Clitheroe Royal Grammar School

Childhood - Schools


Year: 1959         Item #: 1602         Views: 115,493         Comments: 599

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

599 user comment(s) below:-

Comments by on 20th February 2019  

Chris G and Tim H. I was in the era of the string vest late sixties to early seventies.There was peer pressure to attain such.After the February mid-term many lads stopped using them as it got gradually warmer.My mother hated them any way as they were snagging in the spin drier!

Comments by Chris G on 19th February 2019  


What I perhaps should have mentioned was the unintended consequence of the quantum leap from vests to toplessness for PE, namely the disappearance of underwear vests from the average boy's wardrobe during the third quarter of the 20th century. Back in those post-war days most people wore underwear vests: men generally more than women; children generally more than adults; boys generally more than girls, all for reasons that I never managed to fathom. Almost everything, including clothing, was scarce and often rationed and one generally got whatever was available at the time. Although my secondary school kit list specified white PE vest and shorts, there were few detailed specifications regarding style, fabric etc. So, for economic reasons, i.e. why buy a special vest for PE when you already have perfectly serviceable altrnatives in your underwear drawer, I and my schoolmates generally appeared for PE in the same vest that we had been wearing when we left home that morning (and that we had probably also worn the night before, either under or instead of our pyjama jacket).

Introduction of our new PE regime added a new, and probably unanticipated dynamic to my life, as I suspect it did to the lives of countless other boys across the country, and athough bare-chested for the actual lesson, we were expected to wear vests between the changing room and the gym. In reality, this expectation was largely ignored, especially on the return journey, and with our vests already off, very soon most of us managed to "forget" to put them back on before putting our shirts back on. With PE almost every day, we therefore contrived to be minus our vests for much of the school week, to the concern of our mothers, who universally subscribed to the view that kids needed vests all the year round. Within a couple of weeks, few of my class were wearing vests to school on PE days, and by half-term, most of us had stopped wearing them at all. Mum protested for a while, prophesying that I would be dead from pneumonia by Christmas, but the worst never happened, and I lived to turn my own vests into cleaning cloths.

Comments by James on 18th February 2019  

Paul,Charles & Michael

I'm sure we suffered the indignity of wearing short trousers while we approached adolescence that caused us to look like the archetypal school boy.
I agree that the tight garters that we wore to keep our knee stockings firmly in place left clearly visible indentations in our legs which when kept permanently in place gave some discomfort.
The garters that I wore had a flash of material sown on to them so that when the stockings were folded over at the top it could be seen that I was wearing them rather than discarded them.
I couldn't wait to get home and remove them and just wear shorts around the house.

Comments by Paul on 17th February 2019  

Re: garters (Michael, Charles, James)

This is what we're talking about I think, even though this is from Australia:

Comments by TimH on 15th February 2019  

I completely agree with Chris.

Many schools may have had a shirtless rule for indoors & outdoors wear and some may have had a barefoot ruling but I would suggest not all. I attended a boys grammar school in the E of England 1960-67 - the kit for gym was white shorts and either T-shirt, singlet or (optionally) topless, with plimsolls. Football & cross-country waa black shorts with a football shirt & boots (or plimsolls for XC) - we didn't swim. (The XC course for 2nd & 3rd year was approx 3 1/2 miles).

Shorts were cotton (nylon didn't come in until the 1970s) and were quite baggy (as in the picture) in my first years but later, as the fashion altered, they became a lot shorter - look at the Gordon Banks 1966 pictures.

The picture could well be 'staged' as the boys are running into a schoolyard (look at the gates) but are clean & don't look 'puffed'.

(Incidentally, whilst I've no problems with boys doing gym shirtless, which to me is perferctly natural, I don't think I'd want a son of mine doing outside games in the cold weather of winter 2017/8 or during the really hot weather of mid-summer 2018)

Comments by Chris G on 14th February 2019  

Not necessarily!

