Burnley Grammar School

Childhood - Schools


Year: 1959         Item #: 1607         Views: 697,860         Comments: 2,546

Burnley Grammar School

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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

2546 user comment(s) below:-

Comments by Andrea on 16th November 2014  andreatwo@hotmail.co.uk 


Our skirts were supposed to be knee length (ie. touch the ground if we knelt down) but we quite often tried to get away with wearing them shorter if we could!

With regard to pe kit at Primary School, as at your school, both boys and girls used to wear a T shirt and shorts or a PE skirt (girls had the choice - I had shorts). We did have to change together though, which involved stripping down to vest and knickers / underpants, before putting on our pe kit. At my (all girls) secondary school the pe kit was polo shirt and gym knickers.

Comments by James on 16th November 2014  

Bill I also wore shorts to school and they were mandatory up to the age of fourteen;I guess they were the equivalent of poor girls like Andrea having to wear short skirts.
I do agree with you that we became accustomed to wearing them all the year round as they were an every day item of clothing.
Like you I wore knee stockings to keep my legs warm but these still kept my thighs cold and exposed to the bitterly cold weather.
It was exceptionally humiliating as during the seventies most boys as young as six were wearing long trousers.
I remember my mum saying'if a boy's short pants aren't cut well above the knee brief and trim therefore he may as well wear long trousers.'

Comments by Bill on 15th November 2014  

Andrea, I do remember most girls wearing miniskirts, or just short skirts, during the mid-sixties to mid-seventies, even as school uniforms. It was normal back then, even in winter.
If I remember well, some did wear tights in cold weather, though not all. As you say, some schools forbade this. Poor girls.
I also remember wearing shorts all year round till about age 14, and as part of
school uniform.
I also wore woolen socks as part of school uniform, but this still left your knees and part of your legs exposed. But I don't think this affected us much since we were used to it.

Another thing which only a few posters commented about is the custom in some primary schools where both boys and girls were made to do PE lessons in just underpants/knickers.
I wonder how common this was. At my school we always wore white shorts and t-shirt for PE, both boys and girls. But I did hear about other schools doing PE in just underpants.

Comments by Andrea on 14th November 2014  andreatwo@hotmail.co.uk 

When I was at school we weren't even allowed to wear tights with our normal school uniform, let alone our PE kit. In winter we had to wear long socks; my legs used to get frozen cycling to and from school in frosty weather!

Comments by Barry on 13th November 2014  

I agree that lads have gone soft. My 17 year old wears tights under his running shorts for winter Cross Country events, and long johns under his jeans when the frosts come. I suspect he also sleeps in them!

Comments by Tim on 12th November 2014  

Replying to Gary's comments we've been through the 'soft youth of today' bit before.

I'll simply say that a few weeks ago I saw a group of school boys (mid-teens) in Mid-Wales going back to school after rugby training. All were in 'traditional' rugby gear and none of them looked unhappy about what they'd be wearing and doing. I think a lot goes down to peer pressure, the attitude of the school, etc.

I'm lucky to have 250 acres of common land adjecent to me: much used for football & running. Its interesting to see how the lads who start off the summer in long, baggy shorts do move into shorter ones (and go topless) as the season progresses.

Whatever people say about the 'short' shorts of the late 60s onwards - well, they were the 'fashion' of the day - just find a picture of Bobby Moore receiving the World Cup to see them!

Comments by Simon on 10th November 2014  

In reply to Bill,yes there were less severe punishments than canings.The slipper was frequently used and quite often we often had our legs smacked when wearing short trousers but the cane was the most painful.
Yes it did sting and was administered by a female teacher on my behind after coming out of the pool.
Your account of events from your friend was very similar to my own which I found very embarrassing and humiliating.

Comments by Andrea on 9th November 2014  andreatwo@hotmail.co.uk 

In reply to Bill, yes there was corporal punishment when I was at school. The Headmistress would use the cane (which I never had) and one of the PE teachers would sometimes use a plimsoll (which I did receive on one occasion!).

At primary school (up to age 11) boys and girls used to change together for PE, but we were never naked, just down to vest and knickers / underpants before putting on our PE kit.

At secondary school we had to get naked for a shower after PE, but of course this was supervised by female PE staff. This was a real culture shock when we first started secondary school, but we just had to get used to it!


Comments by Gary on 8th November 2014  

Re Dan's comments. The only time we would see each other naked was when in the communal shower. I was not too worried but I understand that some boys were coy,but as you say we also jhad a few lads who were keen to show off all & sundry i think to brag how big they were.

