Clitheroe Royal Grammar School

Childhood - Schools


Year: 1959         Item #: 1602         Views: 104,933         Comments: 575

Clitheroe Royal Grammar School

Led by Stuart Bennett (Captain), right, the cross-country team returns from a practice run around the nearby country-side.
Source: Lancashire Life Magazine, November 1959

575 user comment(s) below:-

Comments by Ryan on 27th November 2016  

Thomas Somehow I managed to avoid the BCG at school. However, our school medicals sound similar to yours except they were held in a designated classroom the windows having been covered up Ours was an all boys school. We we called into the classroom from out of our lessons about 6 of us at a time. We lined up in the room stripped to the waste and stood in line one behind the other. Then we were called forward to the doctor and after several checks on ears eyes etc we told
to " drop em" Anyone being shy or coy got a gruff "I said drop them right down".

Of course this exposed your bare backside to the next person in the queue. The worrying thing (bearing in mind we were about 14 years old,) was that parents we invited to be present and usually those days mums stayed and home and it would be them. As far as I know much to the relief of us lads no ones mum ever attended. It was bad enough having a female nurse present.

Comments by Thomas on 27th November 2016 

Matt, was it ever explained why you had to strip completely for the BCG? Seems very strange. We had our BCG injections at school when I was 12-13 (in the 1980s) and I remember we were told to strip to the waist and queue up but we kept the rest of our clothes on. It was the same for general medical exams at school, although those were done in two stages. For the first part you were shirtless, then you went individually into the doctor's office and had to strip naked when instructed.
By the way, I wasn't clear from your description of cross country; did you run without a top? Quite a few people here have mentioned shirtless running as standard for boys in that era but I wasn't sure.
Sometimes boys did run shirtless at my school but only in warm weather and by choice. I can't say it would have appealed to me in winter conditions!

Comments by Matt on 25th November 2016 

As well as nudity in medicals, I remember it for X-rays. The first was when I was 8 or 9 at the local hospital. I was told to take off all my clothes in the changing room before the X-ray. That meant I had to walk naked in front of all the people in the changing room, and of course had to walk back.
The second time was a couple to years later after the BCG test for TB. I was in puberty and self-conscious about my body. I was told as a boy I had to strip completely - adult men only had to strip to the waist. I was then sent along a corridor to await my appointment standing outside the door while surprised looking, shirtless men came and went. It seemed an age, but it was soon over.
By the way, we did cross country/long distance running in brief, 60's style PE shorts and gymshoes. All weathers - I actually came to like frost, rain and wind!

Comments by Sterling on 17th November 2016  

I remember school sports physicals being quite overwhelming.
Maybe upwards of 40 lads at a time packed into the gym.
We had strip off in the changing room and proceed to the gym in our birthday suits.
As boarders we were well used to stripping off, but once we spotted the awaiting Female Doctor's and Nurses hands began quickly covering crotches.
They quickly put a stop to that!
There was no provision for privacy. No screens or curtains.
During college Physicals we had Male Physician's and kept our underwear on until the hernia check, performed behind a privacy screen.

Comments by Andrea on 10th October 2016 

I can recollect having two medicals during my time at Secondary School. The first was soon after I had started and was done in vest and pants (although the vest had to be lifted up enough for the doctor to use her stethoscope).

The second was in the 4th or 5th year, by which time the vest had given way to a bra. I did have to unfasten that and slip it down slightly to enable the (female) doctor to do a visual examination. Similarly I had to pull the top of my pants forward to allow her to see down there. I'm not sure what she was actually looking for, but she did ask if my periods were regular.

We had swimming lessons in our local municipal pool (which was closed to the public at that time) and had to wear a blue one piece costume.

Comments by Ian on 8th October 2016  

Sid at Secondary school the only experience of nudity apart from being in the all boys class in the showers was the dreaded school medical exam. All lined up made to strip to our briefs and then line up. We approached the doctor individually, and at the end of the examination the doctor nearly always a lady would without warning tell you top drop em & cough. That was the worst thing.

