Clitheroe Royal Grammar School

Childhood - Schools


Year: 1959         Item #: 1602         Views: 154,552         Comments: 727

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

727 user comment(s) below:-

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

Comments by Cyril on 12th December 2015  

To Dave

Re PE kit outdoors as far as I remember for football etc we wore either a singlet or football shirt which was non descript. No team brand shirts those days.

Being a school in town Cross country or the rare occasions we did it was confined to lapsof the secluded sports field and we were topless for that. I do not remember winter runs..

The PE kit was explained to parents at an evening before we joined secondary school. Dad came home with a uniform list and said pe was white shorts(mine were nylon I think they were cheaper) and no underpants would be worn and plimsolls (the old type black ones and no socks)

In that era 1961 to 1966 during which the pe kit was always the same I do not think we had any inhibitions about going shirtles. It was an all boys school.

In fach because of the cut off the shorts I can rememebr during handstands with feet up in the air being suppoted by another lad there was quite a bit of exposure of our anatomy. But as I say we seemed to have no inhibitions what with communal showers and changing room.

With regards to have no tops on it is evident all the time at swimming pools and in the summer. Ater all nowadays with the baggy pants lads seem quite keen to advertise their underwear, some thing we would never consider doing.

I am sure now at schhol for pe it is all cover up protect health and safety. How did we ever survive?

Comments by Dave on 11th December 2015 

Hi Cyril!

Were you shirtless for outside lessons for example 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?
What was the reaction of boys about the PE kit. Was it ever a topic of conversation amongst you?
How did you feel having to be barechested for PE?

Comments by Cyril on 7th December 2015  

To Tim Yes memories. You refer to the nylon swimming trunks. I remeber that up to the mid 60's I onl;y had horrid wollen swimming trunks in a briefs design which were both saggy when wet and extremely itchy. I was so pleased when the seemed to be no longer available and parents had to buy I suppose they were nylon.

We certainly did not know about "named" brands. Cheap & cheerful was the mantra.
The only time this changed was one Christmas I was given the actual brand Y Fronts briefs. though it was wonderful to have a brand name. Usally presents were hand knitted cardigans. Bit of a differnce to Christmas present for children these days.

My PE kit was thin white nylon shorts in secondary school 1961 to 1966. We were not allowed a top or underpants. ( All boys school )

Comments by Jack on 23rd November 2015  

Tim is right. I was at school in the 60s and we wore those loose white cotton shorts for PE, much like those shown in the picture.
Some here mention that they wore those thin nylon short shorts for PE, but as far as I remember those type of shorts were only seen in the 70s, or later.

As for swimwear there were all types from shorts like to briefs, mostly cotton, not like the later modern synthetic and nylon types like speedos.
About compulsary nude swimming in some schools I was not aware of this happening in any school before the advent of the Internet, on forums such as this.
It seems that this nude swimming requirement was even more common in American schools, both public and private, though only for boys.

Comments by Tim on 18th November 2015  

I've been meaning to make this post for ages. Back in July Sterling commented:But we didn't have Nike, Speedo or money back then!

Memory plays tricks but I can say with certainty that in the mid-1960s you could buy a pair of boys swimming trucks from Wakefield's Army Stores (Remember them?) for 1/11d (10p). A pair of men's trunks were 2/11d (15p). I have a recollection that you could buy a pair of nylon trunks from Woolworths for 2/6d round about this time, whilst a pair of cotton football shorts (as worn by Bobby Moore)from a proper sports outfitter was about 10/- (50p). As a comparison a Series 1 'Airfix' construction kit was 2/- (10p)- the most expensive was 12/6d (63p).

Memories ...


Comments by George on 12th October 2015  

Dave - yes it should remain normal and healthy from a common sense point of view but it seems that political correctness has little to do with common sense and forbids such a natural habit where it can.

For some years now it has been fashionable to feminise boys in the interests of "equality." I heard the sad story of a Scout Leader who, soon after he took over, stopped the boys in his care from taking off their shirts at camp. The "reason" he gave was because the girls couldn't do it! Presumably he should be instructing the girls not to have babies later in life as the boys can't.

Comments by Dave on 12th October 2015  

"Exercising shirtless seemed so normal and healthy for boys in those days."

