Burnley Grammar School

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Burnley Grammar School
Burnley Grammar School
Year: 1959
Views: 1,060,685
Item #: 1607
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

Comment by: Brendan on 27th June 2022 at 11:30

Tony on 25th June 2022 at 02:04

I'm not sure you can have a decent shower unless you are naked! For me and we are all different, it didn't bother me after the first couple of times after all, by then we had all seen each other naked and there was nothing to learn and nothing to hide. Others may have been more uncomfortable but I really wasn't bothered. That it was compulsory didn't really rate either, lots of things were compulsory at school and I'd much rather have had a communal shower with other lads than eaten some of the school dinner slop that we had to eat every day whether we liked it or not.

As for the gym now, yes, other men of all ages use the showers. I don't take that much notice of who does and who doesn't and I'm not there at the busiest times in the evenings but during the day it's unusual if there are not 10-12 guys showering.

Comment by: Tony on 26th June 2022 at 17:21

That is a brilliant technical explanation you have given Greg.

I hope that the contentious changing room, showers part was effectively filmed as live after a real lesson and not staged artificially. It looked like it might have been the former. The thought of a film crew demanding retakes of that sort of thing doesn't feel right does it.

A couple of others here have said it makes them feel angry. I get that. Looking at it I felt it was a liberty too far. When they made the finished programme the film makers very likely gave the school a copy to watch back, as you say that's highly probable, can you imagine the classes sitting down to watch it and the girls getting that "treat". Knowing some of the girls I shared school with even at that age it would have taken a lot of living down. Even if they didn't get a pre-broadcast preview they likely saw it when it went out a few months later on TV anyway.

I certainly didn't think there was anything especially wrong with the parts showing the actual mixed PE lesson itself in the gym with the leotard girls and the boys without tops in bare chested just shorts kit. That was PE back then, it didn't seem unreasoable to film them doing that. But I suspect that even that nowadays would be seen as too much.

Good to see the subject being discussed thoughtfully on here.

Comment by: Tom F on 26th June 2022 at 16:03

The short 'Good Health' documentary showcases a very stark reality from school back then which was that boys privacy was more or less irrelevant and of no consequence whatsoever to anybody at all. It literally lays that philosophy bare for all to see.

Comment by: Greg2 on 26th June 2022 at 13:26

Richard, thanks for your comment, and you’re absolutely right, most of those boys probably just did it because they were told to. Thinking back to that age, you mostly just did as you were directed and expected to, by the adults in charge. As I’ve mentioned in previous posts some time back, I wasn’t comfortable with the idea of having to use the communal showers, that we’d all heard about at junior school. But, I just had to do it, as we all did, because it was the way it was. I was just naturally bodily shy, even though a slim and sporty kid… also, I had one or two childish ‘girl friends’ around that time, (who seemed far more advanced than me) and to have been made to show myself during changing and showering on film for them to have their own curiosity satisfied, would have been really awful and embarrassing for me. It’s just my nature, and I do understand that others might think differently.

I’ve worked with tv film crews, and I know how they can take over a location when filming. I expect a smaller unit would have done these school outside broadcasts, but you’d be surprised the crew that would turn up. There’d certainly be a broadcasting truck parked in the school grounds all day, and with its production staff milling about. The camera operators would have a sound boom partner, even though ambient sound might later be reduced beneath the silly ‘Benny Hill’ type music; an obvious attempt to deflect from the visual information by encouraging a light hearted, humorous bias. A lighting technician would be bouncing up light with a reflector adjacent to a camera, and all while the boys would be made to do several takes by the director, as he/she developed ideas for composition as the shoot progressed. Likewise, all ‘cut-ins’ would then be filmed, with reshoots as required, for the edited in close-ups, of picking up soap etc. Certainly far more footage would be shot than used in the final cut. And all while production office staff might be in and out with the producer’s info from the receiving truck…no mobile phones back then. It would all be a new experience for all concerned and I’m sure the boys were all glad when it was all over.

All children would have known the filming date in advance, so no doubt would have talked about it amongst themselves, with a letter given to take home to their parents. I think it’s possible that details of what would be filmed might not have been included with the information, as things were certainly different back then. It’s even possible that the boys wouldn’t have known that a shower scene would be required until the last minute, which makes it even worse. I think it’s probable that none of them would have been shown any storyboards. I wonder how they thought of it at the time, and since?