I was at two boys-only secondary schools in the period 1952-60. At the first (1952-57) PE in the gym was initially done wearing vests, but after a couple of years, this chnged to topless. For all outdoor activities, escept on very hot summer days when we did PE topless on the playing field, we wore tops of some sort or other. At the second school (1957-60), tops were mandatory for all PE and related activities, including cross-country, much to the disappointment of myself and a number of another boys who had come from schools where topless PE was the norm. So, apart from the fact that we were in a rural environment, this picture is an extremely accurate representation of our cross-country runnng kit, even down to the variability in clothing style.

Comments by ROY F on 14th February 2019  

This certainly looks staged as in the 1950's they would normally all be stripped to the waist and wearing identical shorts

Comments by Simon on 12th February 2019  

John, this must be staged,each lad would be stripped off. Wonder what the purpose of this was?

Comments by Ben on 22nd December 2018  

You said that you always had an audience while showering through the open door overlooking the corridor.
Were there any girls or female teachers who could see you boys shower?

Comments by ROY F on 21st December 2018  

I also did cross-country stripped to the waist with just plimsolls but some boys did go barefoot as well

Comments by Rob on 17th December 2018  

I as at secondary school in 1959 and we ran cross country bare chested wearing just PE shorts with nothing underneath and plimsolls without socks.

Comments by Roy on 17th December 2018  

Another thing that strikes me is how the boys aren't wearing the same sort of tops and also the same colour shorts.

Comments by John on 15th December 2018  

I agree with Alan, Francis Croston and Roy F that it’s very strange for these lads not to be running bare chested in 1959. When I was at senior school in the 1970s we did cross country bare chested in winter and so did other secondary schools in the area.

Comments by ROY F on 5th December 2018  

When I was at secondary school in the early to mid 1960's we did PE and cross-country bare-chested

Comments by Andrea on 26th November 2018 

Did your PE teacher speak to the younger boys he felt were 'well developed' to suggest they bought a jockstrap. Our PE teacher had a similar conversation with a few of my classmates about asking their mums to buy them a bra!

Comments by Ian on 23rd November 2018 

Like Francis and Alan, I am surprised by the motley selection of kit these lads are wearing.

Our gym/PE kit consisted of shorts and gymshoes, trunks for swimming, full kit for rugby and cricket. Jockstraps were for older and “well developed” younger boys. Athletics (summer) and long distance (not really cross country, as it was mainly done on roads) were done in PE kit, all weathers. Gym was sometimes outside “to get fresh air on our bodies”, especially in winter.

Showers were compulsory - after gym, games; before and after swimming, always naked. The PE showers were opposite the door which was always wedged open to the corridor, so there was always and audience. They were not the only ones - our teacher was the head of department and often had visitors – inspectors, council and education officials, even dads concerned about their sons.

All activities (hard circuit training exercises and activities, such as vaulting, ropes etc.) were done in a military fashion – lots of standing at attention and doing things “at the double”. There was no slouching around, as in the Burnley photograph.

This was all enforced with tight discipline, informally with the plimsoll or a small, but fiendish belt over the backside. Formally, we received a combination of various punishments - lines (300/500 or more), essays (usually about maintaining discipline), cold showers (at the pool side), detentions but always corporal punishment – a physical punishment for a physical activity, as our teacher us to say. In Scotland in the 50s and 60s, this took the form of the belt used prolifically. Whatever people say nowadays, it certainly improved standards. Even I became quite fit and actually liked long distance.

Comments by Francis Chroston on 22nd November 2018  

Hi.I agree,no regulation kit here,looks a bit too modern for 1959.Even in the late sixties we were bare chested for CC but used Rugby boots for footwear.

Comments by Alan on 21st November 2018  

These lads appear to be in a real mixture of cross country kit. Back in my school day we ran outside in all weather shirtless and barefoot wearing only white shorts.

Comments by Michael on 4th November 2018  

Paul, the garter rings on my legs had thankfully disappeared long before I reached my late 20s; probably within a few months after I no longer needed to use them.

I learned from a recent TV programme that our famous monarch Henry VIII, (he of the six wives), suffered most of his life from a chronically painful and often debilitating ulcer in his left leg.