Comments by James on 7th October 2016  

Gavin - no problem! I went to Bedford Modern. We played against your school in rugby and cricket

Comments by Sid on 6th October 2016  

Ian, it was not uncommon for boy scouts to swim nude in those days. Even at my prep school we had to take swim class in the nude, often with female teachers and instuctors for us young boys up to age 12 or 13.
Someone asked what it would have felt like being made to swim nude at school. Well, I guess some boys were really embarrassed but most of us got used to it since we had no choice. The worst part was standing at attention for roll call and instuctions at the begining of class with everything on display, but once in the water we all had fun.

Comments by Ian on 30th September 2016  

In reply to Willy, I never experienced nude swimming at school . We had swimming lessons at the local municipal pool closed session for our school. We all wore the briefs type trunks now colloquially known as speedos. The only experience I had of nude swimming was at Buckmore Park Scout camp. Also when we went on summer scout camp at one of the private farms we used there was a secluded river which we would swim in. ~One day a scout dared someone to swim naked then we all did it. The leaders stayed in camp. No elf & safety those days. Also this was in the era when the Scout Association was only for boys.

Comments by Rob on 25th September 2016  

Willy, we used to run past the gate of the girls grammar school stripped to just PE shorts and plimsolls and were often watched by the girls and there was quite a bit of banter between us. We enjoyed it and I'm sure none of us felt any embarrassment.We were aged from 11 till 18 and although we may have been a bit skinny to start with, we grew into quite strapping lads as we got older and enjoyed showing off in front of the girls.

Comments by Willy on 25th September 2016  

I guess most of us schoolboys were skinny in those days, so nothing to show off. Most of us would have been uneasy with girls watching us stripped to the waist.

On another note, how many here had nude swimming at school? Some have even mentioned that they did swimming galas in the nude in front of spectators. I wonder what that would have felt like.

Comments by Gavin / Gedvin on 19th September 2016  

Hi James
Thanks for coming in and supporting me! Yes, we competed against other independent public schools and that was my experience, too! Which school did you attend?

Comments by Rob on 13th September 2016  

Hi Jono, Sounds like you went to a good school and I bet you boys looked forward to the inter house competitions in the gym, being able to show off barechested in front of the girls. I'm sure girls today would relish the opportunity of being allowed in the gym to watch the boys working up a sweat stripped to just a pair of PE shorts, but unfortunately times have changed.

Comments by Jono on 11th September 2016  

Hi Rob, We never had mixed PE, though the girls would stand and look through the door windows which were reinforced glass. They always were allowed into the gym to watch inter house competitions. I'm sure that girls today wouldn't mind watching the boys exercise barechested for PE.

Comments by Rob on 1st September 2016  

Jono, Thanks for the explanation. Glad you enjoyed being stripped down for normal PE and having the girls see you barechested. Did you have mixed PE lessons? Can't understand those boys being embarrassed about having hairy chests, I would have thought it made them feel more macho in front of the girls.

Comments by Jono on 31st August 2016  

Hi Rob,

We always knew in advance, the reason being is the majority lived a good distance from the school. My parents lived 35 miles from it. No service buses went that far, just 2 trips daily so long journey in and even longer at night. It hasn't changed much today either and yes our council tax bill is the same as if we had all the services people expect. No teacher wanted to have responsibility of having to get people home on their hands.

Comments by Rob on 30th August 2016  

Jono, what was the point of dragging you out of a lesson to the detriment of your education and of your classmates to have to go and strip to the waist,( presumably you mean to shorts and trainers) and be sent out on a run or made to work out. You must have been expecting it otherwise how would you have had your kit to change into? If they gave you, as you call it, PE punishment, why wasn't it done after school?

Comments by Jono on 28th August 2016  

Hi Dave,

The school's official kit was:

Pair of White and pair of black shorts.
White vest
School football / rugby top ( yellow )
trainers any kind I think if I remember hi tec " squash " and Dunlop " tennis " were the most popular choice of footwear.

I didn't know anyone when starting at the school, just moved into area when the school year started. One boy had an older sister a couple of years above who told him what he could expect.

Our teacher made it absolutely clear that we would strip down as soon as were in the gym. Our PE lessons were either indoors or out but we stayed barechested regardless of the weather or temperature.

The football/rugby tops were worn infrequently, if it was decided it was warm enough then it was shirts vs skins...this happened more often than not.

Cross Country runs were always done barechested unless it was an inter house competition then one class would wear vests to distinguish teams.

