Clitheroe Royal Grammar School

Childhood - Schools


Year: 1959         Item #: 1602         Views: 150,130         Comments: 714

Clitheroe Royal Grammar School

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

714 user comment(s) below:-

Comments by Toby on 16th July 2016  

We always had to wear vests for PE until our teacher picked the skins team and then would those lads strip down. The discarded vests would either end up on the edge of the stage if indoors or on the grass or yard if outdoors for the rest of the lesson. Myself and 3 others were picked to strip down for nearly every session for some reason, others would drop their vests occasionally.

Comments by Dave on 16th July 2016  

When I started at secondary school we had to do PE bare-chested. I had never done this before but soon got used to being stripped to the waist both indoors and on cross-country runs. It was also quite common to be barefoot indoors and some boys even did cross-country while barefoot.

Comments by Andrea on 13th July 2016 

When I was at primary school in the 1960s most of us wore vests (boys and girls - we used to change for PE in the same classroom for PE). The boys ones were plain white and we girls were mainly white with a very small amount of pink around the neckline. We all wore T shirts over our vests for PE though.

Like Charles' sister the vests tended to get discarded once we graduated to bras. For a few this occurred during our last year at Primary school, but for most it was during the first couple of years at Secondary. Attitudes to this varied - some wanted to wear bras as soon as possible to feel more 'grown-up' (a bit like the jockstrap wearers Charles referred to) but for others it took a some persuasion to do so (either from their mothers, or on occasions our PE teacher).

As I don't have a brother and went to an all girls secondary school I can't comment on whether boys of my era continued to wear vests into their teens.

Comments by Dominic on 11th July 2016  

Charles - as Mark said most of us went topless for p.e. - in my case in the 60s and I was very happy about that. I too am surprised that you weren't told to wear nothing under your shorts - I thought that was an almost universal rule at that time and much appreciated if you were made to work hard which we certainly were.
A lot of boys wore the hated vests when I started at secondary school though most of us had managed to get rid of them long before we left. They were never worn for p.e. Plimsolls were on the kit list but never worn inside and rarely outside.

Comments by Rob on 11th July 2016  

Charles,most of us have said that we had to go topless for PE, particularly in the 1950s and for many years afterwards, but few had any qualms about it and like yourself,when you had to be stripped to the waist, thoroughly enjoyed it.It is certainly healthier and I would have thought that the new Pe master should have also told you not to wear anything under your shorts.If you were made to sweat like us you needed a complete change of clothes and a shower afterwards although it sounds as though your mum wouldn't have approved of you having to go completely naked twice a week.

Comments by Charles on 9th July 2016  

Unlike many posters here, I don't remember having any qualms about being topless for PE. When I started at secondary school, back in the mid 1950s, our PE kit comprised white vest, white shorts and plimsolls, the actual style being irrelevant. Back in those days, plain white vests, although increasingly unpopular as underwear, still featured in most kids' wardrobes, so with clothes rationing still a recent memory, making underwear double as PT kit made sound economic sense, as did Mum's skill in the cotton-shorts tailoring department.

As far as I can remember, there were no prohibitions on wearing anything under our shorts; most of us either wore our underpants or went commando, while a few lads acquired jockstraps which the rest of us envied and thought rather daring. On occasions when sunny weather encourageed PE classes outide, we played team games as "shirts and skins", but this was the exception rather than the rule.

After I had been at this school for a couple of years, a new PE master announced that, henceforth, it would be healthier for us to do PE topless, a development that we all welcomed wholeheartedly and unanimously, and which effectively put the kibosh on vests as underwear as far as my peers and I were concerned. While Mum wasn't happy with the thought of her son and heir going bare-chested for an hour or so a couple of times a week, the temptation for said son, not only initially to "forget" to put his vest back on after PE, but soon also to "forget" to put it on at all on a PE day, soon became irresistible! Mum was even less happy once she realised that not wearing a vest for PE was a cast-iron excuse for not wearing a vest on PE days and, by extension, for giving up vests altogether, a project I had been working on ever since my younger sister revealed that she had received maternal approval to discard her vests when she started wearing bras a couple of years previously.

