Burnley Grammar School

Childhood - Schools


Year: 1959         Item #: 1607         Views: 738,154         Comments: 2,655

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

2655 user comment(s) below:-

Comments by Richard on 13th May 2011  

As for everyone else the photo brought memories of my time in the gym at Grammar school in 1959/66

I can remember the first time to this day. All us new 11 year old first formers had to sit on the floor and we were made very clear as to the rules for kit which were clean white shorts and plimsolls ( shoes never to be worn in the gym), no underpants to be worn and a shower afterwards was mandatory. Breaches of these rules would be punished by a tanning.

Our PE master was a superbly fit athlete and fine gymnast and strict disciplinarian.

The next time in the gym one of the boys stupidly wore his briefs and was caught doing so. Six of the best with the slipper followed in the changing room afterwards. Shorts and briefs pulled down in front of everyone. I can see the boy's face now it was deep beetroot red with embarrassment. I vowed never to infringe the rules after seeing that spanking and never did.

Similar punishment was meted out as promised for unwhitened plimsolls and dirty shorts and not showering many times during my time there.

We were all supremely fit after all this physical excercise along with regular cross country runs unlike today's overweight kids.

Yes it was a harsh regime but I value the disciplne to this day; and, yes, no doubt we were terrorised by the masters but today, of course, it is completely the other way round with the kids terrorising the teachers.

They said at the time corporal punishment was abolished that violence begets violence but society and schools today are much more violent than ever was the case in my day and I think this argument needs to be revisited.

The kids today also most definitely need the physical excercise we had.

Comments by Jamie on 6th May 2011  

Reading the last few comments brings back things I have not thought about for years, probably 30 years. At my prep school and the first few years of senior school, we were forced to do wrestling in pe lessons. Half the class really enjoyed it and the other half detested it as they basically got pummelled by the stronger kids. Whilst I was not one of the stronger boys, I really enjoyed wrestling and was quite good at it. If you had a hard match, your top was basically scratched and red raw at the end. As a boarder we were much better as we were always practising in the evenings. During the lessons we were never allowed to wear tops although after school some boys would wear shirts (not me) and it was much easier to wrestle them as you could get hold of something. In those days, boys were boys.

Comments by Rob on 3rd May 2011  

Fascinating stuff, John.

As we only played such games once or twice a term, we looked forward to them with a mixture of apprehension and great excitement. I guess we enjoyed them because it was an occasion when we could legitimately be rough and tough and a little bit violent - we also sometimes had wrestling matches in PE at the end of term which had much the same effect - boys were allowed to be boys, back then!

Was that such a bad thing? It's interesting to look back now and analyse what would have looked like violent mayhem to any adult watching - although there were literally no rules in Killerball, there was an imlicitly understood code of conduct which didn't need to be stated out loud. Yes, it was quite acceptable to knee an opponent in the stomach, elbow him in the chest or sometimes even dish out a good old fashioned punch on the nose, and you expected such things to occasionally happen to you - and if you spent the rest of the lesson with a nosebleed, then so be it - it was that risk and bit of danger that made it so exciting. But...if anyone had done something "out of order" like kneeing another kid in the nuts, or girly hair-pulling, or unnecessarily or repeatedly picking on weaker boys who were no threat to anyone scoring, then even their own team mates turned on them to let them know in no uncertain terms that their actions were not acceptable. Would it be the same today? I doubt it.

Comments by John on 2nd May 2011  finswimmerjohn52@yahoo.com 

>>Comments by Rob, 31st July 2010
Not at all, David! As a special "treat" in the last PE lesson of each term we played a game called Killerball whereby the two teams (consisting of the boys from each of the two classes which were put together to do PE) had to score goals at the opposite end of the gym. Any tactics were allowed to get the ball in the goal - there were no rules at all! My class usually lost so rather than just use brute force and strength we hatched a plan at the end of one term whereby everyone but the biggest, strongest boy in my class was secretly paired up with a boy in the other class except their smallest, wimpiest kid. When the whistle sounded, we all went for our targets and just started fighting with them, meaning our strongest member was free to grab the ball, and only having to deal with their weakest team member, just keep scoring! It sort of worked, but backfired on us in a way because we were never allowed to play it again - I guess the teacher thought our tactics, original, inventive and intelligent though they were (in our opinion!), were just too violent to be allowed in school for a bunch of 13 year old boys even at that non-PC time!

I suspect the specifics of these sort of games and their names varied by region or part of the country - I lived in London - were there similar games in other areas? >>

Yes they were. We played a similar game in gym class @ our Grammar school (in Gateshead upon Tyne) when I was a pupil there, 1963 - 1968.

Our Gym teacher was a serving Sargeant in Durham (as then was) Police in Gateshead.

Our variation was played between teams of Skins and Vests.
(Technically we had plimmies, white shorts and white tees as PE Kit but when we played games we divided into 'Skins' and 'Vests' - there were just two 'houses' in the school.
Most guys wanted to play in 'Skins' and indeed we tried several times to get him to change our kit to just Plimsoles and Shorts, coloured to differentiate, but to no avail.

The rules/no rules for your game were very similar to ours; sometimes our teacher would join in as well.

The goals were a mat laid at each end of the gym, and sometimes the matches would last a half-hour to 40 minutes. We played this most weeks in PE lessons.