This was not caused by some youthful jousting injury as many believed, but by his leggings/socks/hose being supported by garters that were so tight they constricted blood vessels.

It seems that I and many other boys of my generation, were lucky to avoid these complications.

Comments by Paul on 3rd November 2018  

Michael, it sounds like you had the tightest garters of all the kids! Surely you got some comments? I remember that my garters dug in heavily over the shin just below the knee, leaving red marks which were still there in the morning. I was quite skinny at the time, and got called 'knobbly knees' or 'kneecaps' because my kneecaps were very high and prominent. I wore shorts until just before my 13th birthday.

Comments by Michael on 27th October 2018  

In response to Paul's enquiry (below), I had a permanent sun tan from playing out so much. I wore long socks with sensible black shoes to school, but changed to ankle socks and Clarks' sandals(!) for the rest of the time.

The buckles on my sandals constantly jingled as I moved around, but like my garter rings, this was something I lived with and ignored.

My mother reasoned that as I spent so much time on the floor with my train set and my many other toys, any long trousers would soon be worn through at the knees.

So, although I stopped wearing my regulation grey shorts to school by my 14th birthday, I still wore them and other shorts at home and for playing out, until they were either threadbare or outgrown.

The sun tan on my legs was still clearly visible in my late 20s, but thankfully the garter rings had disappeared by then.

Comments by Charles on 25th October 2018  

In Cubs and scouts our garters had to be visible. I can just about remember that they had green attachments on them. At school we turned our socks down over them to hide them. We absolutely always had to keep our socks up so the garters were always tight.
At home I always had to change straight out of my socks when I got in and the marks from the garters were deep. It was such a relief to get them off.
at school in PE it was always obvious which boys wore shorts because we had the tell tale garter marks as we ran around the gym

Comments by James on 25th October 2018  

Paul,it was customary to wear garters when wearing knee stockings and mine that I used to wear had a flash of material that protruded beneath my stockings when they were turned over.This enabled anyone to see that I was wearing them and that I had not removed them as I found them uncomfortable.
Like you,I was tanned from the knees upwards and wearing brief shorts it allowed my parents and teachers to administer summary punishment when they considered it necessary.
May I ask you what age you wore short trousers up to?

Comments by Paul on 24th October 2018  

Michael, yes, I remember the garters. Interested to hear that you had more or less permanent garter rings. I did too, but my reaction was to hide them by wearing the garters all the time! Of course, I was tanned only from the knees upwards. I think I still have a photo showing my garter marks.

Comments by Michael on 4th October 2018  

My grey school shorts were worn with long socks that had two coloured bands around the top. To hold the socks just below my knees, I had to place elastic garters inside their folded over tops.

These tight garters created rings around my legs, so when I pulled on my long socks each morning, the garters slotted into the exact same place. This kept my socks up very effectively.

The downside was that the garter rings were still plainly visible whenever I wasn't wearing long socks, such as at the swimming baths or beach, or just wearing my ordinary clothes with ankle socks.

But, I got so accustomed to the garter rings around my legs that I just ignored them, as did all the other boys I knew.

Comments by Charles on 3rd October 2018  

Yes James I agree.
Mum told me that I would not be in long trousers until at least 14. To have argued would have made it worse
I had one teacher who especially seemed to like smacking boys bare legs/ It really hurt.
And then all day i would get teased.
Te long walk home with red legs was never nice as I knew mum would have the hairnbrush, slipper or strap out straight away.

Comments by James on 3rd October 2018  


I remember that time when Hot Pants came into fashion and the same brevity of our shorts were equally brief.
It seemed that girls weren't a figure of fun when wearing Hot Pants,but boys in short pants always remained one,with plenty of names like'shortie' pants and 'nappy pants'

Comments by Frank Chroston on 2nd October 2018  

WoW! James.It's a good while since I heard the word Chagrin!It brings out the emotion and dismay at that stage in your life.I was not allowed to wear longs until I was 14,this was 1971 at the time the female fashion of hot pants was popular and it was a extra humiliation to be called Hot Pants!