I’m sorry for the loss of your friend Richard. I also know someone who had a very troubled upbringing and also tried to take his own life, some years ago now, but thankfully he was saved. We’re all different, and all able to deal with our confrontations in varied ways. It’s just very sad that some find themselves unable to cope during their last moments. RIP.

Comment by: Richard on 26th June 2022 at 03:00

I saw that very Good Health edition while I was off school sick one day. I so remember it. If I was ever off but well enough to sit up rather than stay in bed I'd enjoy spending the morning watching all the programmes for schools and colleges and the little dots in a circle vanishing before they began. I remember a few I saw and absolutely remember watching this one mid morning and suddenly seeing all the boys naked in the showers and walking out with it all on show and it getting my attention. It was certainly an education. It was no sooner on then it was gone, no chance for another curious look but I definitely replayed that in my mind. Whether I ever saw it in school as well I don't know, they got many repeats I think. I was still in primary middle at the time but that was getting on for the mid 80s by then.

Do, or did kids ever need to be told how to wash on a TV show, I don't think they needed to tell me, nor show me.

Greg you're right about the boy/girl thing. While I'm sure those who filmed were all men, I doubt as many as six, perhaps no more than three or four, but it's a guess on my part. I don't get why at that age there is this difference in attitude and it seemed fine by 1980's standards to show the boys like that in a broadcast yet a complete no go area to do likewise with girls the same age. The boys seem like they are fair game and that old rhyme comes to mind where little girls are made of "sugar and spice and all things nice" while the boys are "frogs and snails and puppy dogs tails".

Like you Greg, I'd not have wanted to take part in that, although you said it looked like the boys didn't seem too bothered being filmed without their clothes. Don't be so sure and the reason I say that is we all have the ability to hide our true feeling very well in certain circumstances and put on a brave or even happy face while behind it we are anything but. A year ago a friend going back to my schooldays took his life during lockdown, I heard about it, not seen him in a year or two but I saw a recent image of him. I then looked at sites and there is one called CALM (Campaign Against Living Miserably) and on it there are final pictures of people who sadly chose to to exit their lives, all look rather happy, many are very good looking, and project themselves completely at odds with their internal reality that others couldn't see. Basically this is my longwinded way of saying just because the lads on the film looked as if they didn't give a toss doesn't mean that was the case, they might have done. Sorry to get a little bit heavy with the analogy there.

Comment by: Greg2 on 25th June 2022 at 22:09

Daran Greave, at the end of your comment, do you mean it makes you ‘kind of angry’ because, as usual, it would be boys to be shown ‘cleaning up’ but not girls? I do remember that somehow I just happened to see this programme on tv one afternoon many years ago, and I was surprised by the unexpected shower scene. But I remember thinking that it was just typical that the boys would have to be shown and not the girls.

It did appear that most of the boys didn’t seem too bothered about being filmed without their clothes, which was also surprising, especially as their girl class mates would be no doubt be watching the film sometime later. You can just imagine the ridicule the boys would have received! Also, don’t forget there would be a film crew in there at the time, usually consisting of at least five or six people, and usually more. It wouldn't have been unusual for a female or two to be amongst the film crew as well, who would all be in there. It’s probably one of the reasons boys would be chosen, because having predominately men in the crew, they just wouldn’t really expect, or even want, to go in the shower room with the girls. Well, I, being a boy, certainly wouldn’t have wanted myself to be filmed in the shower at that age, and then shown to all and sundry.

Like you Daran, this filmed environment looked almost exactly like the changing/shower rooms I remember from my Secondary School. I think I might have feigned an illness on that filming day!

Comment by: John on 25th June 2022 at 20:46

Six inches of hot water, that sounds like a bath not a shower to me!

Football shirts blocking the drains, the mind boggles.

It's always good to give the class bully, or 'psycho' his come uppance and that was a good one.

Comment by: Laura on 25th June 2022 at 19:36

Replying to Paul J.

