Hesketh Fletcher Gym Team

Childhood - Schools


Year: 1935         Item #: 1741         Views: 117,399         Comments: 602

Hesketh Fletcher Gym Team

Image scaled down from 1000px to 740px wide. Click the image to view the original.

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

602 user comment(s) below:-

Comments by Roy on 31st March 2016  

When I did cross-country the boys were all bare-chested and barefoot.
Most of the route was on main roads outside the school and our feet did soon harden up.

Comments by Stewart on 25th January 2016  

Hi Spence. Yes, boys and girls were barefoot. The circular route was on a woodland trail through the woods that bordered the school, and out on to roads to get us back to school.
Everyone's feet hardened up very quickly, so I never remember there being a problem.

Comments by Spence on 10th January 2016  


Did cross country with boys bare chested and girls in only vests take place all year round?
Your earlier post suggests boys and girls would be barefoot for this. Where did you run, on grass or on the streets?
How did the girls cope with the muddy grass or hard concrete?

Comments by Andrea on 4th January 2016  andreatwo@hotmail.co.uk 


My Ex told me that he and his classmates were told that it wasn't hygienic for them to wear the same underpants for PE as they were wearing for the rest of the day, so they weren't allowed anything under their shorts for the first couple of years at secondary school. At the start of the 3rd year they were told that they should start to wear jock-straps as they would need 'support' as they got older. He continued to wear one for football etc as an adult.

By contrast, when my son was at secondary school (up to 5 years ago) they just wore their normal underwear for PE and games.

Comments by Stewart on 4th January 2016  

Dave...Only just picked up your message from October. Yes, boys were shirtless. The only time we wore tops was for rugby (and we were allowed boots too, for that, of course. We did cross country with the girls, and track and field events. Other than that, the lessons were separate.

Comments by Pete on 4th January 2016  

I have read your comments Roy re being stripped to the waste. Were you allowed to wear underpants and was this a single sex school.

I know attitudes have changed today, but I wonder if the difference was when we were at school we had teachers especially our PE teacher and fathers who had served in the armed forces either in WW2 or National Service and so thought nothing of expecting us boys all changing and showering together as they would have done when in the forces.

Comments by Roy on 3rd January 2016  

I was at secondary school between 1959 and 1966 and it was obligatory to do PE stripped to the waist.
Nobody thought anything of it and the same for having naked showers after every session.

Comments by Pete on 2nd January 2016  

To Nick
AS I wrote I was at an all boys school
1961 to 1966. During all thoose years we were never advised to wear or advised about Jock straps or any athletic support. I do recall that as we got older there was talk about jock straps but really as silly conversation thinking they were what adult men wore for rugby and that was all.

Following the pe lesson we of course had the obligatory communal showers and after the first few lessons there was no inhibition about showering together, unlike it seems these days. As repugnant as it seems by the time we were about 14 years old certain show offs were comparing their attributes. That was the only thing that made some of us less well endowed boys a bit inadequate.

Still we all survived and it was not only at school there was the community. Several of us were in the same Scout troop and so shared tents together at camp and we really got quite used to seeing each other undressed. During the day we would wear shorts after all this was in the era of Scout uniform being shorts(even in winter)

Comments by Nick on 1st January 2016  

In reply to Pete and others about not being allowed to wear underpants under the shorts for pe / games. I think the reason is to ensure a complete change of clothes.
I was at school in the 1970s; like others, wearing pants for games was forbidden. Older boys were required to wear a jockstrap, this was the only thing allowed to be worn under the shorts. I am suprised that many of you played games and pe without one and hence no support.

Comments by Emma on 30th December 2015  

Hi Jack

There wasn't much privacy really I guess. The dividers were the kind you may have seen in sports halls with the bottom couple of metres made of thick plastic type material and the rest up to the ceiling made of netting. We occasionally saw into the other half of the gym but not very free. Also, we entered and left the gym at slightly different times to the boys so there was no mixing then.

Our dance lessons were also single sex. They weren't ballroom or anything that needed a male partner but were more modern dance and ballet.

Comments by Pete on 30th December 2015  

In reply to John I remember yhe grey school shorts. I wore them until I was about 13 in secondary school. One of the few still waering them at that age. They were tight and very short and they were worn during winter as well. However,we survived. By way of interest does any one know why we were not allowed tp wear underpants under our shorts for PE. I presume in this modern day & age underwear is worn

Comments by John on 30th December 2015  

Pete, we also wore those nylon shorts that you mentioned, without the benefit of underwear and no vests and we had to go bare foot for gymnastics. The thin nylon shorts were so thin that any under wear was clearly visible if anyone was foolish enough to wear them and they became translucent when wet.
Short trousers could be worn, if parents chose to compliment the uniform as my parents did. Unlike board shorts these were trim and were worn well above the knee throughout the year.