Also, the last four guys to enter the gym for each lesson used to be told to "Run the Gauntlet" as punishment for being slow; they would be made to strip off to the waist, and then made to run down an avenue of the rest of the c
lass in two columns, who had to slap them on the back as they passed them. Some of us deliberatedly changed slowly to enable us to do gym without a top and get a 'gauntleting' as a way of warming up for the lesson and the 'Killerball' game!

Comments by Domonic on 28th April 2011  

I must admit, I have happy memories of my pe and swimming lessons although it was a strict regime for boys but like a holiday camp for the girls. At my prep we did pe lessons all together in a massive gym with the girls wearing skirts and tops and the boys just pe shorts. If it was cold outside the girls could wear jumpers but nothing extra could be worn for the boys. At swimming which we did separtly, the girls could wear simming costumes but the boys were not allowed to wear anything. If pe was cancelled at short notice, we would do swimming but as the girls did not have their swim wear then they could watch, but only after we had all got in the pool. Alos, the boys had to shower, the girls did not have to.

Comments by Philip on 21st April 2011  

I was a boarder at my prep school which was virtually all boys except for about 4 girls. PE lessons were always bare chested (except the girls) and if we played team games, one team would be given a coloured sash type thing to wrap around our tops.
We did early morning swims in the indoor pool - always naked as the girls were in a different house. Our swimming lessons were always done naked but quite often the 4 girls would be waiting outside for us to finish and would take great delight in watching us.
I had swimming coaching as I was in the school team and there was a right ho ha as to whether we should wear trunks or not as there was a lady coach. There were about 8 of us and I think 6 of us stayed in the buff as we just didn't have trunks to wear and 2 wore shorts. It didn't seem to bother the coach and she trained us very well and put us through our paces. We all got really fit as she really pushed us and it was a lot of fun. I would add that when we did galas, we wore trunks, although evry small ones.

Comments by Andrew on 18th April 2011  

We had a very traditional pe teacher in the mid 70's. It was an all boys boarding and day school. From the age of about 8 to when we were 15 you only wore white shorts and plimsolls for pe. Swimming was also done naked and no boy ever questioned this as it was as normal as it was basically our uniform for sport.The only time that shirts could be worn was if we played tennis but as no one ever had shirts with them, few ever bothered wearing them. Generally it made boys much more confident and no one had any issue as going for showers after pe.

Comments by Carl on 17th April 2011  

What kind of humuliation will the P.E teacher devise?

Comments by Tom on 17th April 2011  

There was certainly a strong element of embarrassment in being made to do PE with your top off – many of the PE teachers at my school used this as a punishment. I remember being yelled at for messing around in PE when I was about 13 and being ordered to take my vest off and do press-ups at the side of the gym. I assumed once I’d finished that would be that and when the teacher shouted at me to rejoin the class, I went to pick up my vest, only to be told: “I didn’t tell you to put that back on, did I? Get over here and stand in line.” So I had to do the rest of the lesson in just shorts and bare chest, which felt pretty embarrassing as I was the only one.
There were a lot of similar punishments in PE – running laps of the playing field was a common one and usually prefaced by an order to remove your top, which basically was part of the punishment. The most humiliating experience was when I forgot my running shoes for cross-country, so the teacher made me go and join the class doing PE in the gym at the same time instead… a class of 12-year-olds. I was 15 at the time. And just in case it wasn’t uncomfortable enough having to do PE barefoot with a bunch of kids, yes of course I was ordered to take my vest off and leave it behind in the changing room as well. Not surprisingly the 12-year-olds thought it hilarious to see a boy of 15, shuffling self-consciously into the gym in just a pair of shorts and asking the teacher if he could join the lesson. Not a great deal of fun.

Comments by Michael on 14th April 2011  

In response to Carl, yes it was embarrassing doing PE like that,especially if you were a very skinny boy. You felt very bare and exposed in skimpy shorts,but you just had to endure it for two lessons a week for your whole time at school. You were also liable to receive corporal punishment for any misbehaviour or slacking,supplemented by any other humiliations devised by the PE teacher. School PE could be an ordeal,probably intentionally so in order to toughen boys.

Comments by Carl on 11th April 2011  

To everyone who shared their experience here, don't you guys feel embarrased wearing only shorts in P.E? Aren't u ashamed that your nipples are revealed and wouldn't it be hard if it was that cold?

Comments by James on 9th April 2011  

...And I thought being made to do laps of field in the pouring rain was bad! I was 12 when during an outdoor fitness session when I made the fatal mistake of answering back. Our teacher really didn't "do" comments and had already made me remove my vest when he turned and said "You'll not be saying that after I'm finished" After the lesson ended I was told "press ups and laps of the field for you tomorrow". The following morning it was chucking down and I thought my punishment would be put back....erm no. I was taken out of my English lesson and down the changing room. Having changed my teacher just laughed and led me out onto the school yard, which ironically the English block overlooked. After being told to get my vest off I was made to start my press ups and shortly after was completely soaked. Then came the run - 13 laps round the field. After finishing I thought that would be it but was made to do another lot of press ups in one of the puddles that had formed on the field before I could finally go in. I never stepped out of line again and was never picked to wear a vest again at school.

