Burnley Grammar School

Childhood - Schools


Year: 1959         Item #: 1607         Views: 577,912         Comments: 2,066

Burnley Grammar School

Image scaled down from 800px to 740px wide. Click the image to view the original.

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

2066 user comment(s) below:-

Comments by Tom1 on 9th December 2017  

It's interesting seeing these comments. I left school this year and compared to everyone here my experience couldn't have been more different. PE was always done in shorts and a t shirt and trainers. We used coloured bibs to differentiate between teams. We had shower cubicles in which we showered in private. We had swimming lessons in the school pool, for which we wore swimwear- absolutely shocked at some people claiming they did it naked. I guess I should be grateful for the faculties and regulations we have today!

Comments by Peter B on 6th December 2017  

William. I agree that's the way it was in he 60's. We all got used to showering together. As you say by the age of 14 the shorts did not cover much. In those days I recall you the pe shorts had to last for several years. Parents could not afford to buy new ones very often.

Also re showers as others say if a teacher was present we took no notice. He was just there to keep order and obviously was not going to do anything untoward when there were a crowd of lads together.

Comments by Robert Goldsmith on 4th December 2017  

Agreed Tim, that was the whole point about wearing just shorts, we didn't need anything else, and didn't it feel great with the sweat running down! I really looked forward to the showers afterwards.On the subject of which, after the first PE lesson, realising I had to go in the open communal showers I was embarrassed about taking my shorts off and being naked in front of the other boys, but I very soon overcame my inhibitions and took it all for granted.

Comments by Tim on 4th December 2017  

The expectation was you would sweat indoors and boy we did. No vest was quite rightly mandatory for all PE, gym or outdoors, regardless of conditions or temperature.

Comments by Mac on 2nd December 2017  britman58@safe-mail.net 

Having to go nude in a group for the communual shower for the first time was certainly daunting!

Comments by William on 1st December 2017  

Derek,I agree with Roy and Neil. Felt embarrassed the first time but this was a boys' grammar school in the '60s and we had to get on with it. It helped that we were all treated the same: no vests, nothing under shorts and communal nude showers.

The showers were not much use, Michael. We all had to strip and then walk under a shower in single file, as close as possible to the boy in front. At least we got the tops of our heads wet. Gym master supervised. He was terrifying but emphatically no pervert.

We kept our shorts for as long as possible and by the time we were 14 they didn't cover much but we thought nothing of it. It was just the way it was.

Comments by Michael on 30th November 2017  

I was far more concerned about the temperature of the water in the showers, which was determined by the teacher. Depending on the amount of hot water available sometimes it was warm, but at other times bone-chillingly cold. But, whatever temperature it was, we had to have a proper shower using bars of soap, including washing our hair. Occasionally some smart-alec tried a quick run-through under the shower heads, but they were always sent back - there was no escape. Rumour had it that there was a correlation between the water temperature and the PE teacher's mood, but I was never convinced of that.

Comments by Neil on 29th November 2017  


No, not at all. Initially maybe but after awhile it became the norm.

Comments by Roy on 29th November 2017  

I was embarrassed the first time I had to shower naked in front of the other boys but soon got used to it and eventually took no notice of the other boys and I assume they took no notice of me.

Comments by Derek on 28th November 2017  

We always did PE in white vest and white shorts, our standard PE uniform, but we always had to take everything off for showers afterwards under the supervision of our PE teacher.
Did anyone here find it embarrassing being naked in front of other boys and teachers?

Comments by Jon on 18th November 2017  

Like Roy I had a shock when I got to secondary school and was told we did PE stripped to the waist but I soon got used to it and went stripped to the waist until I left school.

Comments by Roy on 14th November 2017  

I too had a shock when arriving at secondary school being told I had to do PE and cross-country stripped to the waist.
But I soon got used to it and did PE bare-chested right up to and including sixth form.

