Clitheroe Royal Grammar School

Childhood - Schools

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Year: 1959         Item #: 1602         Views: 105,039         Comments: 575

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

575 user comment(s) below:-

Comments by JB on 27th May 2012  

The school uniform listed our kit as a vest, shorts, ankle socks and plimsoles. However after changing for our first PE lesson we were to find our teacher thought differently. After being taken outside and lined up on the yard he walked up the line letting us know what was expected in terms of effort and when he reached the end of the line randomly picked a boy and made him face the class and take his vest off. Regardless of the activity,the time of year or the weather,indoors or outside, we remained barechested until we left. As you moved up the school there was no shortage of interest from girls watching and eyeing you up.

Comments by Chris on 24th May 2012  

I was at school in the late 70s/early 80s and officially the boys PE kit was vest, shorts, socks and plimsolls. However there were some PE teachers who would make you strip to the waist, probably because they felt it helped to enforce discipline. Looking back, I think it did, although I learned that the hard way.
In one PE lesson, I was having a play fight with one of my friends when we were meant to be listening to the teacher. He spotted us, yelled at us both for a bit and ordered us to take our vests off. Then we both had to run laps aroud the gym for the last few minutes of the lesson. After that we got another stern talking-to and were told that, as a punishment for misbehaving, we both had to do the next PE lesson barechested as well.
I didn’t like the sound of that because I knew it was cross country, and stupidly I decided to bunk off. I can’t imagine how I thought I’d get away with that, especially as my mate was more sensible, he went along and did the run with his vest off. Not surprisingly, I was in plenty of trouble and I ended up getting detention and having to apologise to the teacher. There was also an extra punishment – instead of just one lesson, I was to lose my PE vest for the rest of the term. Indoors or outdoors, it made no difference.
It was a thoroughly miserable experience, especially when we did cross country in wet weather and I had to run with the rain pouring down my bare back. It felt lonely as well, being the only boy in the class who was stripped to the waist. At one stage I actually went and begged the teacher to let me wear my vest again. Unsurprisingly, he was having none of it and warned me that he wanted to see me putting in more effort in lessons before he’d consider ending the punishment.
I gritted my teeth and consoled myself with the thought that at least next term it’d be back to normal. Or not! Come the first PE lesson of the new term, I got changed into my shorts and plimsolls, then pulled on my vest again for the first time in several weeks. But my feeling of relief was soon shattered when the teacher pointed at me and ordered ‘take that vest off.’
In stunned disbelief, I protested that my punishment period had ended, to which he retorted: ‘I couldn’t care less. If I tell you to take your vest off, boy, you take it off. No argument.’
Although it was totally unfair, I knew I had no option but to do as I was told – it was the teacher’s decision, not mine, what I wore for PE. I didn’t like it, I didn’t agree with it – in fact I was close to tears at that point, but I reluctantly removed my vest and resigned myself to another term of barechested PE. I made sure I never stepped out of line after that and thankfully we had a different teacher the following year.

Comments by Ed on 23rd May 2012  

My first experience of being stripped to the waist at scool for games etc was when I started at junior school.I was nearly eight and we had to do a short cross-country run through a built up area near the school.When we changed the teacher made us boys strip to the waistI.After that it was quite normal to be bare-chested for all games etc. I was nearly nineteen when I left school and by then I had been stripped to the waist for games for nearly eleven years.Also now I was quite muscular and with a hairy chest.

Comments by Guy on 20th May 2012  

Steve and others.Boys' attitudes to being stripped to the waist didn't matter as if the masters told you to strip to the waist for games etc then you stripped to the waist-end of story.

Comments by James on 18th May 2012  

Steve, Our kit was simply a vest, shorts and plimshoes however our teacher would have either the whole class stripped to the waist or keep half in vests.