Comments by Pete on 27th December 2015  

Just catching up with the postings a bit late I know but Andy & dave 9/10th Nov. At my all boys ssecondary school which I attended 1961 t0 1966 When I was 16 Our pe kit was sorts only ( no pants) indoors and out. Teams were distinguished by wearing sashes in the colour of our house. Re deterent to waering pants, this was the threat of the slipper. WE wore white nylon shorts which were thin and any pants worn would be visible. Having said this I remember one lad was silly enough to take the risk and he was caught out. He was called out to the front of the class instructed to go and remove his pants and come back suitably attired in shorts only. When he had done this, to remove one of his plimsolls with which he was "slippered" several times acroos a taut backside in thin shorts. IT NEVER HAPPENED AGAIN!
Also during this time coloured briefs were coming into fashion so would have been clearly seen under any shorts.

It always seemed the normal thing in all boys schools no tops or pants for pe as my friends from other schools said they had the same rules. As for no tops even in coed schools, I cannot see the issues as lads do not wear tops on the beach or in public swimming pools. What do others think?

The fashion nowadays is to wear long board shorts which I do not like, but that is their choice.

Comments by Jack on 18th December 2015  

Emma, you said "It was mixed and indoor PE was single sex but with girls in one half of the gym and boys in the other with a screen/divider between the two halves."
So there doesn't seem to have been much privacy, especially if one could look between the screens.
I think that as secondary school boys we would have done our best to look at the half naked girls from behind the screen from any gaps available.
You also mention that the dance classes were also with girls in just underpants. Were these also single sex or mixed?
Can't imagine 12 year old secondary school boys and girls doing dance classes together in just underpants, unless it was a "progressive" school. :)

Comments by Emma on 9th December 2015  

Hi Andrea

It could be a bit embarrassing yea. I'd worn pants and vest at primary school so having to do PE with nothing on my top was quite a shock when it first happened. My patents didn't complain about the lack of PE kit and I guess not many other did else things might have changed.

Jack -I guess it was sexist. But since we didn't normally do PE with the boys it wasn't a direct comparison.

Comments by Andrea on 9th December 2015  andreatwo@hotmail.co.uk 


I would imagine that having to do PE in just pants (or bra and pants) was unpopular - particularly for those who had started to develop, were not yet wearing a bra (which was how I was towards the end of year 7)?

I'm surprised that some parents didn't complain.

Had it been the same at Primary school, or had you been allowed to wear vests or T shirts there?

Comments by Jack on 9th December 2015  

Hi Emma, I find it amazing how boys were allowed to wear shorts for PE but girls only in underpants at that age, especially when one considers that girls develop earlier than boys.
It should have been the other way round or the same for both. Your school must have been sexist :)
Did you or your parents never complain about this humiliating situation?

Comments by Joshua on 6th December 2015  

I just left school a few years ago and can confirm that, although we never did pe shirtless, we did have compulsory showers after football games, which were done without clothes, although we weren't forced to. After the game, finished we stripped int the changing room, went to the shower room, showered for less than a minute, went back and put school cloths back on.

Comments by Emma on 6th December 2015  

Hi Jack, years 7 & 8 are ages 11-13, the first two years of secondary school. The boys wore white shorts not their pants which was pretty unfair! They didn't wear tops though.

Comments by Jack on 5th December 2015  

Emma, what ages were years 7 and 8? I guess we had a different gradation when I was at school in the 60s.
In primary we had Forms 1 to 5. In secondary it was again Forms 1 to 5, or 6 for sixth formers.
What did the boys wear for their PE at the same time as your class? I presume it was the same as for girls, that is in just underpants.
Did you try to look between the screens to see each other in just underwear, as most boys and girls that age in secondary would be obviously curious about each other?
I think it was very unusual for boys and girls in secondary school to do PE in just underwear, even in the 60s let alone in the 90s. Even more so if it was a mixed school. It may have been somewhat common in some primary schools, but not in secondary schools.

