Burnley Grammar School

Childhood - Schools


Year: 1959         Item #: 1607         Views: 593,296         Comments: 2,144

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

2144 user comment(s) below:-

Comments by John on 22nd August 2018  

Craig, until the age of 9 Iíd done PE in my school shorts and vest. In the 1960/70s most lads wore vests underneath their school shirts, some of my school friends didnít have central heating at home. Halfway through Junior School the policy on boys PE clothing changed. We always got undressed in the classroom along with the girls, our teacher used to say ďget undressed for PEĒ. One day out of the blue our teacher said ďget undressed for PE and boys you must strip to the waistĒ ; we were not familiar with the term Ďstripí and lads looked at each other puzzled. Then a tall and brainy lad took his vest off, then the penny dropped and the rest of us took our vests off. Unsurprisingly some of the girls made fun of us because they could see that we felt self conscious.

At first I felt almost naked wearing only shorts and pumps and thought that it was unfair the way that it had been introduced. Our parents should have had a letter to explain the reasoning behind the new policy and they could
have explained it to us. I felt very self conscious for probably two PE lessons but by the third I found myself thinking about cartwheels, forward rolls and other gymnastic movements and was totally unaware of being barechested. We were worked hard in the gym and made to work up a sweat, I quickly realised that I remained cooler without a vest.

If the school had decided to revert to the former policy of making lads wear vests for PE I would have complained to my parents to try and ensure that I could be exempt from, wearing a vest or t shirt. On reflection shirtless is the healthiest and most sensible PE kit rule for lads for indoor PE, it would have been better if that policy had been enforced in the infant school. It was only because weíd been made to wear vests until age 9 that we felt self conscious when we were told that from now on we had to do PE stripped to the waist. There is no reason in my opinion why lads should not be shirtless for indoor PE.

Comments by Stacey C on 22nd August 2018  

John,apologies I misread your reply. You I respect lads for stripping to the waist to exercise. It shows discipline in a physical environment. Sadly we live in a culture that stops boys becoming young men and accepting who they are.

Comments by Craig A on 21st August 2018  

Stacey, though our kit included a vest after just a couple of minutes into the very first PE lesson we were told to strip down. I'm sure your brothers experienced something similar. John, what was your experience the first time you stripped off for PE.

Comments by John on 21st August 2018  

Stacey C, I personally agree with your brothers and preferred not to have to wear a vest for outdoor PE either. I was just commenting that in the present day I donít think any school would make lads strip to the waist for PE/Games in winter.

Comments by Stacey C on 21st August 2018  

When we were at school it was the norm for boys to be stripped down to the waist for PE/Games throughout the year. Being stripped down for outdoor fitness and xcountry runs seemed totally unnecessary especially in the snow. My brothers said they'd rather strip than wear a vest anytime regardless of the conditions...

Comments by John on 20th August 2018  

Stacey C,

Thanks for your post, shirtless PE didnít seem to do your brothers any harm. I donít think any school would make lads exercise barechested outdoors in winter but with centrally heated indoor gymnasiums/sports halls there is no reason why lads need to wear tops for indoor PE. If wearing tops is optional shy lads will choose to always wear a top and this will not help them to become happy with their own self image and gain confidence.
Itís fairer to have a stripped to the waist PE kit rule for lads for indoor PE.

When I was at school the PE teacher worked us hard for gym and we sweated profusely, none of us would have wanted to wear a vest or t shirt for indoor PE. Being forced to wear a top would have made us even more uncomfortably hot.

Comments by Stacey C on 20th August 2018  

I enjoyed seeing boys of all ages exercising stripped both in the gym and outside in winter throughout school. The gym had a huge reinforced window running length of the corridor was easy to watch. Craig A was right about sweating up, it was so common to see lads sweat in the gym and I really mean it dripping down chests and backs... Still want to wear a t-shirt? My older brothers went through the same school stripped to the waist like many lads did. I witnessed boys of all ages suffer some horrendous PE sessions stripped down during the winter months where it was literally freezing,my brothers did but accepted it had to be done,no choice other than to strip. Vests could have helped to make a difference, at least the boys could have chosen. Stripping to the waist is still the most effective PE kit though it was misused by some schools. Sensibly done it would offer today's boys with a tried and tested way, address body issues and add interest to the classes.

Comments by John on 20th August 2018  


What youíve written does not sound in the least bit plausible.