Comments by Ben on 7th April 2011  

Like Nick, I went to a school where your PE kit depended to some extent on which teacher you had. Officially certain items were optional for PE, like socks or even blue school sweatshirts for cross country. Although we were meant to wear white shorts, some teachers would turn a blind eye if you turned up in shorts that were a different colour, or a plain vest instead of the official school one.
At the start of my third year, we had a different teacher to previous years and one boy in my class warned us we would be expected to do PE with no vest, whether it was a school one or not. His brother, who was a year above us, had already had PE with this particular teacher and been made to go bare-chested. None of us took our classmate that seriously until he turned up for the first lesson, changed into his shorts and trainers and just left his top off.
We soon realised he hadn’t been winding us up when the teacher arrived, looked around with a frown and observed that only one boy in the class was wearing the right kit. Then he announced: “No vests in my lesson, take them off and line up in the gym.”
That was that, some of us were a bit shocked but we did as we were told. Perhaps naively, I assumed it might be different when we had cross country and, along with a few other boys, put my vest on when I got changed – I preferred wearing a sweatshirt but didn’t think it was worth chancing that. It soon became clear that it wouldn’t have made any difference – all of us wearing vests were ordered to lose them immediately and got press-ups as well for our trouble.
Foolishly, I protested that it was too cold outside, to which the teacher barked that I’d better get used to the temperature, and maybe it would help me do so if I did the next day's rugby lesson without my rugby shirt. I could hardly believe what I was hearing, it seemed incredibly harsh, but I didn’t dare complain further in case my punishment became even worse. Cross country suddenly seemed like a picnic by comparison – at least every other boy in my class was shivering in his shorts the same as me, but I was dreading having to strip to the waist for rugby because I knew I’d be the only one.
It certainly wasn’t a pleasant experience. The teams were picked in the changing room, with every other boy wearing either a blue rugby shirt or turning it inside out so that it was white. The teacher glanced at me, standing there bare-chested, and observed: “With that pale skin, you’ll have to go on the white team,” prompting laughter around the room and adding to my feeling of humiliation.
I must have stood out like a sore thumb as I jogged out to the playing field and inevitably I got targeted during the game – boys of that age don’t pass up an opportunity to land a punch or kick on bare flesh. It wasn't surprising that I didn't play very well and by the end of the lesson I was cold, bruised, covered in mud and thoroughly miserable. Thankfully I never had to repeat the rugby experience and, in terms of a punishment, it probably worked because I never answered back or stepped out of line in PE again. But I'm glad to say we had a different teacher again the next year.

Comments by Nick on 5th March 2011  

I went to an all boys school in the early 70’s. Our gym and changing rooms was in a separate block from the main school

In theory our cross country kit was white shorts, vest, socks and plimsolls, but in year 1 we had a teacher who allowed you to wear rugby shirts as well as a vest or t-shirt, so this became the normal thing to do, especially in winter.

At the start of year 2 we had a new teacher, so for the first lesson, we all started to get changed and lined up outside as normal with various tops on ranging from just vests to some boys who had rugby shirts, with t-shirts underneath. Rapidly he told us to go back to the changing rooms, and come back wearing shorts and plimsolls only, as boys ran stripped to the waist in his lessons, and that’s how we ran from then on.

In the winter most boys normally wore a vest, shirt, pullover, blazer and coat to school, so the worst part was that on a cold winters day, you had to walk from the main school to the gym block wearing 5 layers of clothes and still cold, knowing that in a few minutes you would be back outside lined up in just thin shorts, and stripped to the waist.

There was one freezing cold day with a biting north east wind, when about 5 some of us rebelled and wore rugby shirts. We should have known this was a mistake, as all that happened is we made to come to the front, line up, and told to strip. Also we were back after school every night for a week, being made to run the cross country course, minus shirts of course !

Comments by Mark Stewart on 18th February 2011  

I was at school in the late 70s, early 80s and I remember having to do P.E in my barefeet if I forgot my plimsols.

It was that period when trainers were just beginning to be widespread for sports and gym and I remember one year we had a new gym teacher who didn't approve of trainers and wanted us to wear the old-style rubber plimsols. In the first lesson, he made each boy run across the hall and he would blow a whistle for us to stop and anyone who skidded, i.e had insufficient grips, had to take off their trainers and socks there and then and go barefoot. The second lesson, he just made all the boys in trainers - including me - do the P.E lesson barefoot. At this school, the gym hall doubled up as the canteen and the floor was always filthy and we didn't have showers, so you'd be slipping on squashed peas left over from lunchtime and the soles of your feet would be filthy and you couldn't even wash them afterwards. You'd never get away with that now.

On other occasions at secondary school, where we had quite a strict P.E teacher, if we forgot our trainers we had to do it barefoot. Or if we were doing gymnastics with crash mats. If we forgot our whole kit (which I never did). he had a horrible stinky, unwashed one, vest and satiny shorts and the kid had to wear that. Ultimate humiliation. I had to do P.E barefoot on a few occasions and have never forgotten. I hated it

Comments by Philip on 1st February 2011  

I attended an all boys prep boarding school in the 1970's. We did early morning runs and in the summer we also had to swim 10 lengths of the outdoor pool, all before breakfast. We ran from the boarding house in white pe shorts and plimsolls, stripped off to do the swim and then ran back to get changed. It was quite fun but in the early weeks of the summer term it could be freezing cold.
In our house swimming competitions, we always swan without trunks as no one was allowed to wear anything. My mother has a picture of me and three other eleven year olds receiving our medals totally in the buff from the housemaster wife. We had no inhibitions and everyone treated it as normal. There were of course some dodgy teachers but they were harmless.

