed classes or with female teachers present.

What I find interesting here is Matthew's and others' accounts of having to do swimming classes, and even galas in front of spectators totally naked. I don't think anything could be more embarrassing than that, especially in the presence of female teachers and other female staff and spectators. I can't imagine me having to do that at school.
But I suppose it is like Matthew said, one gets used to everything, and at that age, primary school age it wouldn't have mattered so much. But at an older age into teens, as he mentions, it would have been very embarrassing and humiliating.
But I guess they were more innocent times, unlike today. One wonders if they were in fact better times for kids than today's uptightness and fear of exposure.

Comments by Dave on 19th July 2014  

We were always stripped to the waist for PE at my school and even the boys who were wary of it soon got used to it.
By the time we reached sixth form many lads had got hairy chests and some thought they were better than the lads with hairless chests!!!

Comments by James on 18th July 2014  


I remember wearing those nylon shorts for the first time,albeit with a slight degree of trepidation.We all wore the same white shorts for running,athletics and gymnastics.They were very short and were worn without anything underneath which would easily have been detected due to their transparency.Our mixed school must have offered an alluring site for many female onlookers.

Comments by Matthew on 16th July 2014  

Adrea, yes, i think there were allowances made for more developed boys. They just didn't participate in the galas and i don't blame them. Most of us were just young boys and didn't mind or even think of it as being odd. I would add that if a girl had appeared, then that would have been totally different and we would all have freaked oout.

Comments by Barney on 16th July 2014  

In answer to type of school. Secondary was all boys. Primary was mixed. For pe boys just removed their shirts & in those days we all wore singlets which were kept on for pe. Girs removed skirts & did pe in regulation navy blue underwear. No equality for girls those days. Boys I knew form other primary schools told me they had to remove their shorts and do pe in their briefs & singlet, just like the girls.

Comments by Monty on 15th July 2014  monty1962@outlook.com 


I can't speak for Barney, but I found the tiny white see-through shorts EXTREMELY embarrassing. My birthday is in November so I was old for my year, and as well as that I developed earlier than most of my classmates. During the course of my first term in the Lower School - i.e. Autumn 1974 - I shot up massively in height and by the time of my birthday in November 74 it was impossible for me to wear the shorts without pants, as the rules technically required. Not only was it hugely awkward that everything was pretty much visible through the pants themselves, it was actually physically impossible for me to prevent things from hanging out of the side of my shorts....you can understand why I started breaking school rules by wearing pants underneath from about the time of my birthday. I am just relieved I was not compelled to remove them! (If the PE master noticed than perhaps he had compassion on me!)


Comments by Andrea on 15th July 2014  andreatwo@hotmail.co.uk 

Those see through white shorts must have been pretty embarrassing - I thought our white polo shirts were bad enough, but at least we had a bra underneath them when we developed! Was it an all boys school, or were there girls around too?

Was any allowance made for the boy who had started to mature earlier than the rest? When I was at primary school there weren't any changing rooms so boys and girls had to change together in the classroom. A few girls who had started to develop in the final year were allowed to go to the toilets to change in privacy though.


Comments by Michael on 14th July 2014  

It was always perishing cold in our gym - no matter how warm it might have been outdoors. Considering that one side was a huge expanse of glass, it must have been a work of machiavellian genius on the part of the architect, (or the north facing aspect) that accounted for the constantly chilly temperature.

To make matters worse, the showers were always cold and we were allowed insufficient time to get properly dried afterwards. Thus, we hurried to our next lessons exhausted, wet and shivering, and feeling in no fit state to give the subject our full attention.

If all that, three times a week, was supposed to be healthy, then give me a sofa and a plate of chips anytime.

Comments by Barney on 14th July 2014  

Our pe kit was shorts no pants or top, plimsolls no socks indoors.

Outside again no pants but with a tee shirt and bare top, but Autumn/Winter terms a tee shirt or other type top no specific uniform.