Comments by Jon on 2nd July 2016  

We had to wear a jockstrap for sport like PE and running, seems to have fallen out of fashion today

Comments by Roy on 28th June 2016  

I agree with Dominic that teachers today don't/can't exercise discipline over their charges. Kids are even allowed to call teachers by their first names/

Comments by Dominic on 26th June 2016  

Mark and Roy - you are so right about the lack of manners shown these days. I still find myself apologising to the person who is in the wrong occasionally.

Mark - I live in London now and travel on the underground. A couple of times recently school parties have got on and the children have rushed and pushed past adults to get to seats. Once I mentioned to one of the adults with the party how bad-mannered this appeared but they just stared back at me as though I was talking in a foreign language - perhaps I was!

Back to a more relevant point - children never did answer back or disobey an order at school - not unless you wanted to experience the consequences which would have been more unpleasant than anything teachers can dish out these days. Maybe that is part of the problem - teachers can no longer discipline their pupils effectively.

Comments by Roy on 28th May 2016  

At one time in British society it was quite common to apologise to someone if in fact it was that person who had done wrong.

Comments by Mark on 11th May 2016  

This is true Terry. I shudder when children don't stand up for elderly people on buses. Its not their fault as they haven't been brought up to do it.
As a child i gave my seat when the bus was full not because I was afraid of my parents punishing me for being rude. I did it because I knew it was the right thing to do.
Have you noticed that no-one says excuse me anymore to get past you? They just stand behind as if you have eyes in the back of your head.
Last week on a train in the first class, a well dressed middle aged chap stood behind s elderly lady as she put her case on the rack. He grew inpatient as she took her time. Finally he pushed past her. He was of an age to know better but couldn't bring himself to say excuse me. When I say it, people look at me as if i am insane.
Its not just children who don't know their manners, but its the majority of society. many those who were brought up "properly" seem to have forgotten the simple things that make life more pleasant.
It is as if that showing you care about others has become a weakness and that many are afraid to show they care for fear of looking weak or different.
We live in the I'm alright Jack era. maybe we always did!

Comments by Terry on 10th May 2016  

I agree with Rob & Mark especially realizing that actions have consequences. Especially disobedience. But I think we have lost out on the polite society. I sometimes see my son's school friends in the street. They know who I am and I say hello. whereas we as kids would have replied (heaven help us if it got back to our parents that we ignored someone) they totally ignore you as if you never existed. What has happened to manners, or is it that if someone speaks to you, you have a hidden agenda?

Comments by Mark on 4th May 2016  

Rob, you are correct. When we were told to do something at school we did it or else.
We didn't argue if told to go barefoot or shirtless in PE.
The last thing we wanted was to in trouble or a detention. That would mean our parents finding out and a double punishment. We knew from than an early age that actions have consequences

Comments by Rob on 26th April 2016  

Terry, referring to your comments about communal showers, not only were they essential after a tough session in the gym in the 50's & 60's but also physiologically when we were in the showers it was an important part of our physical education when we could see how our classmates were developing during the stages of puberty. This helped us to to realise that we were all going through the same experiences of growing up and as a result I certainly had no personal inhibitions about others seeing me naked in the changing rooms and showers.

Unfortunately,most lads nowadays do not have to strip to the waist for pe let alone take showers afterwards and therefore have become very inhibited and afraid to talk about their personal problems.

Comments by Rob on 25th April 2016  

No problem, Jamie; thanks for your comments.