Comments by Eric on 20th August 2018  

So iím not the one who was made to run bare chested. I think it is important to start without a shirt and without a safety one. It could happen on purpose or someone could ďstealĒ your short so that you can only run bare chested in every conditions. It helped me a lot because I live in a place which is very muddy and before that experience Iíve always had to dirty a shirt. Instead, now I go through puddles and muddy fields bare chested so that my chest got totally dirty but I could save shirts.. moreover if it rained, it would clean my chest from mud and grass, like a shower ahah. Anyway I started playing airsoft shirtless too, with protection on my face but without shirt. Have you ever play air soft shirtless?

Comments by Bernard on 19th August 2018  

Craig - I remember cross country in a variety of conditions as you decribe - always wearing nothing but a pair of shorts. We could get cold sometimes, especially our feet if there was snow on the ground but I thought it was a very welcome break from being couped up in a stifling classroom.

Comments by Michael on 19th August 2018  

I was often sent out on cross-country runs in poor weather.

If it was raining or snowing the PE teacher simply remarked that we were a bunch of softies who needed toughening up.

Maybe he was right - most of us were of an academic rather than a sporting inclination - it was a grammar school, after all.

He sometimes even drove out in his Ford Zodiac to the turning point of the run, and sat there with the engine running and heater on. Drinking from a hot flask of coffee, he ticked off our names as he watched us running past.

As we never knew on what occasions he might be there, we had to do the full run every time - no short cuts.

The girls didn't seem to feel sorry for us. Instead, I'm sure they were relieved that they weren't treated like we boys were.

Comments by Craig A on 18th August 2018  

We did plenty of xcountry runs at school in the pouring rain, snow, general cold stripped to the waist. I also had my fair share of remedial PE sessions, also stripped down with the rain stotting off the yard and laps around the field also barechested.

Comments by John on 18th August 2018  

It would be interesting to hear from females who attended co-ed primary and secondary schools in the 1970s/1980s to find out what their views are regarding boys being made to do PE stripped to the waist.

Did they ever have joint PE lessons with the boys or were they always separate?

Did they feel sorry for boys when they saw them sent on a cross country run stripped to the waist

Comments by TimH on 16th August 2018  

Completely agree with Roy & Sceptic!

Comments by Roy on 15th August 2018  

I agree.

Comments by Sceptic on 14th August 2018  

What a load of old cobblers!

Comments by Eric on 11th August 2018  

Just to talk about pe shirtless experience
One time we were doing PE and we were playing football at sea. It was winter and we were with a vest because there were around 35/38 F. degrees. One of my friend made my a strong faul and I reacted so that teacher order me to take off my shirt and to play without it as a punishment. It was very cold but I was used to it because sometimes I run in snow bare chested. The problem was that I threw her my shirt so that she got very angry and said: ďok if you donít want to go to the headmaster for this, just go into the seaĒ I was frozen, without a shirt and it also started raining, in fact my classmates went to repare under a palm, but I had to do this thing to avoid the headmaster so I entered in the sea and remained there for some minutes. When I came out she didnít give me back my shirt so that I was shirtless with pouring rain on my chest and I couldnít warm in any way... unluckily I reacted another time to the teacher so after we went back to school on foot, obviously I was still shirtless under rain, she said ok we must continue. She said ok I put your shirt in your class but youíll go back school after other 2 hours of excericises. She let me run for other 10 kilometer in a park near school. It was very muddy and my chest got dirty. Then she let me made a lot of push ups near puddles so that I can got more dirty. At the end of the punishment, which lasted 3 hours, she said ďok youíre tough, you can go back school on foot, Iíll go back by car because there are 5 kilometresĒ... the last 5 kilometers I was too tired, it stopped raining but it started hailing and my chest was covered in mud, grass, water and other dirty things.. at the end I discovered that it wasnít only a punishment because she also gave me 10 which is the maximum vote so that all this effort was paid.. moreover it was very exciting too and I think that in the future I could do this thing another time, maybe even more tough.

Comments by Craig A on 10th August 2018  

John, I find ironic the girls couldn't wait for us to be stripped to the waist and sweating freely, a very regular feature of our PE/Games lessons.

Comments by John on 9th August 2018  

I agree with Rob and Craig that itís better to do PE stripped to the waist. Feminists are doing harm to males by suppressing normal masculine development. Most lads prefer to exercise shirtless if they are given the chance.

Comments by Rob on 7th August 2018  

Craig A, sorry, I meant to type 'communal showers'.

Comments by Rob on 6th August 2018  

Craig A, I agree with you entirely.When we arrived for our first PE lesson we were told to go to the changing room and strip off completely,including our pants and socks and to come back into the gym wearing just shorts with nothing on underneath and plimsolls. On the way to the changing room some lads were asking whether we were allowed to wear a T shirt and we said 'no, just shorts and plimsolls'. That was how it always was for us indoors and out, including cross country running and it was most enjoyable. At the end of the first lesson it was a shock being made to go naked into the open corporate showers but we soon got used to it as we all progressed during our time at the school from being boys to become confident young men.