The shorts were were white,very short & tight which & thin. I think that this was insisted upon to deter us from wearing pants which would have been seen. Furthermore I expect the tightness was meant togave us support because we never knew about any athletic support or told about it. So in winter extremely chilly and heaven help you if it rained (see through)

Scout camp we wore shorts normally for me my school ones because my parents could not afford too many different types. Pants were worn but because my shorts were white of course my pants showed. However, in that day and age we all wore white briefs so no one cared.

Scout uniform was khaki shorts so no problem nothing showed in public.

Comments by Matthew on 14th July 2014  

Monty, i know, you could not imagine it now. There was probably only one or two boys who were 14, the majority being 12 - 13. Plus all the junior school. We were all generally pretty immature although there was one lad who had developed more than most. My school was one of those that was clinging on to the old public school image, ie cold showers, no heating but slowly changed after i had left. Very strict and a harsh regime so you abided with what was required without hesitation.

Comments by Monty on 13th July 2014  monty1962@outlook.com 


Without wishing to doubt you in any way, I have to say your account seems very unusual. Was it really the case that boys as old as 15 had to walk up naked to receive their swimming prizes from the headmaster's wife? In England, in the 1970's?

My mother was Akela of a Cub Scout Pack in the 1960's and 70's and as an older teen I sometimes went with her on Cub camps. I am quite sure that cubs - that's to say, boys up to the age of 11 - were quite unabashed about being naked in her presence. In fact, I remember a county cub swimming gala when I was a cub where she came into the changing rooms and gave a pep talk whilst surrounded by dozens of naked or semi-naked little boys. No one batted an eyelid. But the point is we were little boys - pre pubescent - and the account by a previous poster of a line of naked 11 year olds receiving swimming prizes from the headmaster's wife at a no-trunks school swim meet is one that seems quite normal for the 1970's and before.

I do think it was a very different matter once puberty was reached, however. Although unabashed about public nudity in front of other males, I would have been mortified to have been naked in front of females any time after the age of 11, and I cannot think of any occasions in my youth when this happened to me or anyone I know.

I boarded in the sixth form, and the only females we ever saw were the housemaster's wife and the matron. Neither of them every saw any of us naked, as far as I'm aware, although we had daily communal showers (no cubicles or curtains) and even the bathrooms had multiple baths in the same room. We thought nothing of the housemaster talking to us while we were in the showers, but the housemaster's wife... that was inconceivable.

The only episode I can think of is when years later I was in the army in Germany in the early 1990's and went to a public swimming pool. Whilst changing in the large open plan changing room a cleaning woman barged in and started mopping the floor. I was rather startled - though I think I was decent, as it happened - but there were also half a dozen (German) teenage boys getting changed. I was curious to see how they would react to the intrusion of a female so I remember observing their expressions - with one exception they reacted with total unconcern. The exception was one lad who seemed to make a point of dropping his towel and trying to make eye contact with the cleaner whilst completely starkers, in a very brazen way, to signify (I think) his disapproval - a sort of "what are you looking at, then?" attitude. (All wasted effort as she didn't so much as glance at any of us but kept plying her mop).

But Germans are different....

I do entirely agree with you about attempting to cover up making things worse. I once swam in a pool (not at school) where nudity was the rule in the water and I vividly recall a boy of about 13 cupping his genitals in a way which did nothing except attract attention. He didn't seem to be made any differently to anyone else so he achieved nothing except ensure that people noticed him whereas if he hadn't made such an elaborate display no-one would have given him a second thought!

Apologies if this is a bit off topic but many fascinating reminiscences have been raised by many posts here.

Comments by Matthew on 13th July 2014  

When females came to watch the house galas, it was fine and no one really minded. The one exception was the odd new boy who tried to cover himself up. In fact, that made it worse. The headmasters wife always handed out the prizes at the end and you had to go and collect any silver ware still butt naked.
We did have corporal punishment but it was the last few years of it - late 70's. Cane and slipped. Gym master always preferred to dish out the gym shoe which was mighty painful and left marks.