Comments by James on 1st October 2018  

Charles,I expected to wear long trousers when I started my new school,but when my mother received the school uniform list it stated that boys'should wear long or grey short trousers'and much to my chagrin my mother that I should wear shorts.
I agree that we stood out more,mainly because,like you I was tall and my fellow pupils found it amusing to see a tall boy wearing shorts.
Also,when wearing shorts it gave an ideal target for teachers and parents to administer summary corporal punishment and as you say "it left embarrassing red marks.

Comments by Charles on 30th September 2018  

Yes they were short. Also we were not allowed to have our long grey socks fall down . Thy had to be held up with garters. School rules at comp and infant middle that socks had to be up at all times.
I was also very tall and felt very visible with my shorts on. Certain teachers were also very inclined at smack boys legs when when they were in shorts, leaving an embarrassing red mark.
It was always a risk arguing with mum about me wearing shorts as she was not the type of lady to take kindly to such things.
When I did get home with legs marked from a teacher smacking she dealt with me straight away.

Comments by James on 29th September 2018  

Charles,most boys at the school that I attended wore long trousers, mostly from the age of 11,so I was also in a minority wearing shorts for my secondary school that I attended.
If the shorts were absurdly brief like the shorts that I wore you would certainly feel the cold.

Comments by Charles on 28th September 2018  

I didn't mind wearing shorts when everyone else at school was but when at comp and some wore shorts but most wore trousers I really didn't like that
I never really got used to the cold and wet especially at comp when it was virtually impossible to dry wet socks etc as we swapped rooms after every lesson.

Comments by Roy on 28th September 2018  

Certainly I still wore short trousers until early 1961 when I was thirteen.

Comments by Michael on 28th September 2018  

Back in the late 1950s and early 1960s, wearing short trousers all the time, whatever the season or weather, was normal for myself and almost every other boy I knew.

I particularly remember this being the case during the exceptionally long and cold Winter of 1962/63, when I was ten years of age and in the 'top' class at my primary school.

Each chilly morning my mother would ensure I put on a warm coat and scarf/gloves, then a woolly balaclava which covered most of my head, plus wellington boots.

But, strange as it may seem, there was never any thought given to swapping my usual short trousers for long ones.

Even stranger, my legs never felt cold, even if my hands and feet did. Perhaps all those years of wearing short trousers acclimatised my legs to the weather?

Comments by Charles on 23rd September 2018  

yes James, I vividly remember those red raw thighs in Winter.
I had about a three mile walk home from school. Part of that was over wide open parkland. It was freezing.
At home I always wore "house clothes" and I remember getting changed and warmed in front of the sitting room fire. We didnt have central heating back then
It was such a relief to warm your cold legs and feet by the fire

Comments by James on 19th September 2018  

Tony H & Charles,

I also found it devastating to wear short pants to school and like ourselves,I'm sure others would found it so.
When complaining about the absurd brevity of the shorts,that was the fashion of the time and the longer style of shorts were out.
I agree they could be 'brutal'wearing them in cold weather,but as you say it used to'acclimatise us when
participating in sports in bitterly cold weather.
I remember my thighs were red raw in the winter and my legs were brown as berries in summer.
Knee stockings had to be held in place by tight fitting garters and the tops had to be turned over to show the bands of colours.
The worst part was was your bare thighs were red rawe

Comments by Frank C on 9th September 2018  

Similar memories Roy the teachers would move the crates next to the radiator it tasted dreadful!

Comments by ROY F on 8th September 2018  

When I was at Junior School in the 1950's the heating was very primitive to say the least and I remember the milk freezing with the cream being forced out of the top of the bottle.

Comments by Charles on 8th August 2018  

Ross. Yes, we used to jump in puddles and try and splash as many other kids as poss. At school our socks dried on the radiators and we went barefoot

Comments by TimH on 5th August 2018  

Ross - you had radiators! What luxury!

In junior school in the late 50s it was coal fires, and at Grammar School it was?? Some sort of central heating, I suppose - hardly very effective. I recall for a period in 4th form that a window was missing from one class-room.