Nowaday schools seem far more concerned in the actual mental wellbeing of their pupils over and above their actual physical wellbeing. But for me both go hand in glove. I would imagine a modern version of that programme being titled Good Mental Health. It's rather a shame a little more wasn't done regards mental health back then and likewise that physical health and fitness in school is not perhaps the priority it once was. A proper balance between the two is best. Psychology and fitness and sport are well worth teaching too. A good head leads to a good body.

It would be very odd looking back forty years later at yourself in a video like that of your PE class I must say. The lack of a discreet edit from the producers to respect those boys privacy was somewhat galling even in the early 80s.

Comment by: Kris on 25th June 2022 at 18:33

Daran you said; " It kind of makes me angry looking at that and reminding me of doing that but I don't really know why exactly."

I think I understand where you're coming from, sort of had a samish feeling here too, for those lads and what it reminded me of myself in school like that at a fairly similar time in those days. I bet those boys had left school and had started adult jobs while school's TV was still parading them across TV screens. As much as the unavoidable full scale nakedness of that class being displayed it was actually the music playing to it that got to me, as if the whole thing was actually quite fun and amusing to look at. You can just tell from it that there was probably very little care given to anyone's thoughts.

Comment by: Barry on 25th June 2022 at 16:42

Having a shower after football was compulsory at my school but it was a great set-up for bullying. The usual trick was to wait until somebody had just stepped out of the communal shower back into the changing rooms, then smear them with mud from the bottoms of your football boots. Most targeted were those who had a bus to catch. One day, some of the older kids got hold of our class psycho and pushed him naked through the double doors into the girls' cloakroom, which was just outside. We sometimes got told off for lingering in the showers after shool, with the drains bunged up with football shirts. For some reason it seemed quite novel to sit in a few hundred gallons of six-inch-deep hot water.

Comment by: Tony on 25th June 2022 at 02:04

Brendan - it's not about a reluctance to shower and hygiene in itself is it, that misses the point completely from where I'm looking at it. It's about the method of doing it. You know, the getting naked bit.

You say you use a gym with a communal shower, is it well used? But there's the difference, you're an adult, your decision. Not comparable to being in school shoved like cattle to be cleaned up en masse.

Comment by: Saul on 24th June 2022 at 22:44

I was on a Facebook chat group set up for my school years back in the eighties what must have been five years ago now with a group of old school chums of both sexes now just about hitting fifty. As soon as someone brought up the names of some PE teachers the conversation literally caught fire and before you knew it it was onto school showers and everyone had strong views about them and how we were treated and what we felt like doing them. It seemed like they were quite a big deal to rather a lot of people. Of all the subjects talked about on my old school Facebook chat this one was by far the busiest by a long way even after many years.

I've actually placed a link to this History World discussion on Facebook so it may just generate some further interest.

Comment by: Daran Greave on 24th June 2022 at 20:25

I agree with you Paul. Never seen it before but that video was a revelation wasn't it and without knowing it, it really says a lot more in a historical perspective than it at first seems. That was an almost identical film to my own school (comp not primary) and how we did things, the way they lined up showering so close to each other was how I had to do it in a shower just like that and even the way they all ran into it at the same time together, and definitely how like I remember everyone being quite slim and nobody overweight. But one thing I noticed missing was the teacher, no sign of one keeping an eye out, I wonder why that was. Christ only knows what those lads must have been thinking that day when they had a camera filming them the whole way through the post PE school showers ritual. What would people on here have been thinking if you were those lads at that age? Would you have been fine with that as a parent of one of them then? The thought that my own parents would get to see me like that in the school showers would literally have killed me it would be so mortifying. Notice how the girls featured in that but it was the boys they showed cleaning up at the end. It kind of makes me angry looking at that and reminding me of doing that but I don't really know why exactly.

Comment by: Brendan on 24th June 2022 at 16:52

I'm not sure about the reluctance to shower. As an adult do you not know it's wise to wash after exercise? It keeps you smelling acceptable to people you mix with.

Youngsters are often reluctant to do the obviously right thing and some compulsion is necessary to get them to do it. How may would do their homework voluntarily or in some cases go to school at all?