Comments by Barney on 11th July 2014  


I agree with your final comments. In all my years at school & Scouts it was all boys and we did not think about it being odd seeing each other starkers. Like you during PE when we paired up to perform handstands & other exercises we often saw each others equipment & thought nothing of it.

Yes lads were expected to be wearing the mininmum of clothing especially at camp. With regards to impropriety, one was never alone with either a teacher or Scout leader.Thinking about it the Leader was protected from any allegations because the Scout leader always had at least one assiatnt with him. You were always togther as a group. So without thinking about it there was safety in numbers and yes in the context of camp, the one NOT stripping off was thought to be odd for not joining in. I know when we had hot weather at camp,some boys would jump into a river butt naked without thinking. It took me some time but eventually after over coming my shyness,I joined in.
In fact I loved going to camp, and got to enjoy the freedom of being away from my parents so I could join in with the others and experience the fun. I did not have to wear pj's although they were packed in my kit & I could go to bed andsleep in my pants or if I dare like the other boys with nothing on.

Those were days of freedom, unlike the these days when evryone seems afraid to do anything in case they infringe some rule.

Comments by Jeff on 11th July 2014  

Were the boys embarrassed to swim naked in front of female teachers during school galas, especially at the age you mention when the boys were in their teens?
Also, did you have corporal punishment at the school?

Comments by Dave on 10th July 2014  

Hi Barney!

What was your whole PE kit? Were you allowed to wear shirts? What did you wear at scout camps for physical exercises?

Comments by Monty on 10th July 2014  


Thanks for your comments. I had always assumed swimming trunks under shorts was a late innovation so it's interesting to hear a different story.

The no-underpants rule with PE shorts was sensible if you were going to take a shower afterwards, but as we never had time for a shower after PE it seemed pointless and, by the time we were in the Upper School, positively embarrassing with the very short semi-transparent nylon white shorts we had to wear. I distinctly remember at one boy stripping his underpants off to put his shorts on for PE right up to the age of 16, when he was really far too old to be doing this with any degree of comfort or decency. But no one thought it odd. And I am sure he was not alone, although I remember him in particular because on one occasion someone slapped his bare arse as a jocular insult, as he was getting changed, which he reacted to with extreme annoyance (as anyone would).

Barney's remarks reminded me how very different things were back then. I was in the scouts from 1975-1979 and there was a culture of casual nudity at our scout camps, encouraged by the scoutmaster (though he didn't participate in it). I should stress that I was unaware of any kind of impropriety which was, I believe, far from anyone's mind - it was just considered natural. Although I wasn't shy, I thought it a bit odd that others like to spend so much time undressed. Looking back it seems ironic to recall that I was teased for NOT going naked with the suggestion that I was being "unmanly" or even "queer" !

It was certainly a different world then. I look back on those times with pleasant nostalgia and I am convinced that neither I nor anyone I knew was treated improperly or abusively. It was all a far cry from the hysteria of the present day, which cannot be good for the psychological health of modern youngsters.

Comments by Barney on 9th July 2014  

I attended a secondary modern school between 1961 & 1966 and during all that time we never wore any suppport for either pe or games. It was not suggested to us. We did not have naked swimming lessons as these were at a public pool. Although only the calss was present. However there were the showers and a pe maaster patrolling the changing rooms during the prepubic years. WE never thought anything strange. I think it was an era when most young men who became teachers had served in the forces possibly only as National Service. They along with our dads were used to the attitude of all fellas together and living & changing in in full view of each other in the huts/barracks where there would be several men together. Also most of my classmates were in one of the local Scout Troops or other organisations and would often go camping there would be up to 6 boys in one large tent so we were used to getting undressed together to say nothing of the primative Latrine toilets which had no privacy.

But times have moved on. Are youngsters now "softer" and more inhibited. Finally, I remember the whole class lining up for the regular Medical Exam. Down to underpants ( briefs of Course) no designer boxers, and dropping for the doctor often a woman. What do others think?

