Clitheroe Royal Grammar School
Item #: 1602
Source: Lancashire Life Magazine, November 1959
to answer to your question about embarrassment at compulsory school physical examinations, I can only answer for myself.
I don't think that it would have been less embarrassing if the doctor had been a man and same for the school nurse.
We were very used to be examined by a woman nurse and she had sometimes motherly mannners even if she was rather strict with us as regards obedience to her instructions, and she was not especially smiling but a man nurse would have not smiled too !
At the army after induction, we had men nurses at physical examinations and I did not found that it was better, same for the military doctors who were always men at my time of military service. They were a bit more strict than women school doctors and not more respectful of our dignity and privacy. !
Same for the presence of a nursing student, I would have been more embarassed if it would have been a young man for the same reason , it was admitted that nurses were girls or women, so they could see boys and young men in the nude like the others members of the medical staff.
Apart from regular "hair raids" at primary school, i didn't encounter any form of medical examination until the age of 15, when I went to a boarding school for three years. In no way was it intrusive. During the last PE lesson of every term, we were weighed and had our height measured, the resultant figures appearing on our Report for the term. Although we always wore rugby shorts and T-shirts for PE, we had to take take our tops off when being weighed. Rather funny really, as the shorts weren't exactly lightweight garments, and must have added rather more to our measured weight than the T-shirt would ever have done.
I went to an all girls secondary school, so can't comment on whether our school medicals were shorter and less intrusive than at a boys school.
We were never completely naked during our medicals (unlike when we had to shower after PE lessons), but it was a little embarrassing nevertheless.
I think you mentioned that both the doctor and nurse were female at your medicals. Would you have found it less embarrassing if the doctor had been male?
I presume that the mandatory school physical examinations were more quick and less thorough and more respectful of modesty for girls than for boys at your grammar school like in many others in most of western countries at that time.
But if you were in France you would have had one physical examination at least each year of school, not only two times for all the school years without any check between them.
I can remember having two medicals at secondary school. One was in my first year at Secondary School, so aged 11.
We had to strip down to our underwear and have our height and weight checked by a doctor and the school nurse. They also gave me us sight test and checked our hands for warts and feet for verrucas. The doctor then checked my breathing with her stethoscope - I remember that feeling cold! Some of my classmates told me that they had to unfasten their bras so the doctors could check how their breasts were developing, but I was still wearing a vest at that point.
We had another medical in the 5th year at secondary school - I was 15 at the time. For that one we had to strip down to our knickers and bra and then unhook the bra and lower it to let the doctor check our breasts (they didn't actually feel the breasts - just visually examine them). I don't recollect the doctor looking down my knickers, although the nurse did ask whether my periods were regular (this wasn't mentioned at the first year examination - maybe they assumed from looking at me that I hadn't started yet).
In France in the first 60's, we had also at school each year compulsory physical examinations performed at school in the nurse office by the nurse and the woman doctor, both middle aged women.
It was at the beginnig of the first school term and it was expected like a dreadful day each year from middle school at 11 age to high school at 17 or 18 age.
At that time, the school exams were not carried on like those of today which might respect the dignity and privacy and modesty of the boys. Not at all at that time, things were very different !
They were compulsory for each year and at middle school there was even a first thorough exam with the woman doctor at the beginning of the year and after at each beginning of second and third school term, an other examination less thorough just for some checkings which were performed by the permanent school nurse only.( but undressed in only briefs of course)
The set up was almost the same each year from 11 age to 17-18.
We were sent to an ajoining waiting room by our Pe teacher and then instructed as soon as we entered in the room to undress until white biefs ( in the first 60's we all wore white tighty briefs, there were no color briefs before 1968) so all the group of 15 boys was in briefs, even the students who would be called the latest because of their names since we were called one by one in alphabetic order. We stayed in briefs supervised by our Pe teacher for more than an hour, almost two hours, and we might stay silent all the time and of course not move.