Comments by JasonR on 12th November 2017  

NickK, Our PE teacher had 3 favourites (I was one) who he picked to strip every lesson.The first time I stripped facing the class and never had a vest on again until leaving after A levels.

Comments by NickK on 4th November 2017  

Like KieranT, it was quite a shock when I arrived at my all boys secondary school and discovered that we had to strip down to shorts for PE. The teacher I had in first form insisted on shorts only in the gym, even though the school uniform list stipulated vest, socks and plimsolls. The shorts tended to be very short in those days and it made me feel very vulnerable and naked (I was quite a shy boy and not especially good at PE). But, as others have commented, it made me grow in self-confidence in time. In second form, our PE teacher allowed the full kit but shirts and skins was the norm for any team game indoors or in a covered area we had outdoors. But the choice of shirts and skins was not entirely random and some boys seemed to be chosen a lot more often to strip down.

Comments by James on 11th October 2017  

Dominic,wearing shorts was more comfortable and practical when wearing them for games,but the fashion of the 80's meant that shorts were much shorter than the 60's.
Although,it was not compulsory to wear short trousers for school,I had to wear them for school and home.
With their absurd brevity it meant that you could freeze when wearing them in the winter.
We wore just a pair of shorts for games in the gym even when sharing it with the girls.

Comments by Dominic on 9th October 2017  

Ryan - I'm glad you enjoyed p.e. and cross country in the 80s in just a pair of shorts as I did in the 60s. You sum it up very well - the minimal kit and freedom from a restrictive uniform. My school always seemed to be overheated in winter so it was a great relief to change into a pair of shorts and run around, inside or outside bare chested and barefoot - it didn't matter how cold it was.
I think we had just one boy in the class who was a little shy about his body but he soon got used to it and no-one ever made any effort to cover themselves.
Most of us thought it was very "grown up" to be so scantily clad but the teacher sold it to us very well in the first lesson. All but one of our p.e. teachers were very encouraging and appreciated effort more then ability. I was never very good at p.e. but thoroughly enjoyed it all the same.

Comments by Ben on 9th October 2017  ben.thomas19@yahoo.com 

Kieran, I was fascinated to read your post as it summed up perfectly how I felt when I had to do shirts and skins in PE.
The whole thing came as a shock to me too - I remember one boy actually asked the teacher what 'skins' meant and he replied: "Skin. No vest, no nothing" which was pretty accurate, if not gramatically correct! I still wasn't sure until I realised a couple of my friends were suddenly stripped to the waist.
Like you, I recall clearly that sense of feeling like I was totally naked the first time I had to be a skin, and also crossing my arms over my chest to cover up. And being teased about my obvious discomfort!
I also became more confident over time, to the extent that I actually came to enjoy doing sports barechested. My feelings are the same as yours with hindsight - I benefited in the long term from shirts and skins but it would have been much fairer to have every boy dressed the same.

Comments by KieranT on 8th October 2017  

Interesting memories! I went to an allboys school in the very early 90's, and in PE we usually did indoor team sports in the sports hall like basketball or football.

Official PE uniform was white shorts and white T shirts (plus white plimsolls with white socks), but we always had to play shirts and skins. I only went to that school when I was 12/13 and I hadn't come across that system before. At first I assumed you could choose which you wanted to be, so I was horrified to discover it was random.

I think it was the second or third lesson before my team was told they were to be skins. I was so shy the first time I had to take my T shirt off and leave it on the floor at the side of the gym, and stand about with my puny chest exposed. I felt really naked and self conscious with no shirt on, and I would cross my arms over my chest and try to cover up! Naturally the others soon noticed how uncomfortable I was stripped to the waist and would tease me even though half of them were as shirtless as me. Of course in the end I slowly got more confident about it. In fact in summer term we had to do gymnastics and we were encouraged to not wear our tops for that, though it wasn't compulsory. Mainly due to peer pressure even I would in the end go barechested for that, though I usually waited as long as possible before losing my T shirt.