Comments by Andrea on 9th July 2014  andreatwo@hotmail.co.uk 


Re PE underwear.My ex told me that at the start of his third year at secondary school in the early 1970s their pe teacher sat all the boys down in the changing room and told them that they should start to wear an 'athletic supporter'(jockstrap) for pe and games lessons, or risk 'doing themselves an injury'. For the previous two years they had not been allowed to wear any underwear under their shorts.

He said that most boys did as they were told and he continued to wear one for sports into adulthood.

It's interesting to read that in other schools it wasn't considered necessary at all, or that teachers spoke to certain pupils when they thought it was becoming necessary.

In some cases there was a similar situation in our school with bras. Several of my classmates started to wear them after being 'advised' that it was time by our pe teacher!

Comments by michael on 7th July 2014  michaelabbey@rocketmail.com 

I was very interested to read your full account of your games and pe experiences.
Although I went to school in slightly earlier times, my memory of events is quite similar. In particular with regard to the prohibition of what I took to be our everyday underwear for sports.
In fact nobody ever checked what we were wearing and many boys soon took to wearing swimming trunks as a support. A major difference was that we were never instructed to wear a jock strap, not even by our most unpleasant sports master. Some boys, however, were advised to wear swimming trunks if they were in school teams and seemed to be in need of them!
It was only later when some senior boys took to jock straps instead of swimming trunks - rather than the reverse as you describe.
In any event it is interesting to read your comments on this subject as the majority of commenters had nevr it seems worn any kind of underwear / support which was not the case at my school.
If you or anyone wants to email me I would be pleased.

Comments by Matthew on 5th July 2014  

The swimming was always done naked for lessons either as a class or one to one. We did have galas for years 4 and 5, ie 12 to 14 years olds. If they were house galas they were always naked and some female teachesr watched, especially the sports teachers and house mistresses. The school galas were not done naked as we had to wear black trunks

Comments by david mayne on 5th July 2014  

To dave.yes we were allowed rugby shirt to wear for rugby and football, cross country running was a plain white teeshirt.for the gym class we were told only shorts. no trainers or teeshirt.we had to wear white cotton (rugby style) for outdoors and white nylon shorts for gym class.everyone seemed to wear umbro.As i said before no underwear was allowed.just swim trunks,nothing or some class members began wearing a jockstrap/athletic supporter.As were developing more of the class became aware of chest hair and were embarressed when walking back to the changing rooms passing the girls.

Comments by Monty on 5th July 2014  

An interesting and nostalgic photograph. At my school in the 70's we would have looked exactly like this in PE.

We often played "shirts v skins" tag games. One boy took off his vest and chased the others - when he "tagged" someone, the tagged boy had to take off his vest and join his team. As the numbers of skins increased it became harder and harder to avoid them until the last boy with a vest was caught. At that point, he became the "tagger" and the game began in reverse - but this time everyone he caught put his vest back on until everyone was fully clothed again.

I remember it being quite fun and energetic and I don't recall anyone thinking it odd or uncomfortable that we ran around shirtless.

We didn't shower after PE because there was always pressure to get to the next lesson. One day our regular PE master was replaced by a very sporty South African rugby coach who really put us through our paces. We were all dripping with sweat - much more so than was usually the case. At the end he said "right you'd better get a shower" - but we pointed out we wouldn't have time. (There were showers in the gym but they were rarely used). "Oh - well I'm afraid you'll have to smell for the rest of the day then." And we did - I remember wishing we did have time for a shower - we must have been about 15 then.

This was at an independent school in the English midlands. There were in fact 3 sub-schools on site - Prep, Lower and Upper. I joined the Lower in 1974 and left the Upper in 1981. On my first PE lesson I was getting changed into the (rather small) split-side nylon white shorts when another boy said "you can't wear underpants under your shorts." I was a bit surprised but did what I was told. Funnily enough the no-underpants rule was never enforced by the PE master and I suspect it was a rule in the Prep school. (Most boys, unlike me, had started in the Prep School).

I do remember one boy climbing the rope and all of us standing below watching him - he was quite some way up - and his equipment was clearly visible hanging out of his shorts. I remember feeling rather embarrassed on his behalf but if he or anyone else noticed anything they didn't say. We would have all been about 12 and he hadn't started puberty.