Once we were undressed, the permanent nurse came to do a roll call to check if all boys were present, we might lift from the bench where we were sitting and stand up at the call of our name. Don't ask to me why we might be already undressed in briefs for the roll call , may be because it was well admitted that we were more obedient when undressed ?)
Then we entered one by one in the examination room where there was a woman doctor , and sometimes also a young student nurse coming from a neighbour nursing school who did a training course at our school, about one yeazr by two ; of course it was still more embarrassing, especially at high school ( each year of high school ) because she was just a few years older than us! It happened thrre times that she came in the waiting room with the permanent nurse for the roll call, so in that case we all knew that you would be examined with that young nurse as spectator.
Once entered, it was the permanent nurse who did the first checkings like the urine test for which we might go to a small restroom on a corner of the examination room without a door , then it was the blood test, then the eyes test and hearing test, then she took our blood pressure and checked our pulse, then our height, and eventually our weigh-in for which we might remove under her instruction our brief and put it on a stool because we might be weighted completely naked to respect the mentions of the medical form according to her, and we continued the exam stark naked after the weigh in for the following inspections and checks by the doctor, for instance to listen to heart and chest and check lungs and it was including of course a hernia test by "the casual turn and cough " and after an inspection of genitals with checking by retraction of the foreskin that we could oull it back easily and opening of the pee hole and palpation of the balls ( it was like if it was a standard part of exam in those school physical examinations ) in front of the school nurse and the young nursing student when she was present, she could hear all the comments of the doctor to write them on the medical form.
Then the final part that I disliked the most which was the inspection of the spine and check of balance because I was instructed to stand back to the doctor and the nurses and after a visual inspection to bend over and to touch with hands my ankles while the doctor let her fingers slide along the spine from the neck until the cleft of the buttocks and then I was instructed to walk forward and backward in the nude in the room under their eyes and then to go to the wall back to them and bend over again for a last visual inspection. I was generally red faced even at 17 aged because I felt the eyes of three females a girl and two women on my naked buttocks. And I was rather skinny but I had round buttocks ,so the woman doctor made often especially in the last grades comments about my cute buttocks for the student nurse who giggled. I presume that she thought that it would make me feel more comfortable with nudity but it was the reverse.
Of course the student nurse was different each year on the reverse of the school nurse.
Our parents were never invited to come at school but they received a letter at home family to inform them of the schedule of the compulsory physical examination performed at school, and that we might come at school that day with clean underwear and socks and after washing correctly our body. For the socks it did not matter in fact since we might remove them immediately in the waiting room but I presume that it was to avoid the smell of dirty socks in the waiting room.
And if we were examined alone in the examination room, it was in front of two or three female persons.
I must add that it was frequent about one year about two that a middled aged woman school secretary came in the waiting room when we were waiting in just our briefs with a letter for the doctor, for instance for the reason why a boy was not present that day or any other form... She entered in the waiting room after knocking but without waiting for an answer, she talked a little with our Pe teacher telling us not to stand up and so she saw all of us in briefs and possibly even one naked when she entered in the examination where she did not stay a long time but enough to notice that a boy was naked and look at him if he was naked.
It was an anoother time for modesty of boys, it would have been useless to complain to our parents, the school authorities thought that that set up was efficient because it was quick ...
Any way it was worst when you wanted to go to a summer camp or to ne amember of a sport club outside the school ot for the admission of some special schools like military schools or boarding schools and of course in front of the draft board commission to decide your fitness for military service once you reached 18 age. Or even at hospitals sometimes!
Of course it was unpleasant when i was young and shy towards nudity but I think now that it was useful and not so bad, it lasted only one morning ....
I certainly remember school medicals. I can't imagine they happen these days but they did in the 1960s when I was at school. Mothers used to be invited but thankfully mine never came and I don't remember anyone else's coming either. I was at a boys grammar school.
They were done form by form and the time each form was to report was announced at assembly each morning. It usually took about three days for the whole school to be seen and there was no rationale to which form was in which order. Once it started it was all quite quick and efficient and not too bad really.