Inter house fitness and basketball competitions were always done with everyone barechested.

You may have wondered why we needed to have a pair of black shorts and a pair of white shorts. Well at the very start, we were given a number... 1s would wear white shorts and 2s would wear black shorts.
Then with us all barechested, you could easily pick out the teams.

PE punishments were swift. It was not unusual for lessons to be interupted and the "victim" taken from the classroom. You quickly found yourself stripped down to the waist and out on the yard before either being given a run or a full fitness session regardless of the weather or temperature. If it rained / snowed then it was your tough luck. I was lucky and had 4 such punishments.... but they were all during the winter months.

Being a mixed school gave the girls plenty of opportunity to see all of us stripped down. They certainly approved seeing us barechested and we did too. One thing that didn't affect me was the issue of chest hair. A few lads thought they'd be exempt from stripping down having a hairy chest...our teacher merely shrugged his shoulders and made the strip anyway.

Comments by James on 25th August 2016  

I think it was standard practice in my school for boys to wear a jockstrap especially age 14 onwards, so Gavin is quite right. Secondly, I seem to remember when we competed against otherschools, the boys wearing jockstraps, too. As for the ridiculous comment about jockstraps being unhygenic .. What tosh! They were washed!!

Comments by Ian on 24th August 2016  

In reply to Dave
I do not think that there was any reaction by us lads having to do PE shirtless. It is just how it was.
I knew about it two ways.
1 My elder brother attended the same school and I knew that topless and no pants was the way it was
2 When my father attended an evening meeting for new parents the PE teacher explained it was shorts no pants, tops or socks. We only did PE indoors all team games were outside and we wore any t shirt and co loured sashes.

In reply to Robs comments, if there was additional flesh showing we did not seem bothered. As you say we would all be naked together in the showers afterwards.

It does seem that there is more inhibition these days and my son at High school wears a uniform house polo shirt, shorts with pants and tracky bottoms(winter) No showers are provided.

Mind you talking with him it is not PE as we know it. I do not think they work up a sweat.

Are there any high schools that still have their own swimming pools or provide swimming lessons. If so what has to be worn. Is there a choice between speedo type trunks or swimming shorts?

Comments by Rob on 23rd August 2016  

Dominic, I entirely agree. Like the majority of boys for decades,we had to wear just shorts with no pants or anything else for pe and thoroughly enjoyed the feeling of freedom and fresh air. So we might have shown some additional flesh in the gym, but we were all naked when we were in the showers afterwards, anyway.

Comments by Dave on 23rd August 2016  

Hi Jono!What was the reaction of your classmates having to do PE shirtless. How did you get to know it? Was it in a uniform list or the teacher told it to you himself? Was there any reason given to you having to do PE shirtless? How did you play team games if you were all barechested?

As you've written you left school at 1993 sot it seems shirtless PE kit tradition lasted much more longer than I thougt.It was contiuned into the 90's. I wonder when and why it became not being a practice anymore.

Comments by Dave on 23rd August 2016  

Ian,what was the reaction of your classmates having to do PE shirtless. How did you get to know it? Was it in a uniform list or the teacher told it to you himself? Was there any reason given to you having to do PE shirtless? How did you play team games if you were all barechested?

Comments by Dominic on 22nd August 2016  

Ian - like you we were never told about athletic supports or felt the need for anything like that. At our first p.e. lesson, when we were told we would wear only a pair of shorts for p.e. with nothing underneath, it was mentioned that it was good for us to have plenty of fresh air in that area and it made sense both for hygiene and comfort. I can't help thinking an athletic support would be uncomfortable and unhygienic and I'm very glad we weren't made to wear them.

Comments by Ian on 22nd August 2016  

Re athletic supports, we were not told about or advised by the teachers of pe to wear them. Never gave a thought abouth them.

Comments by Gedvin on 22nd August 2016  

Hi Ian

Really surprised the older boys didn't wear athletic supports! Why on earth not?
Best wishes Gavin

Comments by Andrea on 21st August 2016 

In reply to Tim, I think mum's priority was to make sure that school clothes weren't so short or tight that they would prompt a letter home from school. Maybe it was slightly different at a boys school, but our teachers were quite strict about that sort of thing.