Comments by Craig A on 4th August 2018  

We were made to strip to the waist a few mins into the first lesson and made very clear that we would strip off for all exercise, indoors and out. This was indeed the case for us. There is no reason not to have the lads stripped indoors it's the feminist brigade stopping boys becoming young men. I'm sure the majority would embrace it too.

Comments by Roy on 31st July 2018  

A few years ago the current mantra was:- "Stranger Danger" resulting in people being afraid to help a child in difficulties for fear of being accused of being a paedophile. In fact children are often more in danger from close associates even family members.

Comments by William on 30th July 2018  

Bernard has prompted me to comment that I too thought Ambrose's remarks were exceptionally good. No doubt many of the measures taken today to protect children are well-intentioned but the cumulative effect creates the impression that danger lurks everywhere. No wonder children worry more than they did 50 years ago.

Comments by Bernard on 29th July 2018  

It has been a while since I looked at the comments here and I was interested to see those about boxing. When my older brother started at Grammar School the p.e. kit list included a pair of red shorts specifically for boxing though this sport was never encountered and the shorts never worn. When I started at the school two years later I was not bought a pair. We only ever wore the black or white shorts.
Ambrose - you comment on 8th June was absolutely spot on! I can relate to all your points having been born in the early 50s. Times were so much simpler then and common sense more abundant rather than the hysteria we see these days about the stupidest of things.

Comments by Andrew Pearson on 20th June 2018  

Hi GSB, It was but you soon got used to the extra time. I lost my first fight but at least went the distance. I remember taking some real beatings and stripping to the waist for PE, making up excuses for the bruises. Always apologising if I did knock anyone out.. no idea why! Giving prizemoney to my gran which always went towards housekeeping.

Comments by Andrew Pearson on 19th June 2018  

Hi GSB, It was but you soon got used to the extra time. I lost my first fight but at least went the distance. I remember taking some real beatings and stripping to the waist for PE, making up excuses for the bruises. Always apologising if I did knock anyone out.. no idea why! Giving prizemoney to my gran which always went towards housekeeping.

Comments by GSB on 19th June 2018  

Hi Andrew

Many thanks for your reply. That must have been a bit of a shock going from 3 x 70-second rounds to 5 x 2-minute rounds when you turned 13!

Any memorable bouts you can tell us about (either your own or those you watched)?

Comments by Andrew Pearson on 19th June 2018  

Hi John, Not sure about respect but never had a problem with bullies after I started to box. Most fights were in various farmsheds so not to attract attention. I only ever fought one lad who only left his vest. His mum wanted him to wear it being his debut fight. . It was sticking to him at the end of second round. After that he stripped off like the rest of us.

Comments by John on 18th June 2018  

Hi Andrew,
At least you had the opportunity to box whilst you were still at school, I bet you got a lot of respect from other lads of your age when they found out that you boxed. I canít understand why any male would want to wear a vest or shirt to box in, it just feels natural as a male to strip to the waist to box and most lads would think any lad was soft if they wanted to keep their shirt on.

Comments by Andrew Pearson on 17th June 2018  

Hi John, Boxing was done away from school in what could be best described as a fight club. It was hard but we had more respect fighting stripped to the waist as everyone sees how you take it and watch you sweat up.

Comments by John on 15th June 2018  

Hi Andrew,

You were really lucky that you had the opportunity to box whilst at secondary school. I would love to have had the chance to try boxing, I think that itís good for ladís confidence and should have been on the PE curriculum.

Comments by Andrew Pearson on 14th June 2018  

Hi GSB, The fights were held privately and on the QT in remote spots and lads were from age 10 upwards. For your debut you could wear a vest, though most didn't, after that you stripped off. U13s fought a max of 3x 70 second rounds,13+ fought 5x 2 min rounds,16+ fought 6x 2mins 30. The pot was split 3 ways to the lads who'd put up the best fight. Hope this helps.

Comments by GSB on 13th June 2018  

Hi Everyone. My name is Rob but since there already seem to be a number of Robs here, Iíve called myself GSB (Grammar School Boy)!

I look in on this site from time to time and at first could not believe its popularity in terms of both the number of views and posts, but thinking about it, perhaps I should not be surprised. When one gets to a certain age, I think most of us start looking back at our school days either with great fondness or regret - or a mixture of the two. And PE lessons always seem to create strong emotions Ė usually either love or hate, and because they were different to the majority of lessons (ie, not desk-bound and classroom-based) form strong memories Ė even after half a century, I can still remember quite a few specific incidents that happened in PE - the same cannot be said for Maths, French, Chemistry, Geography or any other lesson!