Comments by Ross on 4th August 2018  

Ahh yes I remember those cold soaking wet rain days. Walking to school I thought it was a brilliant idea to slash the puddles. Not so much liked it when I arrived at school and was told along with half a dozen others to take my socks off and work in bare feet while they spent the morning drying on the radiator.

Comments by Andrea on 23rd July 2018 

Yes, on a wet day it was certainly possible to see who had walked or cycled to school as opposed to those who had caught the bus.
Getting wet on the way home wasn't too bad, but sitting in wet socks all day when it had rained on the way to school was not fun!

Comments by Ben on 23rd July 2018  

From what I remember, I was at school in the 60s, our socks were woollen so were quite warm and they reached almost to the knees, with those elastic garters some also mention.

The uniform shorts were alo quite long, reaching to knees or below length, and they were of thick material, so I don't remember being bothered about the cold wearing them.

As some others mention I also wore school shorts till I was about 14 and many other boys also wore them till that age.

Also as someone mentioned in a previous post the girls wore long white socks and short skirts and don't remember them wearing tights in winter so they were probably not allowed also. So it was probably more tough on girls than boys who could also wear long trousers anyway, but not girls.

Comments by Charles on 22nd July 2018  

Andrea. Another downside to wearing shorts was that socks were often soaked by the time I got to school. Until sec it wasn't much of a problem as we all put our wet socks on the radiators to dry. I can still see the steaming radiators but our socks dried.
At sec we didn't have a set classroom so we couldn't dry our socks. It was very uncomfy being in the wet socks.
Girls at comp had to wear white socks, either ankle or knee length. Tights weren't allowed.

Comments by Tony H on 20th July 2018  

I have posted previously that I had to wear grey shorts for school until I was about 14. In hind sight I suppose the only benefit was when we had to wear shorts for pe and outdoor games, my legs were already somewhat acclimatised to the cold and so it was not so great a discomfort when going outside for football.

Comments by Andrea on 19th July 2018 

James & Charles you have my sympathy regarding having to wear shorts in the cold winters.
Unlike some schools, mine didn't allow girls to wear tights with our skirts, just long socks. As I had to cycle to school my legs felt like icicles some days!

Comments by John on 19th July 2018  

Thanks for your posting on the topic of naked swimming. I still think that lad’s anxieties over having to swim naked were unnecessary, after the first lesson of having to swim naked lads got used to not wearing swimming trunks and it was no problem.

You’ve given excellent reasons why it is safer and healthier to swim naked; so I still think that schools that had compulsory naked swimming for boys were right and that the policy should never have been stopped. Rules can be character building when you are growing up, and naked swimming can help to reduce the chances of lads having body image issues.

Comments by James on 18th July 2018  

Charles,Yes,I agree"I agree winters were brutal with shorts"
When most boys would wear long trousers and girls could wear tights we would have to suffer the indignity of wearing shorts.
I considered it an outdated convention to keep boys in shorts at our age,but my parents were quite proud of keeping me in shorts despite my age and insisted that I should go the"full term"in shorts.

Comments by Tom on 18th July 2018  

John, it is not a fear of swimming naked, it is about being self-conscious and shy about showing your naked body.
As most who have had this experience at school are saying they soon got over this shyness and enjoyed swimming naked once they got over it.

Swimming naked is in fact fun and has a feeling of freedom.
According to experts it is also safer to swim naked if you get into difficulties while swimming without the hindrance of trunks.
It is also more comfortable to swim naked than when wearing trunks or speedos, they are either too tight or too loose.

The argument is probably whether it was right to force boys to swim naked whether they liked it or not.
There may have been several reasons for it in schools. Among them was tradition, that boys were more manageable and behaved better when naked in a large group in a pool environment with just one or two instructors, no worries about boys leaving wet swimsuits to rot in a changing room locker or having to take home wet suits in their school bag.
These are some of the reasons which sound very logical.

Comments by Tony H on 17th July 2018  

Thanks for the information re support.