Burnley Grammar School

Childhood - Schools


Year: 1959         Item #: 1607         Views: 638,266         Comments: 2,313

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

2313 user comment(s) below:-

Comments by Simon E on 6th September 2018  

Wow. So many comments about something so commonplace. I left school in the late 90's and our school did vests vs skins for indoors PE and it wasn't unusual to see vests sticking to backs. I know the teams were random but for around 98% of lessons I found myself as a skin. Did anybody think they were singled out too.

Comments by Harry on 5th September 2018  

Hi Frank and Jeremy an interesting spin on playing games shirtless!Back in the early nineties a group of lads at the engineering works organised a weekend social activity.It was a paintball challenge with two teams battling it out in woods in Derbyshire.Most of us had old coats and well worn jeans it was Spring,April and a bit showery and chilly.We thought it would be a good idea to make the teams more distinguishable as in the woods we mistook who was on which side etc.One of our team took of his coat and t-shirt and indicated that I and the others should do the same this added an extra element of fun,the other team came at us fast and furious we went back home sore and pitted but it was very refreshing and livened things up! We had another round a few weeks later!

Comments by Jeremy on 1st September 2018  

Hi frank, yes we used to play air soft shirtless during hot days, when temperatures were to high to wear anything on our chests. Generally we didnít have strict rules, in fact the winner was the guy who was able to resist more. However, even when we wore protections on our chests, we used to add a punishment for members who didnít declare they have been hit. They had to take off their protections and shirts so that they had to be bare chested. At that point three of us shoot on his bare chest around 30 shot. After this you had to finish playing as you were, shirtless! Sometimes happens that people didnít declare and it is a problem because you donít realise when you win. One time it happened to me and i was very scared not for the 30 shot (which were a bit painful) but for the fact they all had protections a part from me, so they didnít care to shoot hundreds of shot with automatic arms because of protections... except from me ahahah at the end I was destroyed but the next day I was ready for another battle!

Comments by John on 31st August 2018  

Alfie, I agree that I would have hated having to run barefoot, frankly that wasnít even safe for those lads to be made to do that. Running shirtless was always great though. After spending hours at a desk in a hot and stuffy classroom in winter, to be able to strip to the waist and put on a pair of shorts and trainers and go running outdoors was a truly liberating experience. It never did me any harm, we quickly got warm and worked up a sweat.

Comments by Frank on 31st August 2018  

Hi, i was reading Ericís message regarding air soft..I want to talk about mine of my experiences.. one time I was playing football and my shirt ended up in shreds so I was obliged to play shirtless. The problem was one of my friend who wanted to play paintball, everyone had a shirt a part from me, but I was forced to play. Yes it was very painful but, at least, I didnít dirty my shirt haha. Have you ever tried airsoft/paintball barechested?

Comments by Alfie on 31st August 2018  

Some fun running bare chested and bare feet in freezing cold, snow and rain while the coaches wore woollen jerseys, woollen socks and shoes.

Give us a break, guys.

I suppose you also look back nostalgically at getting the cane at school.

Comments by Rory on 30th August 2018  

Bernard, thanks for your comments. At least your PT teacher contemplated no sending you outside in the snow. Ours just carried on with the timetabled activity regardless of weather. Even if that meant our bare feet were ankle deep in snow. Like you say it was often a relief and once you got going was quite enjoyable in a funny sort of way. The biting cold seemed to encourage you to run harder.

Comments by Rob on 30th August 2018  

Thanks John, you're a man after my own heart. Lads today don't know what they're missing.

Comments by Rob, on 30th August 2018  

James, Yes, we were bare chested all year but weren't sent out for a cross country run very often in winter.As for when it snowed,and down here in the softy south that wasn't very often, I can only recall a couple of occasions and they were sunny days, when we had to run around the school playing fields through the snow, rather than through the usual woodland and out onto the hills. I remember it felt very invigorating running through the snow wearing just PE shorts and plimsolls.Sometimes, in summer, we had to run in the rain which was quite miserable and we were glad to get back in the changing rooms and enjoy a warm shower. Whatever the season, it did us no harm being stripped to the waist and I am glad that we had that experience while we were at school.