From what I recall, in a lot of cases, I did get two years out of a lot of my school clothes and where that wasn't possible (as with my first year blouses and PE tops), they were kept as spares for my younger sister.

Comments by Ian on 21st August 2016  

Hi Dave
I attended secondary school (all boys) 1961 to 1966 Indoors pe was the white shorts previously mentioned, no pants as was the norm it seems for that era. No top and plimsolls no socks.
Outdoors was winter football same shorts any t shirt( very few had football club shirts still no pants and football boots and socks. summer was simplified cricket quite soft balls white shorts again no pants and depending on temperature a vest or t shirt was optional.

Gedvin. In response to your comments at secondary school, we were never told about athletic supports and never wore them in any year..
In my junior school boys & girls did pe together and in our case all boys wore grey uniform shorts adn so for pe we simply took off our shirts and did the pe in shorts and vest. The girls however, removed their skirts (girls did not wear trousers then) and did the lesson with us in their underwear and vest. In this day and age this would be considered discrimination and either boys would have do the lesson the same as girls in pants or the girls would were shorts.
Furthermore, in the summer, pe was held outside in the playground which was by a busy road open to the publics view.. This would not happen now.

Finally, I have not known boys in Junior schools not wearing pants for pe, and being inspected. How was the inspection carried out and was in front of the girls?

Comments by Dave on 20th August 2016  

Hi Ian!

When did you go to school? Was it in England? Were you allowed to wear shirts for indoor or outdoor PE?

Comments by Ian on 19th August 2016  

Frank I wore grey shorts at secondary school until about the age of 14 (all boys school) My shorts were quite short and as far as I remember, not many shops sold shorts to cater for the older boy and they tended to be sized for younger lads. With briefs underneath they could become uncomfortable by the end of the day.

I wore long gray socks which were itchy, and for pe tight thin white shorts made of nylon and of of course no pants, which left little to the imagination, especially if we had a cross country run and it rained.

Later on more loose fitting white shorts became available, but then, with no pants there was the problem of support as we got older and depending on the exercises being carried out there could be some additional flesh on show.

However it was all part of school life and we just got on with it.

Comments by Gedvin on 19th August 2016  

My school required senior school boys to wear an 'athletic support' as stipulated in the school clothing requirements. So that would have meant any boy aged between 13 and 19. The regulation was never strictly policed, but wearing anything else but a jockstrap was frowned upon and over zealous prefects made you change if you were caught without one. When I was in the junior school we were not allowed to wear any underclothing under our shorts. This was definitely policed!

Comments by James on 19th August 2016  

Frank, I remember those knee stockings that were worn with the school uniform, usually in the winter to keep our legs warm.Usually boys went into long trousers at 14 or during the winter months and then back into shorts when it became warmer.
For me it was never an issue whether I should wear long trousers or shorts,it was considered mandatory and short trousers were replaced with more shorts as I grew older.
Yes,they were very cold items of clothing to wear in the winter, but I simply grew accustomed to wearing them and my parents indulged themselves in this practice till I left school.

Comments by Frank on 18th August 2016  

Like several other posters here have recounted, I was kept in shorts till I was 14, including secondary school uniform.
In vain I begged my mother to buy me long trousers for school, she just ignored my request.
Admittedly those uniform grey school shorts were knee length or just below the knee, and with near knee length socks. Anyone remember those woollen grey socks as part of school uniform?
Also from what I remember I think most boys at my school wore shorts anyway as part of uniform in the first few years of secondary school. This was in the 60s.

In contrast to the school uniform shorts our white PE shorts were really short and of thin material.

Comments by John on 18th August 2016  

Rob,Tim,Ian, I agree the shorter style of shorts look considerably smarter and more practicable in warm weather.
When boys were promoted to wearing long trousers usually at the age of thirteen, I was made to wear shorts up to year 11.
Usually the brief style of short trousers could be bought'off the peg', but they could be shortened to my mother's desired requirement.So that the correct length was achieved my shorts could be no longer than than when standing straight the hem of the shorts could be no longer than when standing straight the shorts could reach down to the tip of my fingers with my arms stretched downwards.
They were worn for winter and summer and could be very chill wearing them in cold weather.