Comments by James on 7th January 2011  

I was at a prep school in the mid 1970's which was boys only. We had a very stricy pe teacher who had been at the school for years and only white shorts were alllowed. This was never an issue and it is all we knew. We often did pe displays in front of the parents and we were always stripped to the waist.
For swimming we were not allowed trunks but I always remember that our swimming pool had individual cubicles which we all got changed in and then came out naked. I was quite a keen swimmer and had extra swimming tuition from the swiming coach at lunchtimes as I could never do the tumble turns. She was an excellent coach and taught me the tumble turns got me into the county team. I cannot imagine now a situation where a teacher would be allowed to do a one to one swimming lesson with a naked 12 year old but that was the way it was and no one minded. By the way, I always felt a bit odd as the swimming coach would not let me change in the cubicles. Odd what you remember.

Comments by Ron Wood on 14th December 2010  ron@stptax.com 

I wasn't the worlds best student but remember my school days fondly & admired most of teachers - Mr Bentley who encouraged us to bring the old 45's to music lessons - Buddy Holly he could take but Conway Twitty wasn't his favourite.Poor old Benny Goodman came in for some stick although he was very poular & took his football pretty seriously & dressed for the part as a referee.I remember he was in tears when it was announced he was leaving BGS.School camps were a ball except for the food which was pretty average.I had to most of my studying again after leaving school as I pretty well wasted years 3 - 5.Still keep in contact with a few of my old friends although it's difficult to find a common thread as we've been in Australia for 35 years.Still working full time as a Tax Agent in the South West of WA.

Comments by Morgan on 7th December 2010  

The difference in my day was that by the time you where 16 your body was in the best shape it could possibly be. Given the Physical Training we endured no boy was fat or felt shame wearing only a pair of shorts, or swimming naked. We did not have a high fat diet or lead a sedentry lifestyle like todays teens

Comments by Dave Stuart on 6th December 2010  

I went to a secondary school in the 70's and for PE it was supposed to be white nylon shorts and white top and plimsoles (no socks) underwear at first seemed to be allowed as long as you brought a change of underwear. The first lesson in the first year all the lads appeared in the gym and some of us had T-shirts and some had proper vests. I had a T-shirt and found that my parents had bought the wrong thing. Our gym teacher had us all strip out tshirts and vests off so we were all now identical. I didnt mind too much and it didnt seem strange. We used to have to two gym periods a week and one games period which was normally football or rugby. For games it was red shirt and white shorts. Parents saved money so i wore the same nylon PE shorts for games as I did PE. Most lads had white cotton shorts though.
We only had a few PE and games lessons into the first term when we were herded into the gym and given a lecture about hygenine and trust and that some teachers had reported to the gym teacher that we were clearly not showering after gym and that lads had not actually changed their underwear or brought a spare set.
The outcome was simple and probably just - no underwear full stop.

PE was just white nylon shorts and plimsoles and games the red shirts and for me and few others white nylon shorts no underwear. The shorts were thin enough and transparent enough to ensure that you could not get away with wearing pants under the shorts.
This was no too bad except during winter when we would freeze and shiver and doing a cross country run in just shorts on freezing january morning was torture. I hated getting back frozen cold and being made to have a shower - the water was cold but bceause our skin was cold it felt as though it was burning standing under the water. A few people would conviently forget their kit or bunk off PE to avoid cross country etc especially when really cold.
In the second year we had an assistant PE teacher who came up with a way of putting a stop to the practice of "Sorry I forgot my kit Sir" It was a cold morning for our gym and I decided to forget my kit, hoping I could sit on the side of the gym instead. Our assistant teacher had other ideas and me along with another lad, had to do PE in just our pants instead. Having to strip down to pants in front of the rest of class was a bit humiliating as the others all laughed> it was more emabrrasing at the end of PE to be told to hang our pants on the wall bars and go and have a shower and we would could collect our pants after detention after school, great now had a detention also. The teacher said he was gettting fed up with excuses about forgetting kit and from then on anyone who forgot their PE or games kit would do the lesson in whatever they had brought or totally naked!
This happened on a Tuesday and we had PE again on the Wednesday afternoon. Wednesday lunchtime came and three of what you could only decscribe as school bullies for my year collared and told me to hand my PE kit over and threatned me with a beating if I grassed them up.
I dreaded the moment I went over to the gym and explained i had forgotten my kit again> i was told just to get into the gym and wait as the other lads got changed in the changing room. Everybody was in the gym sitting on the floor when the teacher asked me to step up and explain to the class why i ahd not changed. I sheepishly said I forgot my kit. The teacher addressed the rest of the class and wanted to know what he had said the day before. I was soon stripped off totally naked with my hands trying to cover myself with everybody laughing> the next hour was pure hell. I never forgot my kit after that! It happened to a few other lads over the years but it was just a different way of instilling discipline.