Of course now it sounds crazy that I was so nervous about the whole thing, and I was definitely far more sensitive about being without my top than most of the other boys. But in hindsight it was good I was made to do it. In some ways it might have been easier if the whole class always had to be topless, instead of only the skins team.

Comments by Roy on 25th September 2017  

In the 1960's it was normal to do PE and also cross-country stripped to the waist. Many boys were barefoot as well even for cross-country.

Comments by Ryan on 10th September 2017  

I can very much relate to Steve's experiences as my PE lessons in an rather old fashioned school in the 80ies were quite similar. All PE, athletics and cross-country lessons were conducted with boys in white shorts only.
In the beginning it did indeed feel strange but quite quickly I came to enjoy all the PE activities and the limited kit that went with it.
Why? it was very simple, you just took your shorts, hardly anything to forget. Being stuck in a quite restrictive school uniform all day long, running around in bare feet/bare chest gave me feeling of intense freedom. As for outside activities, I never felt cold, you only got cold if you didn't move and in these days our teachers made very much sure you did move. You also felt quite grown up and manly and in my case at least, it did make me aware of my body. Probably an effect of being surrounded by other barechested boys all the time, I knew I wanted to look OK, not like the fat kid in class or too skinny, and I did put a lot of effort into my work.
I thouroghly enjoyed my PE lesson, the limited kit worked very much for me and I think it's a shame today's boys are made to cover up. Maybe Brexit can help us recover some good old-fashioned customs like the British boys traditional PE uniform.

Comments by dafne on 10th September 2017  

I still see shirtless guys everywhere at school.. just not during gym class proper haha. It's like a dress code thing during school hours. For everything else like cross country, gymnasts, marching band or whatever you're pretty much guaranteed to see most of the guys with their shirts off training! And it's a good look for young guys you won't hear me complain!

When we go on our annual running camp, you can bet minimal clothing is the standard attire and from what I see, it's the same for other teams. Coach tells us to wear whatever we're comfortable running in so all the boys go bare chest and most of the girls are in sports bras. We'll be on the bus going to the trail and we'll pretty much strip off our tops right there before getting off and stay like that for the whole day of activities. We feel totally at ease seeing so much bare skin on display all the time, in fact its kinda boring lol.. Just part of our runner subculture but i'm sure to someone else it may be weird but believe me a few days running in that temperature and your shirt will come off real quick!

So I dont think people are much more inhibited than they were in the old days. I just think different situations and groups and subcultures have different expectations!

Comments by Joe on 9th September 2017  

Steve, it sounds like your school had a harsh regime with regard to PE. It's not something I can identify with as my experiences of PE and cross country in the early 90s were rather different!
I'm intrigued to know why you feel boys should be restricted to just shorts for PE kit. Maybe in the gym that might make sense - but outdoors, in winter? Seriously? Is that meant to be character building or something?

Comments by The Doc on 9th September 2017  

To Ian,

The question of corporal punishment in school medicals never arose for the medics. Where there was a big group of boys there were alwsys members of staff present, usually in the school gym or hall.

It wasn't unusual that you would see one of them with a cane but it was fairly unusual that it would be used though I do remember one occasion when a group of lads were bent over and there was some element of horseplay in the line up I was working my way along the rear of.

The master present very politely asked me to stand back and he worked his way swiftly along the line delivering four strokes each. That calmed the horseplay and as I resumed my checks there was some involuntary jumping as my hands spread the now very sore buttocks to inspect. Though put it into perspective, that was once in the course of many hundreds of school medicals.

Comments by Steve on 9th September 2017  stu151@hotmail.com 

I posted below that we ran cross country in only shorts. Our course was woodland tracks, fields, a stream, plus a small amount of unmade roads.

It did seem strange at 11 to be told that we had to strip down to the waist and have bare feet outside, but your feet soon got used to the conditions. It wasn't open to debate anyway, and if you had worn plimsolls or a vest you would have been made to take them off, and caned as soon as you got back.