Comments by Emma on 4th December 2015  

I went to secondary school in the 1990s. It was mixed and indoor PE was single sex but with girls in one half of the gym and boys in the other with a screen/divider between the two halves. For gym and dance lessons which made up most of our indoor PE we had to do them in our underwear in years seven and eight. For some girls it meant pants and bra but some of us had to do it in just our pants. From year nine onwards we could wear gym knickers and white vests.

Comments by Andrew on 16th November 2015  andrew36xs@outlook.com 

After leaving mixed PE lessons at primary, I attended a middle school where all PE had a dedicated kit and changing facilities (with nude showering) but now also single gender lessons.

On moving up to secondary school we had slightly different kit, but many lessons were mixed gender again. Showering after was still expected and if swimming before and after.

It always struck me as odd to revert back to mixed lessons for some reason, and wasn't universally popular with the girls- I know this because my wife attended the same school!

Comments by Mark on 11th November 2015  

Hi there.I didnt say the rule wasn't enforced, i simply can't remember anyone being punished or caught wearing underpants. Its a long time ago

Comments by Andy on 10th November 2015  

Mark, it sounds like the rule was supposed to apply for the entire school life - did it apply to all activities for example sports day or school teams?
Also if the threat wasn't enforced what was to stop you just breaking the rule?

Comments by Mark on 9th November 2015  

Andrea. I came as a big surprise when we were told that underpants we not allowed under our shorts. It was worse when we did PE outdoors when it rained as our shorts would stick to our bottoms and fronts.
We told that anyone caught wearing underpants would have to remove them in front of the whole class. I actually can't remember if anyone did get caught.

Comments by Claire on 8th November 2015  

Hi Peri,

Our PE teachers always picked a skins team regardless of what we were doing and being flat-chested well into year 9 I was guaranteed a spot on the skins team.

Those who were "more developed " were obviously allowed to wear bras under their vests, but when told to strip, went down to just bras.

Being at an all girls school the only time I got to see my 2 older brothers (also at an all boys school) was during the holidays. They talked about their PE sessions and had one PE teacher who, if boys weren't sweating at the end of a gym session, gave them an extra hour out on the yard after lessons ended.

Although we were pushed hard, I was always thankful he was not our teacher. It would be interesting to read if other boys were made to sweat during their sessions.

Comments by Andrea on 8th November 2015  andreatwo@hotmail.co.uk 


Did your PE teacher say why bras weren't allowed under vests in the first year? At our school it was the other way round - our PE teacher would sometimes 'suggest' to a member of the class that it was time they got one if she thought they were holding back from giving their all in a lesson because they were self conscious about their breasts bouncing around!

It must have been embarrassing having a mixed PE lesson without underwear in the third year. My ex went to an all boys school and they weren't allowed underwear for the first two years, but they were advised to buy a jock strap in the third year.

Comments by Dave on 7th November 2015  

John, we didn't wear short trousers compulsory. We wore them volutarily if the waether was nice.
We had compulsory PE kit. White vest, shorts and plimsolls. For team sports we often had to take off our vest off to distinguish teams.
I live in middle Europe.

Comments by Mark on 7th November 2015  

I can relate to your comment Toby. At primary and middle school PE was mixed. Boys just did it in their underpants and girls wore vest and pants.However at Comp it was segregated. But in third year the upper school gym was closed for two terms due to rennovation so boys and girls did PE together. We wore just white shorts(no underpants) and girls had white shorts and shirts. Yes we got teased and it was very difficult at times.

Comments by Peri on 7th November 2015  peri2brown@aol.com 

I had a very similar experience to Claire except that bras were not allowed to be worn under vests in the first year so skins really did mean skins.
I felt very uncomfortable like that at first but soon got used to it and by the January felt confident enough not to wear a vest at all thus ensuring I was always on the skins team.

Comments by Rose on 7th November 2015  thirddoctor@aol.com 

Hi Andrea
I think our "Music & Movement" lessons were recorded too best I can remember.
Our PE teacher just picked girls at random to take their vests off, everyone had to do it at sometime like it or not!

Will answer your e mail as soon as I can - Having problems with my TALK-TALK (AOL) account at the moment and can't send e mail.

Comments by Toby on 5th November 2015  tbaird45@yahoo.co.uk 

Normally boys and girls did PE separately at my school, but there were occasions when everyone was mixed together. There was one PE lesson when I was about 14 and the weather was just too bad for the boys' class outdoors to go ahead, so instead we were told we'd have to squeeze into the gym where the girls' class was taking place. That meant we had to change into our usual gym kit - white shorts and nothing else. I remember filing awkwardly into the gym, barechested and barefoot, to be greeted with giggling and whispering from the girls, and feeling fairly self conscious. I think it's likely that the girls enjoyed that lesson rather more than the boys did!