When I went into the Upper School I kept my underpants on beneath my shorts but some of the others I think continued to go commando right up to the end of compulsory PE at 16, though there was I'm sure no rule either way.

It was different for rugby where jock straps were compulsory. We had a rather unpleasant Lower School master who used to check we were wearing jock straps by going along a line of boys and pulling our shorts out from the back to look down them. I told my mother this and she just said "well you'd better make sure you always wear your jock strap!"

Later in the Upper school some boys took to wearing swimming trunks for rugy instead of jock straps but this was technically against school rules and I always wore a jock. I remember a classmate being tackled so severely when we were about 17 that his shorts were ripped to his knees and he was left lying bare-arsed on the grass (like me he was one who never wore trunks only a jock). No-one passed any remarks on this.

Swimming was done in an open air pool adjacent to the gym and we wore trunks, but interestingly this had not always been the case. I remember leafing through the huge bundle of school rules and found one which said "Sixth formers may wear swimming costumes". So clearly at some point trunks had been a sixth form privilege and junior boys swam naked. This was confirmed to me later by a (very old) boy. I don't know when this practice stopped; probably as early as the 1940's. (There were lots of bizarre rules which still persisted - e.g. I remember carrying an umbrella was a sixth form privilege - so it was the first thing I did when I became eligible).

I recently met an elderly couple on holiday who remarked that their three sons had been at Berkhamstead school in the 70's - the last one left in the early 80's - and the wife told me all her sons swam naked in school but the practice was ended before the last one left. Her husband said "I knew they swam naked but I never knew it had stopped before the youngest left." She said "I didn't tell you because it wasn't important."

I asked her what she thought about the practice and she said "I think it was very practical - they didn't have to worry about leaving mouldy kit around". She said neither she nor her boys thought there was anything odd about this. She did add that for swimming galas when spectators were present they did wear trunks.

Apart from Berkhamstead I think compulsory nude swimming for boys also persisted at Newcastle Royal Grammar and Manchester Grammar into the early 1980's. These must have been the last schools in the country to abandon the practice.

Much of the reason was probably conservatism. Our school uniform was originally tweed but when Queen Victoria died it was changed to mourning black. We were still wearing that when I was there! Although I gather this has now changed. I calculate that we were therefore mourning Queen Victoria for nearly 100 years!

Comments by Dave on 5th July 2014  

Hi David Mayne?

Were you allowed to wear shirts for inside and outside PE?

Comments by Ben on 4th July 2014  

When you say that the "swimming was always done naked" was this only for swimming lessons or also when there were swimming competitions or galas in front of mixed spectators?

Was it a boys only school or mixed?

Comments by david mayne on 2nd July 2014  

I visited a normal secondary school in the mid 80's.Upon our first p e lesson we were told that our bodies would develop and that we would have to shower.it was common for the teacher to be in the changing room making sure you all showered and not just run through.We also had to wear white shorts inside and outside.We were told to wear a swim costume or no pants which was awkward when it was a wet rugby lesson.One day the teacher told us we were not allowed to play football as the pitch was frozen and said we were to go swimming instead.those that chose to not bring swim trunks to wear were told to just wear their shorts.The horror on their faces I can remember now.The teacher said yes they were see through but we were all the same and hget on with it.

Comments by Matthew on 30th June 2014  

Familiar with many of the memories. I boarded when i was 11 - 13 but lived near the school. In the summer holidays i was given extra swimming lessons by the schools sports teacher at the school as my mother worked in the office. I went there a few times a week. I always got changed in the cubicles but swimming was always done naked and that was the routine for my lessons. Had to work on strokes outside of pool normally for about ten minutes and then did swimming. He was very good as he would teach actually in the pool, in trunks. He would support you on tumble turns turns. Never thought it was odd and i certainly improved.

Comments by NickK on 14th June 2014  

John Lavendar - thanks, I have sent you an email.