Comments by Rob on 17th August 2016  

Since I retired, shorts are certainly my normal everyday summer wear usually from April till September, sometimes earlier till later. However, like Ian, I prefer the shorter type above the knee and agree that it is difficult to purchase the right length in a tailored design. I am fortunate that my wife is a dab hand with the sewing machine and can shorten them for me; that is often all you can do. I think that long baggy shorts below the knee or combat shorts look scruffy and apart from that I like to get my thighs tanned.

Comments by Tim on 17th August 2016  

A good number of years back I discovered the 'Kiwi'range by 'Craghopper'- which I liked but which were a little too long - the answer was to take them to a little Chinese seamstress who shortened them by some 3 1/2". I've done this with several pairs over the years, although it may not work with cargo shorts. Sadly the 'Kiwi' range, as I knew it, doesn't seem to be available now.
End of advert

Comments by Ian on 16th August 2016  

In response to Tim re shorter shorts. This is one of my main gripes about fashion today. It is difficult to purchase shorter shorts especially a tailored design. The majority seem to be long baggy shorts below the knee or combat shorts.

I prefer the shorter type.

Comments by John on 16th August 2016  

Tim, I agree that short shorts have gone returned to the fashion of the seventies and eighties and were worn all the year round.
They were not compulsory at school,but my parents decided to keep me in shorts permanently.

Comments by Tim on 15th August 2016  

@ Andrea - I can't honestly remember being made to try on the previous years clothes to see if they fitted - they just seemed to come. Perhaps the mothers of little girls had different 'priorities' than the mothers of little boys! (Bless 'Em All!. And ... as an only child I was spared shared bathwater.

As Rob says - communal showers came as an initial shock - but we just got on with it - there was no choice. Something I've noticed with warmer summers is that many youths & boys seem to be happier with shorter shorts on both the games field & street, and that shorts are almost becoming 'default' summer wear for men.

Comments by Rob on 15th August 2016  

My maternal grandmother had rickets as a child even earlier than the 1920's, and my mum was keen to ensure that I got out in the summer sunshine and when I was about 7 years I remember she asked me if I wanted to take my shirt off, which I did, plus my vest. After that I often used to enjoy running around in just shorts. So, when I went to grammar school I had no problem about being shirtless in PE, although after being used to just a weekly bath at home,having to take up to three communal showers a week, an innovation in itself, and nude in front of the other boys, still came as an initial shock , but which I soon overcame. My mum continued to ensure that when I was outdoors in the summer until I left school,I always wore shorts and made sure I got the sun to my body. I have continued this, passing this on to my two sons, to ensure that we all benefit from taking in Vitamin D, something which many youngsters today don't seem to be able to do.

Comments by Andrea on 9th August 2016 

As I remember it most of my school uniform started out as roomy and ending up tight and a little short! I always knew the school holidays were drawing to a close when mum made me try on last years uniform and PE kit to check what would do for another year and what needed to be replaced. I recall that a growth spurt over the summer between my first and second years necessitated a shopping trip not only for new blouses and PE shirts, but a different type of underwear too!

With regard to the weekly bath, when we were primary school age my sister and I used to argue about who's turn it was to have first use of the water!

Comments by Tim on 9th August 2016  

In reply to Dominic - my father suffered from Rickets in the 1920s.
In response to the comments about shirtless gym & games, showers, etc., - I think the very great majority of boys (& girls?) just accepted all of it as part of the process of growing up. Until the mid to late 50s you all knew that you'd probably be doing National Service anyway. There might have been an initial 'shock of the new' but that was all. (Whether the quality of the gym teaching was all that good I don't know and its too far back to discuss)

Comments by Dominic on 8th August 2016  

I remember my p.e. shorts lasted quite a few years too. Things got a bit cramped inside with bulges becoming more obvious but no-one seemed to care.
As for the comments about personal hygiene, Tim - you are so right. I remember in the 60s having a weekly bath at home and clothes were not changed nearly as frequently. Rickets had, I think, disappeared by then but I hear it is coming back as children are not allowed out in the sun without being covered up with excessive clothing or large amounts of sun block. Times change but not always for the better, perhaps.

Comments by Tim on 5th August 2016  

Just a couple of thoughts:
Rob says 'as far as our shorts were concerned,I don't think many of us grew out of them, they just got shorter and the gap between the waistband and our navels got wider'. - I completely agree - I think my first pair of (secondary) school gym shorts lasted about five years.