Yes it did but still seems normal and healthy.Boys still enjoy exercising shirtless.Many of them take their shirts off at sport courts for ball games...etc. They don't seem seeing it as a big deal.So I can't see what's the function of T-shirts for PE nowadays.

Comments by George on 11th October 2015  

I see there are a number of interesting comments since I last visited this site.

Max - your attack on those who claim to have run cross country barefoot and shirtless seems rather harsh and unnecessary. Things were so different in the 60s - often better then though I'm sure many schools had their boys run with both shirts and shoes. I would not dream of calling you a wimp for doing so - we all did as we were told back then.

Martin - having read your post it makes more sense that we ran barefoot and I'm all the more grateful for it. Our course was usually muddy and plimsolls getting stuck in the mud could have been a problem if we had worn them. It might have led to boys trying to avoid the muddier patches by going round them whereas we were happy to go straight through them in our bare feet. The most significant advantage in running barefoot, however, seems to be that we did not have to clean filthy plimsolls after each run - being naturally lazy that would have been quite a chore. I am all the more grateful to my school now for their common sense approach. Exercising shirtless seemed so normal and healthy for boys in those days.

Comments by Roy on 29th August 2015  

Like Martin I was at a Grammar School in the 1960's.
Although it was mixed PE etc was done single-sex.
Kit was simple:- stripped to the waist both indoor and outside and again barefoot was the norm even for cross-country.

Comments by Martin on 28th August 2015  

I was at secondary school in the 60s but only attended one Grammar school so can't claim to be an expert on other schools. I do, however, have a little knowledge of what other school teams wore for cross country.
At my all boys school we wore just a pair of shorts for indoor p.e. and for athletics and various games on the playing fields. When it came to cross country we were told we had to wear our plimsolls though we weren't told to wear shirts so we didn't. There was quite a long stretch of the run which was normally very muddy and it was not uncommon for plimsolls to come off feet in the mud. We pleaded to be allowed to run barefoot to avoid the problem of getting plimsolls out of the mud and having to clean them when we got home. Unfortunately, we were never allowed to run barefoot.
I wasn't good enough at cross country to be in the team but a group of us non-competitors turned out on Saturday afternoons to be markers along the route for inter-school fixtures. If the visiting team wore shirts our team didn't but if the visiting team didn't wear shirts then our team had to. So there was always one team in plimsolls and shorts and one in plimsolls, shorts and shirts. Until one day when a visiting team changed into their kit - just shorts - no shoes or shirts. Our team had to wear their plimsolls and shirts and were soundly beaten by their less well clad opponents, in part at least because the barefoot boys could get through the muddy section much more easily. Even after this we were still not allowed to run barefoot, either in class nor the team - no reason was ever given.

Comments by Sterling on 14th July 2015  

Like thousands of other British schools our official indoor PT or gym kit consisted of white shorts!
Footwear and vests were optional for XC!

The plimsoles we wore offered our soles very little protection
Forgetting them would not excuse a boy and, if unable to borrow plimsoles, he would HAVE TO go barefoot!
One must remember we often went barefoot at home then and some simply had not the money to buy them!
A recent genealogy search turned up photos from 1940s and 50s when barefoot was often the order of the day.
It's easy for a young person or someone with little knowledge of recent history to think you guys are barking mad
But we didn't have Nike, Speedo or money back then!

Comments by Ted on 13th July 2015  

While I'm sure this forum has its' share of fantasists, I think it's a little unfair to call them paedophiles. They are fantasising about themselves and wishing, that in their schooldays, they had had the opportunity to show off and prove how macho they were.

Comments by Max on 10th July 2015  

Reading through all these comments, I don't personally believe a fraction of them! I was a child in two different UK Grammar schools in the 60's and 70's and all this stuff about running through the streets in winter bare chested and barefoot, I think it is just sad paedofile fantasy!

Comments by Giles on 10th July 2015  

Like Kevin we were always stripped to the waist and barefoot for all PE (indoors and outside) and again I don't recall any injuries resulting from running barefoot.

Comments by Kevin on 6th July 2015  

I was at secondary school during the 60s and bare feet and chest were required for all p.e. including cross country - not just detention. I don't remember any-one being particularly bothered by our rather sparse kit and I certainly don't remember any injuries from running barefoot through the streets and nearby countryside.

Comments by Pete on 26th June 2015  

P E detentions were quite common - always done stripped to the waist and barefoot and normally also done after school hours usually from 4 p m until either 5 or 5.30 p.m.