Comments by Rob Taylor on 24th November 2010  taylorrob5@gmail.com 

This photo certainly brought back memories. I could have been in the same photo just 4 years later. It is amazing how times have changed and what was acceptable then just would not be now. I suppose it is partly fashion and partly sensitivity. My friends and I at 12 and 13 yrs looked forwards to P.E. Much better than maths or chemistry! At 15 and 16 there was a definite split. Those who were sporty still liked P.E and all the training associated with school teams. However, lots of boys were no longer interested and worked out sophisticated avoidance tactics. At that age the P.E and games staff seemed not bothered as long as they has a core of fit boys for their teams.
I can remember exactly getting my first parcel of P.E. kit from the school shop when I was 12. Cotton shorts, light blue singlet and 'plimsols'. The letter home prescribing P.E. kit emphasised brining a towel and how important it was to shower. I have no negative memories about the showers. We were supervised through them, mostly to see that we got in and out quickly and were not late for the next lesson. Games was different. There was this big bath which we all jumped in to. Only some of the more 'developed' boys used the showers or walked naked from the changing room. The rest of us were just slightly modest. At 14, 15 and 16 things changed a little. Before then we had a no underwear rule to abide by. The teachers did not have much problem in checking, it was usually obvious. At the older ages there was a strange, very English way of signalling a different rule. At around14/15 the annual letter from the school shop had a different, longer, list of kit requirements. This was triggered by a wider range of sports but also by the demands of puberty. Boys P.E. Kit now included a Litesome Supporter. So you had to buy one or as it was suggested two. There was now a compulsory requirement for a protective box if you played cricket. Probably the most awkward point came when you had to go to the shop with your mum and the lady who ran it asked for your size! As neither mother or boy had any experience of such items it could be horribly embarassing. Looking back, I never did the washing so presumably we both got over it.

Swimming was a summer term activity. We only got to wear trunks when competing with other schools. Hard to believe now, although it was an all boys school so I guess the teachers were not bothered. I don't remember caring about this but I dropped the activity when I was 14. Surely they would have changed the convention after then? I did have a run in with a rather sadistic teacher, not from the P.E dept., but someone who covered. I was 13 and still in the shorts but no pants era. I think the P.E staff were annoyed with this teacher because I was pretty keen and good at P.E. As part of the lesson we had to run around the school field although it was a wet and cold day. I had ended up on my backside covered in mud but finished OK. Then we had to go into the gym, our plimsols were covered in mud and left outside the building on racks. So we were barefoot with just shorts. I was really upset when I was told, along with 4 other boy, to take off our shorts as they were a disgrace for being so muddy. Then we had to go through the last 20 minutes of the gym lesson naked. I don't think I cared about being naked so much as the injustice of the decision. The teacher was an arrogant bully. That is the problem with education. It radicalised me. I complained to the Head Teacher...about the decision to force me to go on rather than shower and clean up. You know what? He agreed. Was that when the rot started or did he realise he might have a problem teacher. Whatever, nothing came of it although I felt emboldened to go to the Head whenever I had a complaint. He must have regretted being sympathetic. Overall tough, wierd but life forming without regrets.

Comments by Steve James on 13th November 2010  

Despite the seemingly harsh environment I experienced with PE at school. I soon began to excel at both cross-country and track.
I had a very slim build well suited to wearing the briefest of shorts and actually learnt to embrace exposure to the elements so often encountered during these activities.
The PE Master would coach his best boys from 4th to 6th forms persuading us to put in extra time after lessons. His attitude to this training was even more intense than the regular PE to which so many boys found abhorrent. However he would not accept a weak performance from any of his 'elite' team and we certainly got to realise this.
Being too 'lightweight' for football or rugby I was consequently selected to be one of the 'lucky' boys to represent the school for cross-country on a regular basis.
We would be entered into various inter-school events throughout the Midlands mainly on Saturdays during autumn and winter terms for cross-country and occasionally track races and athletics.
Sir would coach us with intensity with the aim to gain kudos both for himself and the school.
Sir maintained the ethos of 'shorts only' strip for all training as well as all of these competitions as he argued that seeing us performing so lightly clad made us seem superior in the eyes of the opposing teams giving us the advantage.
On so many occasions we shivered and froze our balls off for the good of the school!
I recall more than one time where the boys we were competing against were made by their teachers to very reluctantly strip down to only shorts because the visiting team had done so.
If we performed well, Sir was jubilant. A poor result and every boy suffered as the ongoing training and coaching regime intensified fourfold in preparation for the next event!

Comments by Dan on 12th November 2010  

I can't see why PE kit contains shirts nowadays.What's the purpoese of shirts for sports?
Isn't freedom of movement important for gymnatstics for example?

Comments by Morgan on 12th November 2010  

I recall the prefects having pyjamas and dressing gowns! The staff quarters where adequately heated whilst us boys would shiver. Complaint was not an option. In my case I received a greater trashing a during home leave if I was seen to be a sissy. Certainly it was a harsh regime but we didn't have crime as a result!

Comments by Alan on 12th November 2010  

Yes, I remember the local school outfitters who supplied the games kit for my prep school. If we wanted just pe kit which consisted of white cotton shorts, white socks and plimsolls, we had to strip off and he would fit the appropriate size. We all liked them tight which he allowed. He lost a load of business as my school year (age 12) were asked to trial cotton briefs for pe as apparently they were better fitting. Only wore them for a year as they got ripped and basically they were hopelss and we went back to the shorts. We never wore shirts for pe in all the time I was there and swimming was naked and the only time trunks weer allowed was on open days.

Comments by Mark on 11th November 2010  

Well Morgan, now that you mention that the school was for children of military personnel, that rings a bell.
It seems that in several armies around the world, officers used to wear pyjamas whereas for the lower ranks nudity was the rule for bed.
Strange how this tradition found its way into a British boarding school.