Comments by John on 5th November 2015  

Dave, we frequently had mixed sports sessions but it was mainly when it was too wet for the girls to play netball.
It was embarrassing to not being allowed to wear a shirt in front of girls but we had no choice.
The school was a secondary modern that I attended in the seventies.
Did you wear short trousers to your school?

Comments by Dave on 4th November 2015  unia10@freemail.hu 

John, why did you have mixed lessonds with girls? Were there single sex and mixed lessons regularly depending on the sports?
How did boys feel havint to be shirtless at mixed lessons with girls?
Was it an English grammar or secondary school? Which decade?

Comments by Claire on 3rd November 2015  

Hi Andrea,

Firstly I should have mentioned my experience was at an all girls school. When I started there was initially reluctance to go topless after having a set kit in primary school but after a couple of weeks you got used to it....not that there was a say in the matter. The "more developed" were allowed to wear bras under their vests but you were always referred to as skins.

Comments by Andrea on 1st November 2015  andreatwo@hotmail.co.uk 

Hi Claire,

Fortunately we were never asked to do PE topless. Our teacher used to hand out coloured bibs to wear over our white polo shirts to distinguish between teams when we were playing team games.

Did the more developed girls wear bras under their vests, and if so were they allowed to keep them on if they were picked for the 'skins' team?

I was still flat-chested for the first couple of terms of Year 7, but had developed enough to start wearing a bra at the start of Year 8. There were still some who weren't at that point, but I think most had by the end of that year (although I think in some cases it took a bit of 'prompting' from Miss to get them to start wearing one)!


Comments by Claire on 1st November 2015  

Hi Andrea,

Our female teacher randomly picked which girls would take their vests off. For some reason, probably due to being very flat - chested until well into year 9, I found myself being picked out on a very regular basis. Was this the same for you?

Comments by John on 31st October 2015  

Dave, we frequently had PE with girls mixed and always bare chested as instructed by our teacher. There were never any exclusions. For team events we were identified by the colour of our shorts. I wore grey short trousers with my school uniform, although they were not compulsory.

Comments by Dave on 31st October 2015  unia10@freemail.hu 

Hi Stewart!

Were you shirtless for track and fields and cross country either?
How did you play team ball games everyone being barechested.
How did you get to know your PE kit for the first time.Was it in a PE uniform list that you have to do PE shirtless or the teacher was the one who told it to you?
Have you ever had some lessons or sport events with the girls together?
What was the reaction of boys about the PE kit. Was it ever a topic of conversation amongst you?

Comments by Stewart on 28th October 2015  

I went to an English Grammar School from 1967 to 1973, and the boys' PE "uniform" was a just pair of shorts, and for the girls a skirt and vest. All indoor PE and most outdoor activities, including track and field events and cross country running, were done barefoot.

Comments by Andrea on 19th October 2015  andreatwo@hotmail.co.uk 

Hi Rose,

I can recollect having the 'Music and Movement' lessons at Primary School too. If I remember correctly, in some cases our teacher had taped the radio programme on one of the old fashioned reel to reel tape recorders.

When your PE teacher asked some girls to take off their vests to even up the 'shirts versus skins' numbers, was it usually the flat-chested girls who were asked, or did she just pick at random?


Comments by Liz on 19th October 2015  

Hi Andrea

I think I only really started wearing a crop top when I started at secondary school. Looking back I didn't really need one, but I guess I wanted to feel more grown up. Of course when we did our first PE lesson we didn't feel very grown up at all! I only really needed a bra from year 9 and even then only a little one, and I tended to wear a crop top for PE lessons then as it always felt a bit more secure and like it covered a bit more than a bra!

The few lessons when the boys were in the gym too were very strange! In the first year we had all got a little used to doing PE with nothing on our tops when the boys all arrived and we all immediately started trying to cover our chests again! Our PE teacher told us not to be so silly and soon had us all doing things like leapfrog, vaulting and climbing the ropes where we needed both our hands so couldn't cover ourselves! After year 7 they still shared the gym a handful of times per year and then it was more a case of trying to hide your knickers as best you could!

Perhaps the most embarrassing time for me was when I has swimming in the morning and PE in the afternoon. Somehow I managed to forget my PE bag that had my costume and towel in it. My teacher told me not to worry and I relaxed for a few seconds until she said that I'd have to swim in my knickers and bra! Well there wasn't a lot of point since they were white cotton, but it got worse when the lesson ended and I had to take them off and get dressed without them! And of course then it was gymnastics in the afternoon, and my underwear was still in the office near the school swimming pool!