Just for the record, and at risk of boring everyone, my kit was similar to so many others here. Indoor PE was done in white ankle socks, white plimsolls and short white shorts. Outdoors, athletics, cross-country and tennis were the same but with a white t-shirt which, unofficially, was optional. Actually, thinking about it, from probably sometime in the second year upwards, the socks and plimsolls became unofficially optional in the gym, so if you had no homework books to carry, on days you had PE, you could just roll up your shorts and stuff them in your blazer pocket (much to Mumís annoyance who carefully washed and ironed them every week!) How different to the huge bags full of kit one sees poor kids struggling with today. Sometimes minimalist and simplest is best!

Andrew Pearson - I have just read your post (1st May) Ė ďMy sisters werenít keen on seeing me in a ring but it helped bring in some extra money for essentialsĒ - have I understood it correctly that you were paid to take part in boxing matches whilst still at school? Please tell us more Ė I am intrigued.

And to all those who have mentioned boxing at school, please tell us more details of how it was organised and how it all worked, along with any particular memories you have. The one thing I was hugely looking forward to doing at secondary school was the boxing Ė only to find when I got there (this was the mid 1960's), that it had been stopped the year before. My frustration and anger continue to this day, and I remain fascinated by the whole idea, and would love to hear all about it in much more detail from those lucky (or some might say unlucky?) enough to have done boxing as part of PE.

Comments by Ben on 13th June 2018  

TimH, good to know there are so many lads voluntarily opting to play football with their tops off. As you say, they should definitely be encouraged - but I think John is right to suggest a shirtless rule for PE. The reason is that if it's optional then only the more confident boys will take their tops off, others - who may be shy - won't and their self esteem could suffer further as they grow up. I was in the latter group as a young teen and I'm thankful now that I wasn't given the option in PE. I was often required to do it shirtless throughout my school years and I feel that really helped me in the long run.

Comments by Frank C on 13th June 2018  

Addendum to Ambrose's comments We stood at the football ground.We didn't count the calories and we didn't have to worry about whether we had five a day or not!Happy Days!

Comments by John on 13th June 2018  

Tim H,
I didnít wish to imply that lads should have to play football or other games outside in winter shirtless, that would be ridiculous. Doing indoor gym classes and playing indoor team games shirtless was fine, I never felt that I was being abused and my teachers were totally normal and treated us appropriately always.

The point I was trying to make is that given the choice many lads are happy to play sports shirtless.

Comments by Frank C on 12th June 2018  

Ambrose well scripted although I was sixties and seventies I can relate to all those topics you itemised!How true.

Comments by TimH on 12th June 2018  

John - I'm not so sure I'd want to make it a rule but I think that encouraging lads to do some sports shirtless is OK - it is more natural - certainly indoor gym & summer sports outside, but thinking of the cold winter we've had I wouldn't want to make boys do outdoor sports topless in that.

From past experience I suspect the lads I saw will probably stay topless for much of the summer - certainly well into September and that that they'll discover that they prefer shorter shorts rather than the long baggy sort some people seem to prefer. So much of this is down to useage - when you get used to something it becomes natural.

I'm lucky to live in a leafy semi-rural area where lots of the children still walk to the local Middle school. Just casual observations make me think that a good proportion of the boys prefer shorts - certainly in summer - and that, like posties, wearing shorts in bad weather is seen as a 'mark of honour' - I did see one lad walking to school in shorts last December.

(Of course, there is the story of a lady [not local] who saw two boys going to school in shorts in October and reported the parents to Social Services for mistreating them)

Comments by Tony H on 12th June 2018  

I completely concur with your comments. Those were the days of freedom not like it is now. With regards to education, at least we could converse without having to use the word "like" which the youngsters seem to do nearly every other word like!!

Yes we knew about "stranger danger" but then usually we were out to with at least one or two friends and there was safety in numbers.
How things have changed. If I am out on my own without my wife or son and smile at a young child, I do worry about what the response of the adult with that child will be.

Comments by John on 11th June 2018  

Tim H,

Your recent observations would seem to be proof that most lads enjoy playing sports shirtless. Therefore there was nothing wrong with a stripped to the waist rule for boys Physical Education.

Comments by TimH on 11th June 2018  

Just a comment a boys being topless (Or not): in the recent hot weather I've several times seen boys (young teens?) playing football on open ground near me - all in shorts, all topless - and not an adult about to 'enforce' a 'skins' rule.