Comments by Roy on 23rd May 2015  

Like George our PE teachers had us stripped to the waist and barefoot for all sessions both inside and outdoors.
It was difficult running over gravel and in the streets outside but we got used to it and I don't recall any injuries as a result.

Comments by Calvin on 21st May 2015  

No we never were informed who's parents complained, probably some of the overweight lads who detested being skins. It was encouraging my mate to lose weight!
After school sports could still be done shirtless but during PE and X country we were not allowed to remove a sweat soaked shirt. We used sunscreen during football matches and it was used for PE once during a mega Sept heatwave.
George, I suppose feet quickly toughen.
Can't see it ever happening again here due to our 'claim culture' but I'm told its commonplace in Oz and NZ!

My old school took health and safety to extremes!

Comments by George on 17th May 2015  

Calvin - why did parents object to Shirts vs Skins - that must have humiliated their sons!

As for injuries whilst running barefoot - I was certainly not aware of any and I think the school would have stopped it if there had been any.

The first lesson we had P.E. outside the teacher had us running round the grass running track barefoot and shirtless and made sure we did not land on out heels. He said this would help us avoid injuries to our joints. At the end of the lesson he had us run up and down a rough gravel track nearby to see how we could cope with the surface. I don't think any-one had any great problem and, from then on we were always barefoot and shirtless inside and outside including for cross country. You could feel if you stepped on something sharp but it never punctured the skin.

Comments by Calvin on 16th May 2015  

We really didnt believe our PE teacher when he told us how he punished guys by making them run barefoot!

He still used shirts vs skins until their were objections by parents then on rare sweltering day it was prohibited to take off a shirt which was sticking to you!

Were there many injuries to the feet??

Comments by Bill on 14th May 2015  

PE detentions meant running laps around our large school yard in just PE shorts, which was football pitch size but no turf, till we were exhausted. Then, all sweating, we were marched to the showers for a good wash, with shorts off.
Incidentally did anyone have female teachers supervising in the boys changing room or showers? Not at my school, but just curious.
There is also mention on other forums on this site that some schools had compulsory nude swimming for boys.

Comments by James 1 on 14th May 2015  

Oh yes, I remember the PE and games punishment of having to run around the perimeter of the field throughout the lesson if you forgot any kit.
In my case I am not sure what was the bigger punishment, the running or the particular game at the time.

Comments by Matt on 12th May 2015  

My school was like Stuart's in that we had PE detentions where we had to strip to the waist. If you got detention you had to report back to the gym after school and change into usual PE kit (white vest, shorts, socks and plimsolls). Then after inspecting your kit the teacher would order you to remove your vest. That seemed a bit pointless but I suppose the idea was just to remind you this was a punishment. Then it was a question of whether you'd be told to go to the gym (which wasn't too bad) or outdoors for a run (which was no picnic when it was cold or raining, or both). Still, from some of the other accounts here I should probably be grateful we only had to run bare chested and not in bare feet too!

Comments by Roy on 11th May 2015  

Our normal PE and cross-country kit was white shorts and bare chest and bare feet.
We also had PE detentions. For these we had to wear black or navy blue shorts and were again stripped to the waist and barefoot.
These always took place after school from around 4.p.m. until 5 or 5.30 p.m and involved continual running around the athletic track.There were usually other boys watching us and sometimes jeering at us.

Comments by Barrie on 7th May 2015  

Our kit for all PE (indoors and outside)was just white shorts i.e. stripped to the waist and barefoot. This was OK when it was fairly warm but going barefoot and bare chest in snow and ice was a different matter!!

Comments by Stuart on 6th May 2015  

For normal indoor PE we wore white cotton shorts, plus some boys wore plimsolls, and for xc we wore shorts, vest and plimsolls, all year around.

We also had PE detention sessions and all this changed. All boys had to strip to just a pair of shorts, no top, bare feet. This wasn't too bad inside but the same kit rules applied for the cross country run which we also had to undertake as part of the punishment, so in all weathers we were made to run 5 miles stripped to the waist and with nothing on our feet.

I first got a detention within a couple of weeks of starting at the school, aged 11. One evening immediately after school we had to report to the gym, and get changed. To say the least it was a bit of a shock when I realised that I was going to be forced to run outdoors in the freezing cold with bare feet, and even worse, stripped completed to the waist !