Comments by Andrea on 18th October 2015  andreatwo@hotmail.co.uk 

Hi Liz,

When I was that age in the early 1970's there were no such things as crop tops. Until we were sufficiently developed for a 'teen bra' (a scaled down version of what our mothers wore), we wore vests or nothing under our shirts - just like the boys. Getting your first bra was a sort of rite of passage (which some girls looked forward to, but others didn't!).
By contrast when my son was in his last year at Primary School (about 10 years ago) most of his female classmates seemed to have the outline of a crop top or bralette under their shirts, whether they needed anything or not.

I imagine that the mixed gym session with the boys must have been quite embarrassing for the 'more developed' girls!


Comments by Rose on 15th October 2015  thirddoctor@aol.com 

Hi Liz
I started secondary school in September 1976. Our PE lessons were single sex and we were supposed to wear shorts & vests during the first year, but if you forgot of didn't have a vest you were allowed to go topless which I prefered.
At the start of term two of us were always topless but after a few weeks it was about half & half which was handy for the teacher if she wanted to split us into two teams (shirts & skins) It reached the point where the teacher would actually ask girls to remove their vests to make the numbers come right.

Comments by Rose on 15th October 2015  thirddoctor@aol.com 

Hi Andrea
No nothing was ever said about wearing a bra, he would of been far too embarrassed to mention it. He found it difficult to tell us that the girls that had "grown" could wear vests & then one of the boys said "grown what Sir" then another said "you mean the ones with tits Sir" The poor man was as red as a beetroot.
You also have to remember that this was the 1970's and many women including my Mum went braless most of the time, so an 11 year old not wearing a bra wasn't unusual. Niether was it unusual for girls to run around topless in the school holidays the same as the boys did.

On a separate note, when we were a little younger one of our PE lessons was taken up by a radio programme called MUSIC & MOVEMENT in which a rather posh Lady instructed us to do various exercises set to music. Did anyone else have this? I think It was later renamed MOVEMENT & MUSIC.

Comments by Andrea on 5th October 2015  andreatwo@hotmail.co.uk 

Hi Rose,

Did any of your teachers ever speak to you about wearing a bra if they thought your boobs were bouncing too much in PE?

I guess it wouldn't have been appropriate for your male teacher to do this, but did he ask one of the female teachers to? Our female PE teacher spoke to a few girls about getting bras during our first year at Secondary school.

Also, did he have to supervise you all when you were changing for PE.

Comments by Liz on 5th October 2015  

Hi -

We saw the boys a lot in summer when we'd be outside at the same time. In winter we'd be indoors when the boys were outdoors and vice versa so we didn't ususally see them. A few times they came indoors and used the gym at the same time as us and then we'd see them in just their shorts normally as they had to take off their outdoor socks and their rugby shirts. The gym would be pretty crowded and although their teacher would be in charge of them we would be mixed up, so while the girls might be using the vaulting horse the boys might be using the ropes for example.

Comments by Liz on 5th October 2015  

Hi Andrea

I guess my main feelign was shock! At primary school I'd been used to wearing PE kit so when we were sat on the benches in the changign room and our new PE teacher told us that we didn't need kit for indoor lessons and to take our clothes off, we weren't quite sure what it really meant. I think she probably knew we were a bit confused because she then stated very clearly that we must take all our outer clothes off and line up by the door wearing just our knickers. I remember she was very clear that anyone wearing a bra or a vest must take it off, and that only our knickers could be worn.

For me it wasn't too much of a practical problem not wearing anything on my top. I didn't wear a proper bra at that point but I think I wore a crop top more because it was what many of us did rather than because I actually needed anything. But it was still a very strange feeling to be in the gym with so little on, and some of the girls in my form probably did need bras! After a few lessons I began to get used to it until one day the boys lesson outside was cancelled and they came into the gym with us!

Comments by Andrea on 3rd October 2015  andreatwo@hotmail.co.uk 

Hi Liz,
How did you and your classmates feel about having to do PE topless in Year 7? I would have been OK for about the first term and a half, but I can think of several of my classmates who wouldn't have?

Comments by - on 3rd October 2015  

Liz, did you or classmates ever see the lads exercise barechested either indoors or outside? The girls in our class would often joke about us being topless outdoors especially if it was a cold day!