The whole think about topless gym/ no underpants makes sense to me if you look at the state of public health in the 20s & 30s when it was pretty poor. There was a definite 'outdoor movement' at that time and I don't think anyone would have thought much about boys doing gym & ganes topless. When coupled with the fact that lack of Vitamin D causes rickets exposure to the sun makes sense. Also in those days, for many, it was the 'weekly bath' rather than the 'daily shower' and clothes weren't changed as often as they are now so, to me, not exercising in sweaty clothes makes sense.

Comments by Rob on 1st August 2016  

The PE kit list which parents were given included a T-shirt, so we all brought one to the fist lesson. We were all sat on the floor in the gym and the master told us that when we got changed we must always take everything off, including pants and socks, and come back into the gym wearing just shorts with nothing underneath and plimsolls. So the T-shirts were never worn for PE. However,as far as our shorts were concerned,I don't think many of us grew out of them, they just got shorter and the gap between the waistband and our navels got wider. We used to be barefoot outside for athletics, and no-one ever commented about being shirtless in the gym or outdoors, especially cross country runs. I agree that boys need to wear minimum kit when involved in vigorous exercises,as we were made to do, and built up a really hot sweat,making us feel really great and looking forward to getting in the hot showers afterwards.

Comments by Dominic on 31st July 2016  

Dave - I was at my all boys Grammar School in the 60s - I don't know if there was a directive but we were always bare-chested for p.e. and games - barefoot as well but that might not have been as common. I think it might just have been about common sense, practicality and avoiding the need for unnecessary kit.
Simon - you are right about running barefoot not being as harsh as it sounds. I was glad we ran cross country barefoot as the course usually included some quite muddy bits and the thought of having to get plimsolls clean and dry again afterwards did not appeal. Feet did harden very quickly and I was never aware of any problems with having to run barefoot.

Comments by Jono on 31st July 2016  

Hi Dave, I left school in 1993 and barechested PE, cross country runs included, were the norm for us. I remember our first PE session. After changing we went straight to the gym and after a minute or so the teacher told us all to strip down and from then until leaving school at 18, all PE and Games sessions were done barechested.

I think at this stage it was the school's choice but our teacher being an ex army PTI, I guess it was inevitable. I know we all had our own personal thoughts but I preferred being barechested. As for cost, well it saved my mum having to buy a proper PE shirt that you'd grow out of anyway.

Comments by Simon on 31st July 2016  


It was just tradition - boys just needed to wear the minimum amount of kit to exercise in, no need for a shirt or socks.

Thus, shorts only inside, plus plimsolls outside (and sometimes barefoot, which isn't as harsh as it sounds, feet soon harden up).

Using runs as a punishment also had advantages, it imposes a physical punishmnet on a boy, is fairly long in duration, witnessed by other boys while the boy is undergoing punishment and keeps boys fit.

Certainly my boarding school had a hierarchy of punishments, from starting with lines, then detention, then some kind of physical exercise, then caning. Even canings started as a couple of strokes with a thin cane on trousers/briefs in private, and increased in intensity up to 6 (sometimes more) hard strokes with a much heavier cane on shorts (or even stripped) in publlic

Comments by Dave on 30th July 2016  

Rob, yes I didn't know that boys had to be barechested for outdoor runs. I live in middle-Europe. In primary school we had to wear vests even outdoors and in secondary school we wore T-shirts. We played shirts vs skins at basketball matches for examples.
Reading the posts it seems for me that in the 60's (and earlier from about the 40's?) shirtless PE kit was a standard for boys at schools in Western-Europe. I wonder what was the reason to introduce it to almost every schools. Was it a central recommendation?

Comments by Simon on 28th July 2016  

It was a small/medium boarding school in the West Midlands that has since joined with another one.

The early morning runs were normal for the time, and nothing unusual. Having prefects look after punishment runs or detentions, again was normal; most schools where this happened had a system where the prefects could cane a boy, or more often report them to a teacher for a caning - we had the later.

Most prefects were fine, one or two misused their power. In this situation they were going to get you caned, it was just a case of what excuse they used - typical things were being late turning up, or being cheeky, or "not trying". We just had to accept that we were going to be made to report to a teacher, wearing only our shorts and get 6 strokes of the cane.