A shower after PE class is no different, it's compulsory for a reason. I went on to play rugby and I doubt I would have lasted long on the team if I hadn't washed after training or a game and now, past rugby playing I go to the gym most days where certainly the men I mix with shower after a session too, it really is just common sense.

As a lad at school, it took a couple of times to get used to communal showers with a group of other lads, playing rugby, showers were always communal and at my probably out of date gym they are too. I never think about it, I just have a shower and I suspect other men are on the same wave length.

Comment by: Paul J on 24th June 2022 at 14:59

I've just watched the Good Health video which I remember from years ago, I'm amazed it's still around.


One of the things that struck me immediately was that among the lads they were all of healthy size and more importantly weight for their age, there didn't seem to be an inch of fat to be seen.

Compare that to a similar group of lads coming out of school today and I'm pretty certain there would be a significant percentage of rather 'lardy' lads who would no doubt benefit greatly from the sort of PE classes the video shows and a generally more healthy life style.

Comment by: Mike on 23rd June 2022 at 21:41

Top post there Rick.

I remember getting taught in a couple of prefab style classrooms that one day just vanished without being replaced.

Parents rarely seemed to intervene with school decisions did they. Imagine them now in the scenario you outlined, half of them would be in the head's office within hours wouldn't they after a change like that.

Comment by: Rick on 23rd June 2022 at 16:14

I've just seen the question that was asked about anyone who took school showers before they reached senior high secondary/comprehensive level. I can vouch for that one in my case. I'll come to that at the end of what I'd like to say after I give a rough outline of my own school times.

This is going back to a middle school I started at in Sep '72 very shortly after my eighth birthday which was late August making me one of the youngest in class. I think the school roll was about 200 at the time with 8 classes, two per year group. I was there for four school years leaving in July '76.

In P.E we did lots of different stuff from football, swimming, running, long jumping high jumping and all kinds of athletics in a relaxed and not too competitive way. I remember rounders was always quite a populat choice as well. A few weeks ago a lot of people mentioned the Maypole and that's also something our school had and used from time to time also but I never relate to it as anything connected directly to P.E as such.

In the school hall we wore a plain t-shirt and shorts for P.E and our bare feet. The classes were always mixed. Outside we wore similar kit and plimsolls. Nobody seemed to wear what you would define as trainers nowadays. If the weather was good we would sometimes be allowed or even actually told to do our lesson without our tops on but this only ever happened when we had a man take us for it, not with any of the lady teachers. Normally this would happen when we were running circuits of our track.

Middle school was also where I was first introduced to the oh so familiar shirts and skins team games division of boys right from the age of eight, most often in our school hall indoors rather than outside. But it was never called shirts/skins or referred to like that and I didn't hear that term used until I reached comprehensive in the later 70's. It was always known as on's and off's.

The first time we did an on's and off's team game, I think it was something like volleyball or like that, we were allowed by our teacher to choose who was going to be what ourselves and it seemed to work out without much aggro. Unfortunately I remember the second time we did it and it didn't work out well at all and arguing broke out because some who had been off's last time were going to be again and didn't want to be, so that was the end of deciding for ourselves. That teacher blew her stack and from then on we simply got told who did which team, mostly by lining us up and going along pointing on and off at every other one of us.

Through my time at middle school I shared all my P.E lessons about half and half between a man and lady teacher. When we did class outside even though we were mixed lessons the boys and the girls would peel off and do separate things to themselves, almost like two classes within the one but being overseen by just one teacher most of the time.

The school had a very small pair of changing rooms for boys and girls separately of course. But the boys one was a real odd design because it had a couple of large ceiling to floor windows which were not even frosted in any way so anybody outside could look through and see who was in them and doing what without any effort. They must have been designed by a blind man or something. The other side was an open yard where anyone in school passed by. Absolutely no privacy, yet this room had clearly been designed as a school changing room without any doubt about it and had not had some kind of change of use.

So for my first couple of years we used these facilities and came and went as you'd expect. Then I remember us getting told that our school had been given a budget to make some big improvements, one was a complete new classroom to replace a prefab temporary thing, other minor alterations and also some new changing places. All this was going to take place while school was out across the summer hols, the ones in '74 I think it was. Infact before we went off for summer there was some work already starting.