I don't see any reason why a lad needs anything other than shorts inside or out really, and certainly there is no need for anyone to wear a vest/t-shirt or trainers in the gym.

We always had to shower after any sport/pe, and a refusal, or keeping shorts/pants on would have resulted in us back in the gym, stretched over the gym horse to receive 6 hard strokes of the cane.

Comments by Rob on 8th September 2017  

Ross,interesting that you were in school at at a time which I consider fairly recent, wearing minimal PE kit as we had to wear. However, your cross country runs were in the safe confines of your school grounds, away from prying perverts with their mobile phones. In my school days, we ran stripped to the waist through woodland over fairly rough terrain and chalk and sharp flint hillside, obviously considered unsafe for bare feet. Fortunately our plimsolls didn't seem to get muddy probably because the chalk gives good drainage. It doesn't explain why we had to wear to wear plimsolls in the gym; I would have have been more than happy wearing just shorts. The only 'shock'I had, probably in common with the rest of my class, was having to take my shorts off after the first PE lesson and go naked in the open showers, but there again, we very soon got used to it and after being made to work up a sweat each lesson looked forward to a decent shower to freshen ourselves up.

Comments by Matthew on 8th September 2017  

To Ian

You say that your school doctor was authorised to administer corporal punishment. Under what circumstances was this necessary?

Comments by Dominic on 7th September 2017  

Steve - I think you are right about running cross country barefoot and stripped to the waist being normal. I was at grammar school in the 60s and that was how we did all p.e. including cross country. Very sensible really - no wet muddy plimsolls to deal with - dirty feet are so much easier to get clean and dry. It was a little challenging at times but most of the time I thoroughly enjoyed it and no-one came to any harm.

Comments by Ross on 6th September 2017  

Rob, I attended middle school in the late nineties early 00s and during this time I switched schools. My first middle school I wore tee, shorts, trainers and socks for pretty much all activities in or out except the obvious like gymnastics. So for me when I switched schools part way through year 6 it was a shock to the system to start doing all PE barefoot and it really was all PE in or out including the cross country which was done within the school grounds we ran around the main building and the muddy fields. Suppose this saved time washing muddy trainers and in fact I began to enjoy it. During the summer it was always a welcome relief to be outside doing athletics barefoot on the cool grass. This barefoot practice continued right upto high school which was only a few streets away.

Comments by Ian on 6th September 2017  martingale@talktalk.net 

To "The Doc". Thankyou for your entry. It brought home to me the difficulty of examining over a thousand boys in a secondary school such as mine in the 60s. Originally boys were called individually and told to change into PE shorts only, and to remove them when needed. Then the doctors trialled a new approach, retaining the individual approach for half the boys, while the rest were called class at a time to strip completely naked well in advance. We had to stand in full view of the doctors until called forward. Eventually the fully naked regime was introduced for all boys.
By the way, were you authorised by the headmaster to use corporal punishment, as our doctors were? Seeing a heavy belt in the doctor's bag really put the fear of God in me.

Comments by Ross on 6th September 2017  

Rob, middle school for me was from 1998 till 2002 I started one middle school which the kit was shorts, tee and trainers so was a shock to the system when I switched schools part way through when I was in year 6 at my new middle school all PE was done barefoot in and out including cross country which was ran in winter in the school grounds. In the summer months we did athletics and rounders which was always a pleasure to do in bare feet.

Comments by Steve on 5th September 2017  

At grammar school in the 60's we just wore shorts for pe and cross country.

We had 2 pe lessons a week, one inside and one a cross country run. Even in the winter we ran with bare feet and stripped to the waist. This was the same for all years, and we just regarded it as normal.

I think many schools had the same minimal kit, certainly the other secondary schools in my home town made boys run outside in all weathers, with bare backs and bare feet.