Comments by Morgan on 10th November 2010  

The boarding school I attended in the late 60's was attended primarily by the children of military personnel and had a major discipine ethos. One house master regularly carried out inspections late at night. Looking back on it I believe he was a sadist who had a thing for punishing boys. He would give an entire dorm six stingers with the slipper if he found a lad in the dorm had slipped on a vest or shorts to combat the cold. I often wonder if some of these men where at all suitable for such positions. It was rumoured that boys in a dorm with a different head of house where allowed to share beds enabling them to have two sets of blankets and gain head from each others bodies. I would not be surprised if this was true given the gentleman in question however. He was one of those games masters who took a little two much interest in lads showering and drying properly and insisted on marching us into the freezing cold for outdoor games and used the gym in fine weather.

Comments by Mark on 9th November 2010  

Morgan, I am familiar with shirtless PE and naked swimming classes but I have never heard of boarders having to sleep naked, although I wouldn't be surprised if this was the rule in some boarding schools at that time.

Comments by Morgan on 7th November 2010  

Perhaps if schools today adopted the sporting and discipline traditions of my day then we wouldn't have a disfunctional society or require ASBOS! At my Boarding school I remember in winter the condensation freezing on the inside of the glass in the dormitory. We still had to sleep in the buff and we didn't have heavy quilts like today, just a sheet and blanket. The heating never worked properly so if you doddled around and didn't get to the showers quick smart you had a freezing cold shower first thing to wake you up, and often you're bare backside would feel the rath of a size 12 plimsole! It toughened us up and made men out of us! We also swam in our birthday suits and the pool was freezing cold. Two morning a week week we had swimming first thing (which made us very alert for the day's clsses) plus two afternoon swims. Any of the masters could use the slipper and for more serious infractions we had to report to the deputy head at the end of classes. A lad sent to the deputy head had to return to his dorm to strip off then proceed through the drafty corridors to queue outside the office. Standing naked with your hands on head in the corridor for all to see was as much a deterent as six welts of the cane on the bare behind. I can say it didn't do me any harm, even though it was harsh even by the standards in those days. I have hardly ever had a cough or wheeze in my life and I put it down to those formitve teenage years!

Comments by Steve James on 6th November 2010  

By the time I reached the 5th form, most of us boys were more conscious about our bodies and how we looked. Rules for PE kit were the same as for the younger boys in that we wore nothing but white shorts and plimsolls for PE, Athletics and cross-country even in the autumn and winter terms!
Black shorts were reserved for games , football, hockey and rugby. It was fashionable at the time to wear all trousers and shorts as low as possible below the waist but PE shorts looked silly if pulled down low or with the waistband folded over.
Myself and a few other boys found the answer to looking and feeling good in our shorts.
The local outfitter's in the town had always supplied both the school uniform and all other school kit. They also offered a tailoring service for alterations, repairs etc.
The owner was oldish but he knew what we wanted, we could select our shorts, I remember mine were thin white nylon split sided athletic shorts, he would adjust the fit and lower the waistband to whatever level asked for. Perfect! The only downside was you had to stand on a table wearing nothing but the new shorts as he fiddled about taking measurements and putting tailors pins in place. I remember he kept getting me to take them off and on again several times as I stood there butt naked!
The cost was nominal and it soon caught on with many of the other boys, there was developing competition between most of us to get the lowest, briefest fitting shorts that you could get away with even extending into the sixthform!

Comments by john on 6th November 2010  

Although I was at secondary school about 10 years after the date of the picture, the gym class looks remarkably similar, both in terms of the kit being worn and the equipment being used.
Our indoor pe kit was white shorts, white plimsolls or bare feet, no shirt and for the first two years no underwear allowed. At the start of our third year, the pe teacher sat us all down and advised us to purchase a 'Litesome Supporter' (jockstrap) from the local sports shop.

For outdoor games in the winter we wore rugby kit and in the summer it was shorts and an athletics vest.
Showers were compulsary after pe lessons. The outdoor games changing room didn't have showers, but instead had one of the old style communal baths. You definitely didn't want to be last into that after playing rugby on a muddy pitch in mid-winter!

Ours was an all boys school, but my sister, who went to the local girls school wore a leotard for indoor pe and a hockey shirt and coulottes outdoors. At my wifes school on the other hand the indoor kit consisted of navy 'gym knickers'and a white polo shirt. She said that vests or a bra were allowed under the polo shirt (and that for some girls the change from the former to the latter was prompted by the pe teacher suggesting it was time).

Comments by martin on 6th November 2010  

Had to wear white nylon pe shorts,very smooth and sensual next to the skin,when worn solo.soon got excited in them ,wore them in bed and enjoyed them ,,then we had to wear a jockstrap.i liked the jockstrap..visible through our shorts.

Comments by Mark on 31st October 2010  

It is certainly not uncommon in sports schools outside the UK. Just watch this video:

Comments by Lucas on 29th October 2010  

It seems shirtless PE is still a rule in some schools:


Comments by Mark on 27th October 2010  

And then think that this outfit was actually condoned by parents! I once asked my mum why I wasn't allowed a warm shirt for PE like my sister and her answer made it very clear: because your sister is a girl and you are a boy.
The school policy was even extended to some house rules: our sister wore pyjamas to bed whereas even on the coldest of nights me and my brother slept in the buff.