Comments by Jamie on 24th April 2016  

Rob, I actually did start off with nylon PE shorts like the ones you describe and so did many other boys. But as I got older I wore cotton shorts instead, largely for the reasons you mentioned!
Underpants were permitted for PE but only if you had a spare pair to change into after the lesson. If not then you had to do the lesson with nothing under your shorts (which I guess was probably a lot more hygienic).
Officially our PE kit was the same in the sixth form but, as at your school, things became more relaxed and quite a few boys preferred to do it with their vests off.
Didn't mean to sound bitter about my experiences at school! I just think I would have enjoyed attending a school where boys were not only permitted but required to go barechested. I guess it's just a measure of how times changed.

Comments by ROY on 24th April 2016  

I agree with Rob. I was at school in the late fifties and early to mid sixties and you did as you were told.
If you were told to strip to the waist and go barefoot-and you were- you stripped to the waist and went barefoot.

Comments by Rob on 23rd April 2016  

Lads are more inhibited these days, not through their faults but because society dictates that they are protected from the eyes of unwelcome strangers who are around and might look at them or take photos of them on their 'phones for their own gratification. Things were different in our childhood, when we were encouraged by our parents from early years each summer to strip to the waist and run around outside in our shorts.Nowadays, any responsible parent does not allow their children out of their sight. I do not agree with youngsters being dressed in long trousers from the day they learn to walk, but that's the fashion today.

In the late 50's & early 60's when you & I at all boys schools we all did as we were told. I remember my first PE lesson when we had been told what to wear and as we went to the changing room we were all talking & some boys were asking us whether we were allowed to wear t-shirts & we said no, just shorts & plimsolls. No more was said as they all got used to being stripped to the waist.At the end of the lesson & back in the changing room, the boys were getting into the communal showers naked.I remember hesitating for a second or two before realising there was no way out for me but to take off my shorts & go in the showers.My embarrassment at the others seeing my penis soon disappeared as saw I was the same as other boys, & my inhibitions about going in the showers had gone for ever.

Comments by John on 23rd April 2016  

Terry,Rob, I attended a secondary modern, mixed boys and girls.
We also wore those nylon shorts that you mentioned and these were typically worn without any underwear.
Of course, shorts were a lot shorter then and they were translucent when wet and we had to do long country runs through villages and main roads.
I was very indignant at being made to wear those see throughs and the embarrassment it caused.

Comments by Terry on 22nd April 2016  


I attended an all boys school 1961 to 1966. PE for us was also shorts no pants or top. We wore white shorts and as you say some boys wore the nylon type and when we played football in the rain (yes those days we still had to go ouitside if it was raining) the white nylon shorts became see through. However, no one seemed to care. We also wore plimsolls and as you say there were no branded trainers and plimsolls were great levellers.

Like you at the end of the lesson it was communal showers all naked of course which was accepted as normal. I am sure these days lads are more inhibited and the thought of communal showers are a no! no!

Times have certainly changed.

Comments by Rob on 22nd April 2016  

Jamie,we each went to an all boys school but I would not have minded if it had been mixed and boys and girls did pe together and boys had to wear just gym shorts. We had two single lessons each week in the gym and one double when we played soccer, or cricket in the summer.We were sent out on a run from time to time in the single lessons, but it sounds as though you went running during a double, which explains why the gym was being used by another class.We wore black or white shorts and mine were black. We were not allowed to wear underpants(what about you?) or socks, and trainers were unheard of in the 50's so were all wore plimsolls.No expensive branded trainers, so it was all very levelling for us.After pe and football communal nude showers were the sixth form we still wore the same kit but it was a lot more relaxed, with smaller classes and we played team games, when we also wore two different coloured sashes,(no shirts against skins).

I hope your white shorts were not like the nylon ones which some boys wore in my class.Because the gym was being used for an exam,we were sent out on a run when it
started to rain and the nylon shorts became almost see through. Fortunately we did not meet anyone outside the school gates & we were soon up in the fields and the sun came out & the nylon material soon dried in the breeze.I think the local people were used to seeing us boys running & wouldn't have raised an eyebrow if they had seen the boys wet nylon shorts,although today there would have been an uproar about it.