At the appointed time a form had to report to the changing rooms, the medicals happened in the gym which meant that all PE was outside for the duration. Once there, there was always one of the sports masters present and the drill was to take off everything except your underpants and line up. Once everyone was stripped we made our way into the gym and lined up there.
There were two areas with screens around them and one by one you entered the first area where there was a nurse who did things like sight and hearing checks while you sat, dressed in your underpants, it was always a woman. When she was finished, you left the screened area at the back and outside was a bench and you had to take off your underpants and leave them on the bench and join another line to see the doctor.
The doctor was always a man. He examined and listened to chests and hearts, checked you could pull your foreskin back easily - a few lads disappeared for a few days and returned trimmed, and felt your testicles with the instruction to cough. Once we were fifteen plus there was also an instruction to turn around and bend over and he inspected between our buttocks, something I was mortified by the first time but it was never so bad afterwards (and now as an old man with an iffy prostate, I'm quite used to it and the probing finger) that done, you retrieved your underpants, went to get dressed and returned to class.
Any hint of misbehaviour was dealt with promptly by the sports master and his slipper so some very red bottoms were no doubt seen by the doctor.
Nothing like that would happen today but I wonder how many childhood problems would be picked up if there was a return to school screening. It did do good and in a world where many children are over weight and pretty unhealthy, I think there's a place for it.
Garth - people have mentioned medical Inspections before. However embarrassing they may be have been, when taken in context they were just part of the times.
Remember that in the years before the First War the health of the nation was not good - men joined the Army & Navy to get three square meals a day, and that in the 1920s it wasn't much better - many children, my father included suffered from rickets. I'm not old enough to experienced the post-war rationing of the 1940s (Don't forget that, for a time, bread was rationed post-war - which it never was in the war, and meat stayed on ration until 1954) but it made sense that school medicals took place. (It has been said that Britain didn't really move from a wartime economy until the mid to late 1960s)
At our school we did not have to participate in gymnastic demonstrations. In fact P E was not really an issue. My worst fear was when we had the compulsory medical examinations especially as we got older. Does anyone else remember them? These were spread over two days and those of us who had to attend on the second day were terrified when we were told that part of the exam included dropping pants and standing in front of the doctor who examined your testicles. We thought they were joking, but we soon found they were not. What made it worse parents were invited to be present and this would mostly have been mums, but none did attend. My problem was also that I was looked after by my nan because mum died when I was young and dad was at work. I was terrified that she would want to attend. Luckily I persuaded her otherwise by saying no one else's mum was going to be there.
Brandon, we often had open days at the secondary school that I attended and like yourself I was shy and found it particularly daunting to perform our activities with such a large audience.
Like yourself my mother approved of me wearing just shorts and took the opportunity to keep me in shorts at home.
I have just remembered a particularly embarrassing day from that first year at middle school. Did your schools have open days when parents were invited in to see us kids in class and see displays of our work. We did I think about once per term. That summer term my class was chosen to be the gymnastics display in the gymnasium. It meant that for 3 hours and 20 minutes the full morning we were made to perform for every parent who wanted to see the gym. We wore nothing but our very short white gym shorts, bare tops and bare feet. Hundreds of parents must have seen me vaulting and stretching whilst almost naked and I was a very shy little lad. I bet the men who stayed longest watching us exercise were the ones with an unhealthy eye for a young boy. My mother found me in the gym and stayed to watch me for a very long time. I was so embarrassed. I bet it was watching my pasty white bare body like that which decided her on the policy of shirt off all summer when the sun was shining. I bet I did get a good tan that summer and the following ones until she decided I was old enough to decide again for myself.
Another big embarrassment to mention would be when kit was left behind. I never forgot my PE kit but I was an absent minded chap at 9 years old and on a couple of occasions I left my bag behind in the classroom when we went across to the gymnasium. I think it was when the lesson before gym was in a different classroom to our home room. The school was very strict about getting to class quickly so there would have been little time to retrieve lost bags and I probably left kit behind so as not to be late and get a detention. Once in the changing room you were not allowed to go back and get it. Instead the teachers acted like it was forgotten and I had to use the schools stock of kit. This consisted of a box containing only old worn gym shorts. Seeing classmates have to use items from this box was always a source of great amusement to everyone. Seemingly there would always be one or two boys who could be the source of this fun each class. On a couple of occasions it was me. The teacher would hand me a pair of shorts he thought were the correct size. They would invariably be deliberately embarrassingly small. And that was it. You would be the only barefoot boy in fitness class and running barefoot hurt after awhile. The joys of PE in the 1980's.