Comments by Rob on 5th September 2017  

Ross, the photo also looks very similar to our school PE at that time, although we wore black shorts(no underpants) and plimsolls both in the gym and outside,including cross country runs.You do not say when you were at the school but this kit was the norm for several decades for most boys. When you were told that you did ALL PE in bare feet, did this include cross country? Although we did athletics in the summer in bare feet,we always wore plimsolls for cross country although running in bare feet in all weathers was not unusual in many schools.

Comments by Ross on 3rd September 2017  

Doesn't look too dissimilar to my school PE except we were in bare feet.

I will always remember that first PE lesson at my new middle school, feeling quite anxious as the new boy dressed in a borrowed PE kit wearing trainers a fellow pupil kindly gave me the heads up "ahh we do all PE in bare feet here, I'd take them off" so I looked around and saw everyone barefoot and I nervously kicked off my trainers and peeled off my socks. Then I went down the cool corridor into the hall and spent an hour running around barefoot, gradually getting dusty feet and enjoying the slapping off 30 bare soles on the varnished wood floor.

Comments by Mr Wallace on 26th August 2017  

About showers there was always the rumour this one teacher was looking at you. But really what good did they do, you essentially ran through the water. Soap / shower gel was never used.
I wonder what they're like now, also if they have hair dryers and make up bars

Comments by The Doc on 20th August 2017  

Some interesting comments down thread about medicals.

I retired more than twenty years ago after a long career in medicine. Over that time I spent some time in the forces, a little in hospitals, some as a GP and for a while I covered school services too while I was a GP.

Many things have changed since I retired but perhaps one of the biggest is the expectation that men have some privacy - but notably the forces particularly have two different standards for men and women on that front where a woman will have a private medical but men will be examined in a group.

I did more group medicals than I can remember. They were done that way because they always had been and they are also very time efficient allowing you to get through far more in a session than if every man was coming into a room, undressing, being examined and then dressing again before leaving. Having the men naked before you arrive and lined up is far quicker.

Also, when examining you are looking for the abnormal and almost all of the time you don't find it in a group of healthy young men and you don't expect to. Working your way along a line listening to hearts or chests you will be aware very quickly of a sound that is even slightly abnormal without having to listen too hard. Equally, rectal examinations where you are checking for any sign of haemorrhoids, abnormal prostates or any number of other things are far easier to do one after the other as you focus on a particular body part. Of course for a man, bent over in a line up waiting for a rectal exam I can understand that it may not be his ideal way of being examined but he can be certain that nothing will be missed.

I would also say that I and my colleagues were all very much in favour of checking testicles from behind, there is a limit to how many times you want a man to cough in your face and being able to examine testicles while the man is bent forwards is actually more effective as while he stands with his legs wide apart - also the position for the rectal exam, his testicles hang more freely than if he is having thme checked from the front.

Equally doing school medicals I used to prefer a class of lads at a time, it was quicker and I think they were examined more thoroughly and after all in those days they were used to group nudity in the changing room and showers so a medical was only more of the same.

Comments by Neil on 20th August 2017  

Unfortunately so. Though perhaps one day they'll make a deserved comeback..
I think of Samuel Johnson and how boys are just influenced by the fashion of the day! "The greatest part of mankind have no other reason for their opinions than that they are in fashion." How so true!!

Comments by Neil on 20th August 2017  

Very similar experience. Perhaps the wearing of a jockstrap was an independent school boy phenomenon! I certainly still wear one today.

Comments by Stuart on 15th August 2017  cmnmuk@yahoo.co.uk 

At my boys schools, prep and senior it was gym shorts with nothing underneath. Occasionally at srnior school the PE master might do a random check, woe betide a boy who was caught wearing underpants. Lecture about hygiene would follow, shorts down, pants off and if he was feeling harsh rest of lesson conducted for that boy no shorts, naked butt.

Comments by Andrea on 7th August 2017  andreatwo@hotmail.co.uk 

I can remember pegging out my dads Aertex vests and pants whilst helping my mum on washdays in the 1970s!