Comments by Steve James on 24th October 2010  

I attended a boys boarding school in the Midlands between 1966 and 1971.
PT and Athletics were dominant activities in the school and were organised by an extremely overzealous PT Teacher. He regarded most boys, with the exception of a few 'prima donnas', as physically weak and in need of toughening up to meet his 'standards'.
He was quite relentless, setting fitness targets for each boy.
I made the mistake of answering him back on my first lesson, I was to soon regret this although unlike the other masters he rarely used corporal punishment on boys as he had many other more sadistic ways to discipline us.
The school was located out of town with playing fields and a dinghy lake formed from a disused quarry.
The school hall had to double as the gym so PT was often practised outside in the cold. There was a changing room together with a chilly long concrete walk-through communal shower partially open to the elements. There were multiple shower heads at different heights and angles to ensure that users got a thorough soaking. Showering was always supervised by Sir to eliminate boys shirking.
For all sports and athletic activities boys were only permitted to wear white shorts which were provided. No vest or tops no socks and definitely no underwear. The shorts were cotton but usually quite brief and low on the waist. I recall that when I entered the fifth year, nylon shorts took over from cotton and these were the athletics type with split sides they were much thinner and lighter. They were also very translucent when wet!
On my first lesson I was caught wearing my pants under my shorts and as a punishment and I was made to strip naked and stand up on a bench in front of the other boys for 10 minutes or so – very embarrassing.
Cross-country was at least a twice weekly event. Again boys wore just white shorts and plimsoles whatever the weather and all year round.
We would be set off in groups of similar level. Occasionally Sir would pick one group, usually with me in it, and half way round the course include a swim in the freezing dinghy lake from the wooden jetty to and around a buoy.
One of his favourite toughening-up activities was to line up a group of boys on the jetty have you lean forward in the diving position and one by one push you off. You never knew who was next.
Boys like me that initially could not swim had to endure swimming lessons in the same lake. The temperature was always freezing cold as it was spring fed and half an hour seemed like eternity for a typical lesson. You soon learnt to swim the required 100 yards. Boys were naked for all swimming activities even the inter-house gala races, but no one seemed to mind this.
The cross-country course often meant getting very muddy and this had to be cleaned off afterwards in the showers which were nearly always cold as the hot water always seemed to run out.
I remember on several occasions being particularly muddy from the very deep and wide so-called water jump. Before showering, Sir would then line us up naked against the chain link and hose us down with the fire hose, this was very forceful, extremely cold and it really stung on impact! He would instruct us to turn around in turn slowly whilst he directed the jet all over and not just on the muddy bits!
Happy days!

Comments by Michael on 28th September 2010  

Yes, the photo brings back fond memories. I attended a grammar school in the 1960's. Although there was a long inventory regarding sports and PE kit, all the indoor lessons were conducted with the students barechested and barefoot. We were permitted only a pair of white shorts for gymnastics. Occasionally we could wear a singlet vest during the winter months but this was always at the discretion of the PE master. Outside activities were performed with a white vest, shorts and plimsolls. Lost or forgotten kit was never tolerated and I remember having to run barefoot around the rugby pitch as a punishment for my amnesia.

Comments by Dick on 26th September 2010  

gym kit for us in school up to aged 18 was simple.

Boys were only allowed to wear white briefs - nothing else

Girls were allowed navy blue knickers and white T Shirts and a bra if needed

Comments by Mark on 14th September 2010  

By the way barechested PE and naked swimming classes later on made that me and my brother both chucked our pyjamas at a very early age.
When we were 8 or 9 we started sleeping shirtless and by the time we reached 14 or so we both slept in the buff.

Comments by Mark on 13th September 2010  

Our shorts were a lot smaller than the ones in the picture.
I remember one teacher who used to make fun of the new boys who sometimes broke out in gooseflesh. "We have a few plucked geese again in here" he used to say.

Comments by peter s on 17th August 2010  

Remember these scenes well, around that time too. Gym teacher used to open all the windows in the coldest weather. We were always topless in there, I was so skinny I envied others who were more "manly" looking. I don`t envy them now. I was also amazedat the lack of self consciousness in general. Good school.

Comments by cass on 8th August 2010  

ron parry remember him well snigger snigger- mate of that pygmy grimes as I bitterly recall

Comments by Rob on 31st July 2010  

Not at all, David! As a special "treat" in the last PE lesson of each term we played a game called Killerball whereby the two teams (consisting of the boys from each of the two classes which were put together to do PE) had to score goals at the opposite end of the gym. Any tactics were allowed to get the ball in the goal - there were no rules at all! My class usually lost so rather than just use brute force and strength we hatched a plan at the end of one term whereby everyone but the biggest, strongest boy in my class was secretly paired up with a boy in the other class except their smallest, wimpiest kid. When the whistle sounded, we all went for our targets and just started fighting with them, meaning our strongest member was free to grab the ball, and only having to deal with their weakest team member, just keep scoring! It sort of worked, but backfired on us in a way because we were never allowed to play it again - I guess the teacher thought our tactics, original, inventive and intelligent though they were (in our opinion!), were just too violent to be allowed in school for a bunch of 13 year old boys even at that non-PC time!

I suspect the specifics of these sort of games and their names varied by region or part of the country - I lived in London - were there similar games in other areas?

Comments by David Wood on 19th July 2010  woosmull@gmail.com 

Rob (2nd May 2010) has clearly had a sheltered upbringing. British Bulldog is a game in which one gang of blokes attempt to stop (by almost any means) another gang of blokes getting past them. Last man standing is the winner. Never played it against girls though. That might have been more interesting!

Comments by Tim H on 18th July 2010  tim@photrek.co.uk 

Strange how this photo brings back so many memories!

I can't remember what we wore for games at Primary school in Lincoln in the late 1950s. Moving on to a Grammar School in the 1960s it was white shorts and tee shirt with plimsolls (no socks) for PE. For football and cross country it was black shorts and a rugby style top with boots or plimsolls. No underwear until we got older - I can't remember any checks on what we wore under our shorts - most people wore briefs. (Our school wasn't particularly sports orientated).