I was 12 when during an outdoor fitness session when I made the fatal mistake of answering back. Our teacher really didn't "do" comments and picked me to remove my vest when he turned and said "You'll not be saying that after I'm finished" After the lesson ended I was told "press ups and laps of the field for you tomorrow". The following morning it was chucking down with rain and I thought my punishment would be put back....erm no. I was taken out of my English lesson and down the changing room. Having changed I was taken out onto the school yard, which ironically the English block overlooked and told to get my vest off and leave it on the yard. I was made to start my press ups and a few minutes later was completely soaked. Then came the run - 13 laps round the field. After finishing I thought that would be it but was made to do another lot of press ups in one of the puddles that had formed on the field before I could finally go in. I never stepped out of line again and nor did my PE teacher ever pick me to wear a vest again at school.

Comments by Mark on 15th May 2012  

In those days there was more discipline in school and if told to do PE stripped to the waist you did it and didn't get stroppy.

Comments by Roy F on 10th May 2012  

In those days school rules said that boys did P E etc stripped to the waist and sometimes barefoot as well.It was no use complaining(not that many boys did) because you would more than likely receive up to six strokes of the cane while stripped to the waist.

Comments by Pete on 6th May 2012  

I agree with David. Being stripped to the waist certainly toughened you up.That is what youths need today.

Comments by David on 4th May 2012  

I think that in the fifties and sixties most boys accepted that you did P E etc stripped to the waist whatever the weather both inside and outdoors.

Comments by Sean on 2nd May 2012  

I also did cross-country stripped to the waist and barefoot.As our school was in a built up area we ran through the streets so that passers by could see us.No one was bothered by that.Many of the sixth formers were quite muscular with well developed shoulders and chests and some of them had hairy chests as well.

Comments by Steve on 29th April 2012  

Did cross country shirtless, too. Just like the boys in this photo;
http://ecol.org.uk/loftus/wp-content/MAX/2011_04/scn_048.jpg

Comments by Steve on 28th April 2012  stu151@hotmail.com 

Several postings have mentioned that they had to run cross county shirtless, and sometime with bare feet as well, and I think this was fairly common across most secondary schools in the 60’s/70’s.

I wondered what the general reaction among boys to being restricted to minimal kit was, especially in cold or wet weather.

Even when allowed to wear a shirt or plimsolls indoors, like a number of boys I had chosen to just wear shorts, but still I wouldn’t have chosen to run outdoors stripped to the waist (except maybe on a very warm day), or with no shoes on in any temperatures. In reality we had no choice, but it was still something I hated, especially having no shirt on if it was cold or raining.

When we were first made to strip for cross country, one of my classmates was very, very upset, and pleaded with the teacher at least to be allowed to wear a top, but to no avail. He was one of the very quiet lads, who was very bright, but pretty useless at sports, and hated PE/games.

Next week when we changed, we all just put on shorts only, having accepted what was going to happen, but he put on both a shirt and plimsolls, only to be told, in no uncertain terms to take them off. By now he was in floods of tears, which didn’t get him anywhere, as you might guess. In fact, all it achieved was to make him a “victim” for various punishments in future PE lessons, and over time he clearly had to accept running stripped off, but clearly he hated any kind of PE/sports, and probably still does !

I wonder if other boys had similar experiences.

Comments by Mark on 27th April 2012  

Like Steve I had to do cross-country stripped to the waist and barefoot.This was in the sixties and it was the done thing that if you were a boy you stripped to the waist.

Comments by Steve on 26th April 2012  

I went to a boys only secondary school in the early 70’s.

We had PE twice a week, one lesson indoors in the gym, and the other cross country, additionally we had a games afternoon each week. Cross country took place throughout the year, irrespective of the weather or temperatures; we had a 4 mile course across fields, woodland paths, and a couple of streams.

The kit we wore depended on the teacher. Thus in year 1 for indoor PE we were allowed to wear white shorts, vest and plimsolls (although a few boys went without the top, with some also barefoot), for cross country we wore rugby shorts, rugby shirt, plimsolls and socks.