By our return after six weeks or so in September it was all done, new classroom, no old prefab anymore, numerous other changes and we had some brand new changing rooms too, the old ones had been demolished and new ones built and extended. They were bright and clean, had lots of new sinks and water fountains and were completely private with no more unfrosted big window, just some higher up ones you'd need a step ladder to gaze into. It needed to be like that, because our new changing room also had a new inbuilt shower area inside it too, behind a tiled barrier about 5ft high. I remember we all looked at it but didn't think much or say anything about it.

I certainly didn't think we were going to use it and our teacher although mentioning our new build didn't draw attention to that part of it. Infact I thought it might just be some after school activities by other people or something. We did our usual lessons for a couple of weeks as we always had done and settled down into our new school year, not a lot different to the previous one really.

Later in the month on one of our P.E afternoons we sat down and before going home got given a note to take home for our parents with information about the forthcoming school academic year and within this it was telling our parents to start sending us to school with a towel on P.E days during the week. Bringing a towel wasn't a first as we'd done so on the very few days we went swimming anyway. I didn't even read the note, just folded it up and handed it over when I got home.

So I actually found out about school showers from my own parent when she read the note and told me about the towel/shower change. I'm sure I'd told her about our new buildings at school but probably never even mentioned the changing room had a shower in it. After all, at that age I didn't know anything about that kind of thing and didn't know you could do that inside school.

We didn't start immediately after knowing all this and so it gave time to get anxious. It was a couiple of weeks before I was packed off to school with a very small hand towel in my bag on P.E day and began middle school group class showers at the age of 10 and one of the clearest things that comes to me from it is one of my friends asking who was going to be brave enough to be the first to do so and a really quiet and unassuming lad called Toby who never made a fuss about anything being the first to do so as we all watched before we quickly followed and did so too.

Half the time was a man and the other half was a lady teacher and it may seem remarkable now but back in middle school in the mid 70's she would be in our changing room making sure we were doing what we should be even as we took a shower, although she didn't stay watching like the man and when we were in the shower she couldn't actually see us directly, she just knew we were doing it. Different times indeed.

I worried about it, of course I did and boys I expected to worry a lot didn't seem to and some, friends among them who I thought wouldn't care much did seem to. That's just down to the normal range of personality type.

After that we always used the new shower after we'd been outside and most times inside too but if our teacher had given us a particularly light lesson inside then we left it out here and there. It ended up not bothering me one way ot the other and the adjustment didn't take too long for most of us I don't think. My other siblings would have used them from the age of eight, a brother and a sister.

Some might say I was lucky to be given such facilities that soon. My parents had nothing to say about it that I know of and the biggest deal with them was making sure I took the right towel and didn't lose it in school at that age, there was certainly not the slightest inclination that I know of where those kind of requirements at that age worried our parents.

I take an interest generally in mindfulness and people who've had or have PTSD if anyone's interested.

Comment by: Neal on 22nd June 2022 at 14:21

Describe your first sports jacket GBBGG and how you got it then. It must have been a good memorable one for you to mention it on here.

Comment by: GBBGG on 22nd June 2022 at 11:29

@ Gary: Contradict myself? Moi? Yes - I suppose so, but as Gandalf says in 'The Two Towers': "What? In riddles?" said Gandalf. "No! For I was talking aloud to myself. A habit of the old: they choose the wisest person present to speak to; the long explanations needed by the young are wearying.”

(I think what I was trying to say was that I agreed with Tom F's comment: I wore shorts regularly to school until I was ten or eleven unless it was cold. I literally have nothing more to say than that about it, because there is nothing worth saying about it.)

On the question of 'sartorial elegance' - do any of the guys remember getting their first 'Sports Jacket'? - That really was a sign of growing up.

Comment by: Simon on 21st June 2022 at 21:43

Tanya, a nine-year-old is in their tenth year. Your first year ends on the day you reach one year old.

Comment by: Biff on 21st June 2022 at 18:11

Let's have a "No, no underpants" rule on here maybe!

Comment by: Tanya on 21st June 2022 at 18:05

David you confused me with your middle school memory there and your birthday being late as you said it. It made no sense to me. What do you mean you entered middle school in your 10th year because that doesn't fit with middle school age entry. If you were born in September, early in the school year you'd be 9 on entry maybe, whereas August borns would have just turned 8.