You really do sound bitter about your missed oportunity to run stripped to the waist, and not being able to at anytime. Yes, it was very nice when it was dry & the sun shone but really not so comfortable when you got wet and cold. We just ran a bit faster & got back to school & into the warm showers.

Comments by Jamie on 20th April 2016  

You're right Rob, that would have been interesting to find myself barechested in a gym full of girls! Unfortunately that didn't happen as I was at an all boys school. So the class I was sent to join were boys from the year above mine and no, I wasn't the only boy without a vest. The usual PE kit for both the gym and outdoors was vest in school colours, white shorts and socks and trainers. However it was common practice to play 'shirts against skins' in the gym and on that occasion for obvious reasons I was told to join the skins team!
While I was often a skin for PE in the gym, I did want to see how it felt outdoors with the breeze and maybe even some rain on my bare chest and back and it was disappointing to be refused permission. From what you say it sounds like I missed out!

Comments by Rob on 19th April 2016  

John, I don't think it worried me about getting my first pair of long trousers as I was certainly not the only boy in class still wearing shorts although I probably appreciated the warmth.

I don't recall what happened to my school shorts but don't remember seeing them again. Unfortunately, shorts are not considered childish nowadays, certainly by parents who seem to put their boys into long trousers as soon as they grow out of nappies. It is far healthier to get the sun and air to them.

Comments by Rob on 19th April 2016  

Jamie, our pe kit was just the norm at that time and we accepted it and got to enjoy it.When our parents were given a list of the school uniform our pe kit included a t-shirt,
but at the beginning of of the first lesson we were told to go to the changing room and take everything off and come back to the gym wearing just shorts and plimsolls. At that time all boys wore sleeveless vests under their shirts all year round, so it felt extra good being stripped to the waist, especially outside. (sorry about that, Jamie!).
When you asked the teacher if you could run in just your shorts & he refused and sent you to a class who were in the gym, were you then the only one without a top as you had 'forgotten' yours, or was everyone barechested? What was your normal kit in the gym? Was the class who were in the gym half of yours who went running while the rest were inside or were they a different class entirely? If it was mixed school, maybe it was the girl's turn to use the gym. That would have been fun for you!

Comments by John on 19th April 2016  

Rob, I do agree we were kept in shorts till we were a lot older in our school days. The change over to long trousers was usually about 13 or 14, although this could also be decided by the boys height, when a boy could be kept in shorts till he was a lot older.
This criteria was considered important and usually boys couldn't wait to get their first pair of long trousers.
Shorts would then be discarded and not be worn again, as they were considered 'childish'.
Like you, my parents didn't take these views and I wore shorts all the time regardless of my age, even after I left school.

Comments by Jamie on 18th April 2016  

Really wish I'd been at school in your day Rob, it sounds like there was a more sensible approach then. I wanted to do cross country with a bare chest when I was at school about 20 years ago but it wasn't allowed. Once I pretended to have forgotten my vest for the lesson and asked the teacher if I could run in just my shorts. But he flatly refused, saying it was too cold - like a vest made so much difference! - and instead made me go inside and join a class who were in the gym. Ridiculous really.

Comments by Rob on 18th April 2016  

I was kept in grey school shorts until the winter after I
was 14 although it was an all boys school in the late 1950's. From then until I started work when I was nearly
18 my parents told me when I was at home in the summertime to put my shorts on and get the sun and fresh air to my body.So I usually wore just a pair of leisure shorts and always got a nice tan out in the garden. In school pe, we always wore shorts with nothing underneath and bare chests
indoors and outside on the sports field and for cross country running. We all enjoyed this, especially feeling the breeze on our chests. I feel privileged to have been at school at that time and sorry that today's youngsters
have to be so cosseted. However, with my schoolday's experiences, I am more confident and to this day continue to wear shorts whenever I can throughout the summer with or without a shirt.