Comments by Bernard on 29th August 2018  

Rory - We used to do everything like you - in just a pair of shorts. i think most of us really enjoyed cross country dressed in our minimal kit, even in the winter. Our school always seemed to be overheated in the winter and it was a relief to strip off and get outside though we had to keep moving to avoid getting too cold.
The first time we did cross country with snow on the ground the teacher was a bit dubious and said we could go to the library. That meant we would have to sit in silence and we didn't have our homework with us so we couldn't do anything useful. We all chose ro run and no-one came to any harm from being out in the snow barefoot and stripped to the waist.

Comments by John on 29th August 2018  

Rob, I agree with you totally, cross country running stripped to the waist was always a great experience. The sheer freedom of being barechested and feeling the cool air on your skin was really exhilarating. I felt grateful that we were allowed to run without tops.

Comments by James on 29th August 2018  

Hi rob, were you bare chested also in winter or with rain/cold/snow?

Comments by Toby Patterson on 27th August 2018  

My parents moved to a new county left little time to get ready for school. When changed for our first PE/Games lesson my vest was red, not white. This delighted our teacher who jumped on it hauling me out in front of the class shouting "vest off now!" Our classes were either done in skins or teams of vests vs skins. I would strip to the waist for 9 more years after.

Comments by Chris on 27th August 2018  

James - just to clarify, after a topless PE class, we always put our shirts back on, just like we used to. The only difference was that weren't wearing vests under them any more.

Comments by Rob on 27th August 2018  

Chris G, I was at an all boys Grammar school in the late 1950s and remember when we all wore vests under our shirts. In noting that for the first two years you kept your vest on when you did PE, it must have got sweaty during the lesson and felt uncomfortable afterwards when you got dressed again. From the start of our first year we were told by our PE master to take everything off, including our socks and underpants and to wear just a pair of shorts with nothing on underneath and plimsolls. This was our PE kit for the duration at the school, even as sixth formers. Sometimes we would get changed and then be sent out on a run when the freedom and comfort of being stripped to the waist was even more enjoyable.

You said that at the start of the third year you were initially all a bit wary at being topless, suggesting, unusually for the late fifties, that unlike most of us at that time you did not have to go naked into the open communal showers after every PE and games lesson. That was an experience that I and no doubt virtually of us met with total apprehension and anticipation for the first couple of weeks after which time none of thought anything more about it.

Comments by James on 27th August 2018  

Chris, did you were bare chested after PE even if you had normal lesson in class, or did you go back home shirtless?

Comments by Rory on 23rd August 2018  

Just like so many others I spent my time in secondary school doing PE wearing nothing but a pair of white shorts. Always bare chest, no underwear and barefoot. Whether we were inside or outside.

I remember the bully of a pe teacher that thought nothing of sending 30 odd shirtless and barefoot boys out for a cross country run in the snow and frost.

Comments by Chris G on 23rd August 2018  

My experience, at secondary school back in the late 1950s, was rather similar to John's.

For the first two years, PE uniform was black shorts and white top. Since virtually all kids wore underwear vests (remember those?) in those days, few of us bothered with a dedicted PE top, so we just took off our school ties, shirts and trousers, put on our shorts, and there we were, all kitted out. At the start of my third year, our PE master announced that from now on, PE would be topless, an announcement greeted with mixed apprehension and anticipation by virtually all of us, and with irritation by those parents who had splashed out on the recommended uniform PE shirt.

For the first couple of classes, we were all a bit wary of the unfamiliar freedom of toplessness, but within a couple of weeks, as John discovered, comfort and practicality prevailed, and none of us thought anything more about it. An unintended consequence, for me and for virtually alll of my mates, was that instead of going to school wearing our vests, taking them off for PE and putting them on again afterwards, it soon became fashionable not to put them back on afterwards, and we all generally went vest-less for the remainder of the day. Inevitably, it was then just a short step not to bother with a vest at all on PE days, and a further short step to not wearing one at all (much to Mum's initial concern that I would catch cold before the winter was oujt!).

Comments by Andrea on 22nd August 2018  andreatwo@hotmail.co.uk 

My Ex said that they were expected to do indoor PE bare chested, but they wore shirts for outdoor sports.

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.