In the second year we had a new teacher, who came from a different school. He had his own views on what kit boys should wear, and at the first PE lesson, told everyone to strip to the waist, and take off our plimsolls, so we wore just shorts, nothing else. We had the second PE lesson on the Wednesday afternoon, and everyone brought their usual rugby shorts/shirt. It was possible from some classrooms to see boys setting out on a cross county run, and we noticed that they were all running shirtless, soon we were to find out why.

We changed for the lesson, and he immediately told us that for his cross county lesson he allowed only shorts, thus we all had to strip to the waist, and worse, take off our plimsolls and socks, as everyone had to run barefoot. So we all did cross county shirtless and barefoot from there on, even if it was freezing cold with a biting wind which froze you immediately you stepped outside the gym.

Never mind we had a nice (usually cold) shower to look forward on our return !

Comments by Guy on 18th April 2012  

I agree with Dave and always stripped to the waist not only at school for P E but when playing in the street or the park etc.

Comments by Dave on 18th April 2012  

Being stripped to the waist caused me no problems.If you are a boy you strip to the waist as often as you can.No big deal

Comments by Paul on 17th April 2012  

Like Roy and others I had to do cross-country stripped to the waist.It was quite enjoyable in the summer terms when I was usually bare-foot as well but you had to put up with it in the winter and eventually you got used to it

Comments by Roy F on 17th April 2012  

I'm glad I'm not the only one to feel that it is normal for boys to be stripped to the waist at all times for P E etc.

Comments by The Ox on 16th April 2012  

I agree that it should be perfectly normal to do cross county etc stripped to the waist whatever the weather

Comments by Roy F on 14th April 2012  

In addition many boys normally would be wearing jewellery including not only a wristwatch but also necklaces such as a cross and chain or a St.Christopher medallion.Some masters allowed this but others made them remove them.

Comments by Roy F on 11th April 2012  

In the sixties we did cross-country stripped to the waist and barefoot.We mainly ran through built up areas near to the school and many locals were watching scores of bare-chested youths(some sixth-formers had hairy chests) running through the streets with some shouting comments at the youths

Comments by Pete S on 4th February 2012  

Like Alec our cross country runs were performed barechested. Personally I didn't find running in the rain too bad, it was the snow where I struggled. If we didn't perform to the teacher's expectations we were taken out of a lesson to be given either laps of the field (anything between 10-15 laps being the norm), or a fitness session outdoors. Obviously punishments were done with your vest off and could be quite brutal during a freezing winter.

Comments by Alec on 1st February 2012  

Like Robin I suffered a similar cross country experience. However we were compulsory shirtless (year round in Scotland). I can still remember the cold getting right into my bones. Running shirtless in hailstones and almost gale force wind was sheer torture and extremely cruel. Sleet or heavy rain and driving wind was much worse than falling snow. Although I don't recall running in heavy falling snow. Snow, ice and wet grass soaked through the thin plimsolls as soon as we left the unheated changing rooms. (I recall boys getting chilblains frequently) This had the effect of making our feet begin to freeze while the cold wind lashed bare legs and torsos. We wore no underwear and the thin shorts offered little protection. The showers were often freezing (The actual pipes bursting upon thawing)and never trully warm. CP in the form of Slipper weilding P.T. teachers and the daily queue for the Cane outside the Vice Headmaster's door completed a trully horrid experience.

Comments by Robin on 20th January 2012  

Our school cross country course was 4 miles long, and included surfaces of grass and earth, passing through woodlands and open country, and included hills, flat ground and gravel roads. The cross country season was from immediately after the Christmas holidays until February half-term, and included weather conditions of rain, sleet, snow or hail, and a wide range of temperatures.
Cross-country was run in our outdoor PE kit of white shorts and white football shirt.
At the end of the lesson, everyone undressed for a communal shower.

Comments by Ronan on 27th December 2011  

how lucky were they! We were shirtless whatever thet weather



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