Comments by James on 1st April 2016  

Simon, I agree, it was the parents' prerogative to keep their children dressed as they so desired, but certainly I considered to be kept in shorts up to my leaving age at school was exceeding the boundaries.

Comments by Simon on 31st March 2016  

James as I posted previously in response to Laura & John I wore short grey trousers until about the age of 13. They were short and very tight. These were worn all year round. Eventually, when I was considered to have grown tall enough I was allowed longs.
This was in the mid 60's when parents dictated what was worn. I did not have any say in the matter. Parent chose all of your clothes. On the other hand I do not think we were so governed by the latest fashion trends.

Comments by James on 31st March 2016  

Roy, I wore short trousers till my fifth year (year 11).
I was the oldest boy to wear short trousers in my school till I left

Comments by ROY on 31st March 2016  

When I was at school in the 1950's and 60's the boys wore shorts in primary school and I changed into long trousers after Christmas in my second year at secondary school.(Year 8).

Comments by Simon on 18th March 2016  

It seems like for years now boys have worn long grey trousers in primary school which means they have to change to shorts for pe. At least in our primary school for PE all we boys had to do was take of our shirts and do PE in our grey shorts and singlet. We never thought it strange that girls had to do PE in their underwear(Regulation Navy blue) and mixed class where was the equality there?

Comments by John on 14th March 2016  

Simon, it was a family tradition to keep boys dressed in shorts through school years and I had to accept it without complaint or criticism.
Like your shorts, mine were ultra-short and to be kept in shorts during the cold winter months was an endurance and took a certain amount of fortitude.

Comments by Andrea on 13th March 2016 

I wish we had been able to wear warm tights (or trousers) when I was at secondary school - my legs used to get really cold cycling to school in the winter!

Comments by Simon on 13th March 2016  


As posted previously I too had to wear the short shortsup to about the age of 13 which were very uncomfortably tight and I would have thought these days condidered too short to be decent. that was summer AND winter.

Comments by John on 12th March 2016  

Laura,I remember the shorts I used I used to wear for school, although they were not obligatory, my parents decided to keep me in shorts for what seemed to be in perpetuity.
As my sister could wear warm tights in the winter my legs were exposed to the bitter weather and my shorts were trim and made to fit well above the knee.
Some boys wore track suits if the weather was cold, but I had to brave the elements and freeze in shorts more suitable for the summer.

Comments by Simon on 11th March 2016  

I agree with Laura. Shorts too exposing? Is that why it seems all the young lads these days seem to wear the horrendously long board shorts. they must drag so much when swimming in them.

Comments by Laura on 8th March 2016  

Samuel, too exposing? Really? Do you never wear shorts in the summer, on holiday, at the swimming pool? Does the sight of legs cause you problems? And as for protection from the cold, are you serious? It's rarely below freezing in the daytime, are you and your classmates so delicate that you can't handle playing sport when it's a bit chilly?

Comments by Samuel on 8th March 2016  

At my school we always wear track suits and not shorts since shorts are a it too exposing and don't protect against the cold in the winter. There's nothing unsafe about track suits really.

Comments by Simon on 20th February 2016  

I wonder if track suit bottoms are now worn brcause of elf & safety. We cannot have the students damaging theirselves of the field if they fall over.

Comments by Andrea on 14th February 2016 

When my son was at Secondary school a few years ago he said that there were showers, but they were rarely used as there wasn't time before the next lesson. He just used to keep a can of deodorant in his sports bag. His outdoor PE kit was a rugby shirt and shorts (worn with normal underwear), but a lot of the girls used to wear tracksuit bottoms or leggings.

A lot different from my school days when showers were compulsory and tracksuit bottoms were definitely not allowed!

Comments by Simon on 5th February 2016  

Our PE and outdoor games were usally held as the last lesson of the day. So if we could and there was no teacher patrolling the changing rooms we would try and miss showers get changed and go straight home. Then later we could have a cvilised bath.