In PE some of us started wearing vests and then went down to being barechested. When I went there shorts were baggy and lasted us as we got older, but by 1966 many of us had switched to the new shorter style becoming popular then.

The school wasn't sports orientated - if you were good at games, fine - if note you seemed to be forgotten - or so it seemed.

And, yes, I think PE & games like this did make us 'better' people.

Comments by Jim on 4th July 2010  

I attended a boys only school in Scotland from 1965 -1971. We had always worn just white gym shorts in primary school. Primary school was mixed school and we had mixed pe classes- the girls wearing white vests and navy knickers.
It was no change when we went up to the secondary school. As I say we only wore white shorts, no tops or underwear. It may seem somewhat strange now but we had "underpant checks" where the pe teacher checked that we were not wearing underpants. The reader must remember that this was some 45 years ago and what is considered inappropriate now was acceptable then! Remember this was a time when corporal punishment in schools was also acceptable ( and even encouraged!) and I can assure you the "belt" was in daily use!
After any pe, swimming or games class compulsory showers following, naked in an open shower room supervised by the teacher. I admit all this was a bit of a shock at first, but we were all treated the same and it was soon the norm for classes.

PE was fairly hard work with lots of circuits, press ups, sit ups etc. I never really enjoyed it but it was accepted.

I appreciate that times have moved on and what was acceptable practice then would not be tolerated now-but I dont think it ever did any of us any harm!

Comments by Sidona on 25th May 2010  

At my secondary school (RC private) in Buckinghamshire in the mid 1950s, the specified PE kit was white shorts and PE vest; on economy grounds, those of us who regularly wore underwear vests, i.e. virtually all of us back in those days, got into the habit of substituting our normal everyday vest for the latter item. After I had been at this school for a couple of years, the PE staff decided that it would be healthier for us to do PE topless and took a vote among us on the matter. Not surprisingly, toplessness got a 100% vote. With this garb, "Shirts and Skins" was obviously out, so we had coloured sashes to distinguish teams when necessary. Although we were expected to wear vests between the changing room and the gym, this rule was honoured more in the breach than the observance and we soon got into the habit of "forgetting" to put our vests back on under our shirts after PE. As we had PE every day of the week, generally in the mornings, we ended up minus our vests for much of the school week and soon most of us didn't bother coming to school in a vest at all, much to the concern of most of our parents, who felt that all children should wear vests all the year round, regardless of climate. There was no prohibition on the wearing of underwear, although for the first couple of years, most of us freeballed. At one point, probably when we were 12 or 13 and one lad got accidentally kicked in the "privates", the PE master advised us that we should think about wearing some form of support, and mentioned a thing called a "jock-strap". I don't think any of us had ever heard of this item of clothing, and i don't think any of us took the trouble to obtain one, but most of us took the hint, and from then on we tended to keep our underpants on for PE.

Comments by john on 11th May 2010  

in my school we had to wear a jockstrap for all sport. It was compulsory ... I don't remember anyone having a problem with it either. Showers were communal ... don't remember anyone having a problem with that one, too.

Comments by Crow on 7th May 2010  

British Bulldog? A game where half the people in it line up facing a line of the other half, and each has to run through to pass the other side. The other side have to stop them. That's the aim whichever side's perspective you take. I only played it a few times. It's supposed to be really physical but it's actually psychological and needs agility, I got through by looking straight at one spot like I would be breaking through there, then turn sideways mid run and pass on the other side of the heaviest person in front of me. They couldn't respond fast enough so I got through. Once you engage in direct conflict you can't acheive the intended aim so I figured that wasn't really the point, just figure out how to pass, and do it.

Comments by Trevor on 4th May 2010  trevor01@blueyonder.co.uk 

Interesting that the picture is by far the most viewed and commented on on the Historyworld site. I attended a Secondary school in Yorkshire in the years 1972-79 and can well visualise our gymnasium and how it was very much like this one.

We we not required to be bare chested except for the occasional “shirts vs skins” basketball games. Sometimes outside in the summer (we had summers then!) one of the PE teachers would have his top off and nobody thought anything of it. I remember during one of the shirts vs skins games I was felt relieved to be a “shirt”. I was small and a little overweight. With hindsight, I felt it would have been better if we all generally did PE shirtless. As it was I did get a bit of a hangup and were I made to do PE bare chested I might have avoided having what was a substantial social handicap. People today may protest at boys doing PE shirtless. “What about those who are overweight, got acne etc?” they would say. My view is that one of the purposes of school (and PE in particular) is to get people to overcome these sorts of anxieties and pandering to them does them no good in the long term.

I go swimming at a local school (after school hours) and find that the boys changing room has individual cubicles for changing as well as individual cubicle like showers. The showers at my school were communal and nobody cared about being seen. Even one of the boys who even at the age of 12 was fully developed “down below”! I wonder which generation has the more body image “issues”?

Our PE teachers were among the more memorable (in a good way) and respected of all. Ron Parry sounds as he is the same. My only criticism in my case was perhaps that the less able pupils (like me) tended to get ignored slightly. However I enjoyed PE and never tried to avoid it. With the increase in children with no father around, good male role models are vital and PE teachers I feel are able to provide this. It is just a pity that looking at the 1959 picture, something of real value with respect to a boy's education has been lost.