I went from a primary school to a Middle school at the tender age of 9 which would have been in 1985. The Middle school was on the same site as the high school and shared the sports facilities but was otherwise totally separate. I attended from 9 till 12 years old when I moved up to the High school. I was a shy 9 year old and very average when it came to physical ability but I was never an overweight child. I remember nothing at all about primary school which is kind of odd as my recollection of PE and games at Middle school are still very vivid. I think I can put that down to the shock of the discipline and strict dress code the new school imposed on me.
We had a full afternoon games session, in that first year it was the Friday slot so the last thing to endure before the freedom of the weekend. Winter term it was rugby, Spring term it was cross country and summer term it was athletics and sometimes softball. For rugby we wore a royal blue rugby shirt with a broad horizontal gold band with black cotton shorts with no underwear, knee length socks and boots. It was bitterly cold out on the windswept pitch so you had to keep moving that winter. Legs would be red and sore. The very same kit (except boots swapped for trainers), served for summer athletics when the opposite would be true, the thick rugby top making you sweat in the heat as you ran around the "all weather" hot and dusty track. I remember those four summers as long and hot. Needless to say the totally impractical top had to come off and the long socks were left back in the changing room. I ran like all the other boys in just shorts and trainers most of the time. The teachers took this for granted, they may even have suggested the revised kit which would have been taken by us as an order. Under no circumstance would an alternative and more practical kit have been allowed. Cross country also used the rugby kit. As the weather was cooler in spring term some chose to run in shirts and some discarded them. Being shy and never happy with a bare top, I was one to always run with a top on even as the temperature rose. I hated cross country. The courses were very long for a 9 year old and exhausting. We must have been very fit by the end of spring term but I suffered for it.
We had two hours of indoor PE over two mornings each week. For this the kit was a royal blue cotton vest, short legged white cotton gym shorts, white gym socks and trainers. That's what the schools official kit list said. For winter term we did fitness training, for spring term basketball and for summer term gymnastics. The gym teachers spelled out the true kit at the first lesson of each term. Fitness training was to be done bare chested, gymnastics was to be done without the vest and bare foot. Only in basketball did the vest serve a purpose and then only half the time as all games were played shirts vs skins. Once chosen at the start of the lesson to be a skin you remained a skin though-out the lesson, my recollection now is that I was a skin most of the time. The knowledge that I would be almost always stripped to the waist for PE made me hate the lessons. PE was purgatory because of the humiliation and extremely hard work. In them days PE and games were really used to produce fitter kids without doubt.
I didn't get much escape at home either those summers. My mother got tired of my shyness now I was a middle school boy, my wearing of jeans and even sometimes sweaters when the weather was warm. Whenever she decided it was sunny enough I was now ordered to play in the garden in shorts, barefoot and shirtless because it was good for me. You might think that all the enforced minimal clothing would eventually eliminate the shyness but that never happened. It just left a childhood trauma which allows me to record these details for you today.
Our school did not stipulate the colour of shorts, but most woredark blue or black thickish cotton. The teacher never did check in any to see if we wore pants and no one ever did. Except one day one of the lads decided to wear a pair of thinner white shorts and for some reason he kept his pants on. AS soon as he walked into the hall for pe it was clear to us all and the teacher what he had done. He was sent straight back to the changing room to remove the pants and then when he returned it was "bend over" and a few whacks with HIS plimsoll
Garth, yes our school had it's own pool.
Garth, I went to an all boys' school and naked swimming was the regime till the end of junior school (around age 13). When we transferred over to senior school swimming trunks were compulsory.