Comments by Arby on 6th August 2017  


Oh dear I seem to have started a long series of memories about jockstraps. Once I started wearing one in the 6th form I continued so to do throughout my sporting days. Do you remember that the most common one then was a "Litesome". I too played squash until recently and I and my fellow players wore jockstraps. I now just go to a gym on a regular basis and so still wear one even though I think that nobody else there does. It is a pity because they are so comfortable and give good support.

Comments by Guy on 5th August 2017  

I went to an independent boys school. Second year, or second form, is Year 8 in the current school system. Boys would have their 13th birthday during that year.
I went running and played squash regularly until a few years ago and always wore a jockstrap. I found it gave good support and was comfortable to wear. It is a shame that they seem to have gone out of fashion now.
My father and I both wore string vests for a while; I can't remember quite when but probably late 1960s - early 1970s.

Comments by Dominic on 4th August 2017  

William - you are so right - I too never wore anything under my shorts all the way through secondary school in the 60s. There was a lot of bouncing around but no-one thought of that as a problem. I never heard of a jockstrap until a long time after I left school and certainly don't think I missed out.

Comments by Gavin on 3rd August 2017  

I am glad to hear that your grandchildren still wear a jockstrap but I think they are in the minority as unfortunately youngsters nowadays seem to wear this unhealthy lycra stuff or unfetching compression shorts!!

Comments by Rob on 3rd August 2017  

TimH. String vests became popular in 1953 when Everest was conquered and some of the climbers wore them because they were supposed to keep you warm. My mum knitted me a couple of pairs which I wore in infants school but no-one ever saw me wearing them because we didn't have to take our shirts off.However,when I went to a boys grammar school in 1955,I wore Aertex vests and pants which were developed from the string vest idea.When I started work in an office in the early 60's none of my younger male colleagues wore vests so I ditched mine and have never worn one since. Mac, At school, of course, in common with most boys at that time and many years after,we had to strip off completely for P.E.and wear just gym shorts with nothing underneath, no shirt and plimsolls, no socks, indoors and outside including cross country running. I wore the same shorts from the age of 11 until I left at 18. Consequently, they were quite short by that time and no-one ever mentioned jockstraps and I never saw anyone wear one.

Comments by William on 3rd August 2017  

My experience was the same as Mac's. In a boys'school during the 1960s we never wore anything under shorts - not in gym or rugby. I never used a jockstrap, aged 18 I hadn't heard of them. 20 star jumps caused a lot of bouncing about in the shorts, but I don't think we felt embarrassed. That's just the way it was. We had a tradition of wearing the same shorts year after year until they were far too small or the elastic gave.

Comments by James 2 on 2nd August 2017  

Yes, agree about jockstraps. I said in a previous post that we were told to wear nothing under shorts as soon as we got to secondary school but in about the second or third year the PE teacher told us that if we were uncomfortable we should get a jockstrap. They had them on sale in the PE department so I got one, and so did my friends and we felt grown-up.
I found it much more comfortable, even than other underwear. They did show through the thin shorts especially if we went from PE to shower to swimming still with them on but no one seemed to care.

Comments by TimH on 2nd August 2017  

I'm surprised that, in all this conversation about underwear, that no-one has mentioned the string vests & pants that we used to wear in the mid to late 60s.

Also - for the people who wonder about the length of shorts - personal observations of runners and people in my gym & the pool there suggests that shorts are definitely shorter this year - both for men & boys.

Comments by Mac on 2nd August 2017  


At the secondary schools I attended we were never allowed to wear anything under shorts

Comments by Neil on 1st August 2017  

The jockstrap still lives on! My boys and their sons still wear one for all sport. But you are quite right so few younger men now seem to know the benefits of the good old jockstrap!

Comments by Andrea on 1st August 2017  andreatwo@hotmail.co.uk 

My Ex told me that their PE teacher advised them to buy a jockstrap at the start of their third year at secondary school. Before that they weren't allowed to wear anything under their shorts, which became embarrassing for some of the boys!