I'd imagine suddenly showering in a middle school was a bit unexpected wasn't it.

Comment by: Jim on 21st June 2022 at 17:55

Tom says - 'I wore shorts regularly to school until I was ten or eleven unless it was cold. I literally have nothing more to say than that about it, because there is nothing worth saying about it.'

Couldn't have put it better myself.

Comment by: GARY NEWMAN on 21st June 2022 at 16:04

GBBGG after your post on 20th June your one on 21st June seems to contradict yourself a bit there. ;-)

Anyway, great link to We Are The Champions. A show I loved and really strange to say this but I watched a clip from one of the latest Kaleidoscope Presentation Vaults on You Tube only on Monday in which Ron Pickering Popped up briefly at something from 1982 called The British Meat Games, a strange titled athletics event.

On the Clitheroe thread there has been discussion of a school making everyone, boys as well, wear a T-shirt when they do swimming. Seeing this show reminded me of that as all the boys are in tops throughout the programme and always were as far as I can recall it, but obviously that was so that the various teams could easily be identified from each other and nothing more than that simple explanation unlike the school that has been discussed on that other thread.

What were Lodge Farm Middle School thinking of Robbie to give that kind of access. I like the way they thank them for all the help at the end. I bet.

Comment by: Andre on 21st June 2022 at 13:18

Yes that was the one I was thinking of Robbie. That middle school was doing things more like a comprehensive to me. I wonder if it was chosen for that reason or maybe they just did that set up as a one off for the purposes of that show. Thanks David for your answer which suggests you had a similar set up at your own middle school.

Agree with Claire and the others on that other subject too.

Comment by: GBBGG on 21st June 2022 at 11:32

On shorts - I wore shorts until part way through my 2nd year @ secondary school (c1961). this is how it just happened - not at the whim of parents or after protests ... its just how it was. (And my 'norm' for BST is still shorts).

Videos - there was a TV series back in the 80s called 'We are the Champions' - if anyone wants a 'memory burst' - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=S_G9vMmeucs

Comment by: Robbie on 21st June 2022 at 02:42

Relating to your last paragraph Andre is this the video that you were referring to by any chance? An old ITV school show from the early 80s about health and fitness for primary school ages placed eight months ago on these pages here. I remembered seeing it put here last autumn so it was easy to trace back. It's quite amazing actually for obvious reasons that hardly need explaining especially if watched towards the end. The pupils in it look like they could have been early secondary students and some seem quite mature for their ages I thought but the credits make it clear it was only a middle school and they all shower together after their PE with absolutely no censorship whatsoever, infact quite the opposite, quite a jaw dropping intrusion of privacy if you ask me.

The link is below and is from a long running series that went out on commercial television over many years during the 70s and 80s known as Good Health, many of these shows didn't pull their punches in other subjects either.


Comment by: Tom F on 20th June 2022 at 23:28

Claire, tedious is the kindest way of putting it. What also gets me is that when these subjects get their latest rehash for the umpteenth time they find enthusiastic responders quite fast yet in recent months we have had some teachers placing thoughtful and interesting observations on here amongst many things and they more or less get overlooked completely. What do you make of that?

I wore shorts regularly to school until I was ten or eleven unless it was cold. I literally have nothing more to say than that about it, because there is nothing worth saying about it.

Come on Tim you must have more interesting questions without igniting all that been there done that stuff yet again. For example I thought your other question on showering was reasonably decent and got you a great answer.

Comment by: Claire on 20th June 2022 at 21:02

It's also being done to death on the Clitheroe Royal Grammar School thread as well. Tedious, isn't it.

Comment by: David on 20th June 2022 at 19:07

I went to a middle school in the 1970's so can answer your last question Andre. You entered middle school in your 10th year, as my birthday was late I was nine for nearly the whole year. The middle school was quite new then and built on the same site as a high school so it shared the same PE block. We had to shower after every indoor PE lesson but outdoor games was always a double afternoon lesson and you could go straight home afterwards without changing and showering. In just about all ways middle school was more like high school than primary in the way it did things.