In addition to what James has said, we would be periodically told to face the wall and bend over, underpants shone through our white shorts as clear as day.
I didn't see it as 'gratification' for the teacher in any way, it was just what we were told to do. I went on to join the navy at eighteen where to begin with open dormitories and communal showers and washrooms were the norm, even the partitions around toilets were small and there were no doors on them so being relatively comfortable undressing or naked with other men made all that easier, not all lads were comfortable but they had to adjust to the way the navy did things. Even when we had medicals we had to line up naked and stand there as the doc worked along the line, front and back including having to bend over for a probing finger.
There was no room to be reserved or shy.
Garth,we were supervised while we were getting changed,so if we did it surreptitiously it may have gone unnoticed,otherwise when we wore white nylon shorts any underwear could easily have been visible through our shorts.
Martin were your swimming lessons in a private pool at your school?
You wrote that if anyone was detected wearing anything under their shorts they were punished. How was a check carried out.
Garth, I went to an all boys' school and naked swimming was the regime till the end of junior school (around age 13). When we transferred over to senior school swimming trunks were compulsory.
Paul, I attended a secondary modern in the same year as yourself at the age of eleven and we were never allowed to wear anything under our shorts.Similarly if it were ever detected we also received a sharp slippering or caning on our bottom.This fearful threat usually ensured we continued to wear nothing under our shorts to to gratify our teacher.
Kevin, i was at an elementary school in North America in the 80's and they did wrestling as part of PE at the high school (from age 13/14) . Not in elementary school though which went up to 13 (i was there til 12 and then came to UK).
We wore the same as in these videos - no uniform as such but we did have to change into shorts/T shirts, not wear our classroom stuff. Unlike in UK which was all white kit for PE, very strict.
In Uk there was a lunchtime wrestling class at school which was popular (I think the Ninja Turtles made it popular?!) but we didn't do it formally in PE at all.
The school vid I found the other day I found another one and it looks like at the same time they had wrestling classes that must have been unusual any time
Martin: I presume naked swimming was boys only. Something I never experienced. Our swimming lessons were at a municipal pool ( although when we went it was reserved for our school no public present) but we all wore swimming trunks and all that was really available was the briefs style.
I do remember that because we went for our first lesson it was quite early and the water had not had time to warm up. But we survived.
I was at secondary school from the age of eleven to eighteen starting in 1965. There were four ex-military PE teachers throughout my time there, none allowed underpants or indeed anything under shorts at any stage for any reason. Wearing anything - underpants, swimming trunks or a jock strap got the usual line of 'you must have been cold lad, I'll warm your bottom for you' and a slippering resulted or the cane for a serial offender.
Hi, it was much the same at my school (1970`s), nothing was worn under shorts until 13, then swim trunks or snug briefs were allowed. Later on around 16 I noticed a jockstrap being worn and got one myself and as you say Chris G it was a vast improvement in many ways !!
Chris G, there weren't any rules about underwear at my school for sport. First rule though was no underwear at all for any sport form whatever, and naked for swimming (except for inter school competitions) unti about 13, the age most of us transferred from junior to senior school. Then i remember the prefects telling us to get a jockstrap or failing that use your swimming trunks! Common sense, yes ... but we just did what we were told. This was late 60s early 70s.
Typo Correction: date should have been mid 1950s, not mid 1950!
Martin, Garth, Jeff
I was at two secondary schools, at neither of which were there any rules about underwear, other than common sense! At the first school, most of us went commando for PE in the gym and outdoor athletics, PE etc., but when we were about 13, the PE master did advise us to get some sort of support. He mentioned swimming trunks , which we generally all possessed, and jock-straps, which none of us had ever heard of (this was mid 1950)., but many of us carried on commando anyway.
I moved to another school for my 6th form years, and found a mixture of speedos, jockstraps and commando. I went commando or swimming trunks for a few months, then got a jock-strap, which was a great improvement .
Jeff, we were told to wear a jockstrap or failing that swimming trunks at my school from the age of 13 ... trunks were regarded as the poor man's variant though!