Comments by George on 3rd May 2015  

Yes, we could run quite fast in snow if it was not too deep as it was not slippery and it didn't matter if you fell over anyway. Ice was another matter - we were always aware how easy it was to slip over running on ice and how painful it would be later if you did land on a hard, unforgiving icy surface. Running in a few inches of snow was no problem but running on icy surfaces was not much fun at all!

Comments by Peter on 1st May 2015  

Doing cross-country stripped to the waist and barefoot in snowy and icy conditions would certainly stop you dawdling along and make you get a move on.

Comments by George on 30th April 2015  

I think it helped getting used to doing p.e. barefoot and stripped to the waist at primary school like Pete but we didn't go out of the school gates like that until we did cross country at Grammar School.

I remember running in snow barefoot was quite fun - what I wasn't so keen on was running along the pavements or across roads where the slush had frozen into ice. Running barefoot and topless in such conditions was certainly exhilarating and did us no harm.

Comments by Peter on 26th April 2015  

Like George I enjoyed doing PE stripped to the waist and barefoot most of the time.
It did take some getting used to doing it in the depths of winter with ice and snow around.
It was also strange at first doing cross-country in the roads near our school while stripped to the waist and barefoot.

Comments by George on 25th April 2015  

It looks as though most boys weren't, in fact, all that bothered about doing cross country barefoot and stripped to the waist - as I said before my class enjoyed it most of the time.

I'm intrigued by your talk of doing p.e. nude, Barbara,- presumably this was not in Britain as I can't really imagine that happening here, even fifty years ago. The only exercise done nude here tended to be swimming and that was nearly always just boys.

Comments by Alan on 24th April 2015  

When I was at junior school I knew that the boys at secondary school always did PE stripped to the waist and I looked forward to it.
However when at secondary school and actually having to be stripped to the waist was a different matter.
I did eventually get used to it and did quite enjoy it.

Comments by Barbara on 23rd April 2015  

Hi Andrea

The 2nd year was very different to the 1st at Secondary school I was now expected to wear tee shirt and knickers both indoors and out which I hated, but after a about two months I would have to wear a tee shirt any way as I had now started to develop.
We had communal showers which I didnt mind , but we were not given enough time and I always seemed late for the next lesson.
By the following spring I had a bra which I found really
uncomfortable and always took off soon as I got home.
In the summer holidays between the 2nd and 3rd year I hardly ever
saw the boys I'd played with the year before, I now had a new friend a girl who lived nearby.I was13 now and finally growing up.


In the summer holiday between the 2nd and 3rd year I hardly ever saw the boys I'd played with the year before and had a new friend a girl who nearby.I was 13 now and finally growing up.

Comments by Tim on 23rd April 2015  

Interesting to get the ladies views, especially on 'tom-boys'. Do 'tom-boys' still exist?


Comments by Andrea on 22nd April 2015 

Hi Barbara,
For us the big difference in PE was between Primary School and Secondary School. At Primary both girls and boys used to wear a T shirt and shorts or a skirt, but we used to all have to change in the same room (except for a few girls who had developed early).

At Secondary School (all girls) indoor PE was in Gym Knickers and a Polo Shirt, but we all had to shower afterwards (there hadn't been any showers at Primary.

The summer between first and second year at Secondary isn't one I remember fondly. For one thing, because girls and boys now went to separate schools, I didn't feel as much of the 'gang' as I had previously. This wasn't helped by the physical changes that were becoming evident. Going topless was out of the question and even with a T shirt on my 'bumps were becoming an issue. If I wore a bra the outline was noticeable, wearing a vest was quite warm and wearing just a T shirt some movement was evident. Some of the time I wore one of my old (flat) bikini tops which at least tended to flatten things down.

Did you find it hard to adjust too?


Comments by Dave on 22nd April 2015  

Like Pete it never bothered me about being bare-chested.
I can well remember doing PE outdoors in snow while being stripped to the waist.

Comments by Barbara on 21st April 2015  

I went on a caravan holiday the summer between the 1st and 2nd year and spent nearly the whole week topless.
You were treated alot different at the Secondary school in the 2nd year,I had to wear tee shirt and knickers even inside,for P E, when it was all girls, right from the start of the year, in the first year the same teacher let me do P E nude inside.