It is certainly different these days. I know from friend teenagers at high school, showers are not available or expected after games or pe. And tracksuit bottoms are often the norm along with a rugby shirt and of course no one would suggest nowadays no underwear for pe.

I mthe old black rubber soul plimsolls trainers were not available and plimsolls were worn without socks so iften they rubbed on the heel. How on earth did we survive? But we have.

Comments by Sterling on 4th February 2016  

I was actually referring to gym shorts. When we began the day with PE it was regularly freezing outdoors and in the gym.
I remember the water in toilet bowls in the boys changing room having a film of ice over it.
Yet we had shorts only kit for gym. This was school policy. The official outdoor kit included those horrid rubber plimsoles and vest! Both masters banned vests! Decades previously some boys wore their normal winter vests! The outrage! Hence they banned them and we all had extra vests to wear. Our Mothers insisted on them. 30 min later we were freezing and vests are banned. Our gym got little use despite the harsh Northern Irish winters.

Comments by Simon on 4th February 2016  

You refer to wearing shorts. W this school uniform? Even in secondary school (all boys) I had to wear the regulatory short grey uniform shorts until about the age of 13. Before that age you was not considered old enough to wear longs. O how I longed to allowed to wear grown up trousers. I should mention I was in the minority most all though not all wore long trousers. At least,it was not such a shock to me when I had to wear shorts for pe in winter. Also because I was a Scout I was used to wearing shorts for uniform up to the age of 16.

Of course there were no designer labels those days, and alot of clothes were hand me downs(except underwear)or bought as cheap as possible.

Comments by Sterling on 26th January 2016  

Simon, I agree that today's youth are becoming wimps. However the Heath & Safety environment restricts activities we took for granted!
A video of two lads diving into the sea during the recent storm Desmond caused uproar from the Cotton Wool Society! The video shows the youths leap from the famous Blackrock diving tower in Galway into stormy waters.
Although completely moronic I was still glad to see some tough lads exist and reminded me off my youthful macho bravado and competition!

Comments by Simon on 24th January 2016  

Sterling, my experience was like your's wearing severall layers with the ibligatory vest(singlet).Then pe in barely nothing very cold in winter. As you say no colds or flu. Futhermore no heating in bedrooms . In the winter we woke up to freezing rooms literally.
Re Ron Our school swimming lessons were held at a public pool although a closed session. However, we wore trunks (sppedo style). I do recall at Scout camp swimming in rivers(no elf & safety) but some boys did not have trunks and so swam in their pants. (same thing). Howvwer, I recall eventually we all decided to skinny dip & though nothing of it and the leaders did not stop it although they wore trunks.

Nowadays I see young lads at football mathces in the winter with long shorts almost tights underneath and long socks. Heaven forbid that their legs should get cold!!

Comments by Sterling on 22nd January 2016  

I also remember woolen vests as Simon has mentioned. I also remember my Mother insisting I wore a vest during winter. Our PE Master insisted on bare chests and no underpants. It was a stark contrast on a freezing winter morning. Going from four or five layers, when one includes the horrid woolen vest, shirt, pullover, blazer and coat, to nothing but shorts.
We endured cold showers while the girls had hot water!
The double standards were quite stark also!
However I never had colds or flu as a youth!

Comments by Ron on 22nd January 2016  

Did anyone here have nude swimming at school?

Comments by Simon on 21st January 2016  

Having read the previous comments about swimming trunks, I remember those awful wollen trunks and I was so pleased when they were no longer available. I also remember wearing the horrrible wollen vest and pants "to keep us warm" in the winter

My pe kit at al all boys secondary school was white shorts (no pants) and no top in the mid 60's

Comments by ROY on 6th January 2016  

In my experience boys didn't worry about doing PE shirtless.
In fact you often see lads going about shirtless as a matter of course