Comments by Ambrose on 8th June 2018  

How times have changed! Congratulations to all who survived being born in the 40's and 50's to mothers who smoked/drank, ate blue cheese and raw egg products, and processed meat, and didn't get tested for diabetes or cervical cancer. After that trauma our baby cots were covered with lead based paint, and medicine bottles had no child proof lids.
We rode in cars with no seat belts, and when we rode our bikes we had no helmets. We drank water from taps not bottles, and take away food was limited to fish and chips; no pizza, KFC, McDonalds etc. We didn't starve to death even though shops closed at 6:00pm and all day Sunday. We shared one fizzy drink bottle with four friends and no one actually died from this!

We ate white bread with real butter, had full fat milk and soft drinks with sugar in, but we weren't overweight because we were always playing outside. We would leave home in the morning and play all day, with no one able to reach us, and we were OK. We would spend hours building go-carts with no brakes, tree houses and dens, and go paddling in streams. We fell out of trees, got cuts, broke bones and teeth, and there were no law suits from these accidents. We had no Playstations, Nintendo Wii, X-boxes, video games, mobile phones, personal computers or internet chat rooms, - we had friends!

Not everyone made the school teams. Those who didn't had to learn to deal with disappointment. Our teachers used to hit us with canes and gym shoes, or throw blackboard rubbers at us if we weren't concentrating; but we could string a sentence together and spell, and have proper conversations because of a good solid three R's education.
Even though we ran around wearing the minimum of clothing on a hot summers day every person we passed was not seen as a child molester; we knew what we should and shouldn't do with strangers.

We grew up in an age where we had freedom, failure, success, responsibility, and we learned how to deal with it all. An age before the lawyers and government regulated our lives for our own good - and through it all we survived!

Comments by John on 25th May 2018  

Jonathan C, I couldnít agree with you more. Being made to strip to the waist for PE and games makes lads more confident. I enjoyed gym and sports far more than I would have done if Iíd had to endure a hot sweaty shirt stuck to my back. Presumably the poor school boys of 2018 that get too hot whilst doing PE will never be allowed to take their shirts off to cool down.

I think we were very lucky to have been educated when we were, it seems that there was more consideration given to what was best for lads then.
Nowadays the primary concern is to keep boys covered up in case the
sight of barechested lads exercising might offend someone; this restricts lads normal development as males I think.

Comments by Jonathan C on 24th May 2018  

John, He admitted later he should've just stripped off and got on with it. He proved he could handle being stripped and joined me on the school's xcountry team later in the year. There's no real reason for lads not to strip off for sport/exercise. It's part of the feminist culture that stops lads being treated as lads.

Comments by John on 24th May 2018  

Jonathan C, I do have some sympathy for the lad who was new to your school. The ladís parents would have received a uniform list that stated that he needed a vest for PE, so it clearly came as a shock to him being told to strip to the waist. At his previous school he must have been used to always wearing tops and he must not have played shirts vs skins either. The lad was very brave by defying the PE teacher.

I think that it was good that he received some punishment but I think that they went too far. The lad should have done as he was told by the teacher.

Some lads at my Senior School protested when the PE teacher told them that PE would be done stripped to the waist but none of them dared to defy the teacher and just did as they were told.

Comments by Rob on 23rd May 2018  

Chris, No, I never had a problem with my sisters seeing me without a shirt and in just a pair of shorts.They enjoyed it when I used to exercise in the garden, especially when I was swinging my arms about and doing other exercises as we did stripped off in PE at school.

Comments by Simon S on 23rd May 2018  

Hi John, It was only basketball we did as vests vs skins so it was normal to see vests sticking to backs when we played. Vests vs skins was a quick and simple way to create teams.

Comments by Jonathan C on 23rd May 2018  

John, When we were 14 one lad in our class who'd recently moved to the school refused to strip off for a lesson in the gym and was made to spend his lunchtimes stripped off on the field doing a mix of press ups, and sit ups for a week. Some of girls found it funny but on the whole the PE teachers were respected. You knew how you were on and what you needed to do.

Comments by John on 22nd May 2018  

Jonathan C, I canít understand why your school made you wear vests for PE and then got you all to take them off as soon as you got into the gym. Did any lads refuse to put their vest on in the changing room? and what happened if a lad didnít have his vest on when he entered the gym.

It would surely have been better to have had a shorts only rule for PE and parents could have saved money by not having to buy vests. Sounds like the teachers liked to make lads strip off in the gym. I would have felt like refusing to put a vest on in the changing room. I preferred doing gym without a top anyway.