On another tack, the lads of today seem very soft and cannot stand the cold. Today I have seen a young lad who has just come from playing football. Long shorts, long socks up to above his knees so hardly any flesh uncovered. As we say "in may day" it was thin nylon short shorts and just below knee length socks and freeze. Furthermore goalies did not wear track suit bottoms.

One of the bad things about "the good old days" was in the winter having to wear scratchy wollen underwear, before the days of softer fibres.

Comments by Bill on 8th November 2014  

Simon, thanks for answering my questions.
I find canings were too harsh in such a situation, especially if the boy was still wet. Were there any less harsh punishments for minor misbehaviour?
From what a friend who went to a similar boarding school told me, the most embarrassing and humiliating moment was at the beginning of the swim class when the boys had to line up for roll call and instructions with their hands at their sides facing the female teachers and any visitors present. They were not even allowed to cover with their hands. But once in the water it wasn't so bad. Was it the same for you?
But I don't think he mentioned that they were ever caned during the swim classes, just a few hand slaps on their bare behinds when necessary I suppose, or possibly a slippering.
That caning you got must have really stung. Was it a female teacher that caned you?

Comments by Simon on 8th November 2014  

Bill,I don't mind answering your questions.
There were about 30 boys in our swimming class.
The visitors were mainly prospective parents and school staff.
The punishments and canings were quite infrequent but I did receive the cane once for disobeying an instruction.

Comments by Dan on 7th November 2014  

Although we did PE bare-chested and often barefoot as well the only time we were naked was when having a shower afterwards when no females could see us.
Many boys were quite coy about revealing their private parts although others were only too keen to show them off to all and sundry.

Comments by Bill on 7th November 2014  

Simon, I hope you don't mind me asking questions, but I am curious about it since I was never in such a situation.

You said that there were many visitors and spectators who had access to the pool. Who were these visitors and spectators?

How many boys were there normally in each swim class?
Were the canings and other physical punishments common or rare during these swim classes?

I must agree with you that in your situation as you describe it couldn't have been more humiliating for the boys.

Comments by Simon on 6th November 2014  

Bill,we didn't have swimming galas at school but there were many visitors and spectators who had access to the pool although it was secluded and could not be seen by the public.
Female teachers and instructors supervised our swimming lessons and also had access to our changing area and showers.
Yes I did find it humiliating and embarrassing being extremely coy but some boys were quite brazen about it.

Comments by Bill on 6th November 2014  

Andrea, I don't think that girls had to worry about that, only boys were made to swim nude.

I had friends who went to a boarding school and not only did the boys had to swim nude but they also had female instructors and sometimes female teachers present too, at least in juniors up to 12 years old. I can't imagine that this would ever happen in girls swim classes, especially with male teachers or instructors.
Which is why I believe what some posters here say that they had nude swim classes for boys, even in the presence of female staff sometimes.
What I am surprised at, and which I was not aware of before, is that some say that they even had swimming galas in the nude in front of spectators.

BTW, did you have corporal punishment when you was at school? We certainly did when I was at school.

Comments by Andrea on 5th November 2014  andreatwo@hotmail.co.uk 

Like Bill I wish we had had a pool at our school, but not if it had meant having to swim in the nude - compulsory showers at secondary school were enough to deal with!

Comments by Bill on 2nd November 2014  

Simon, did you get used to having viewers and female teachers at the pool, or was it a constant embarrassment and humiliation?
I guess the fun of swimming at that age would have counteracted some of this.
I wish we had a pool at our school, though I don't know how I would have reacted to nude swimming in the presence of spectators. I suppose it would have been mortifying at first until one got gradually used to it.
I think starting at a very young age would have helped.
Having to swim nude in front of viewers close to the age of 14 as in your case, when most boys would be into puberty with some hair is a bit far I think.

When you mention viewers and spectators, were these school staff or other guests or the public?
Were you allowed to wear trunks when there were spectators, as in galas and competitions?

Comments by Simon on 2nd November 2014  

We were allowed to wear our swimming trunks and long trousers at the start of the new term in September.
I would have been about 14 and 1/2.

Comments by Andrea on 2nd November 2014  andreatwo@hotmail.co.uk 

Did the change to wearing long trousers and being allowed to wear swimming trunks coincide with the start of a new school year?

At my secondary school we had to wear 'gymslip' style dresses for our first two years, but from the third year the uniform was a skirt and blouse?

Similarly my ex told me that at his school the 'no underpants' rule applied in pe for the first two years, after which they were supposed to wear athletic supporters. He said that this seemed rather random as some boys could have done with them earlier, whilst others didn't really need them at that point!

Comments by Simon on 1st November 2014  

Bill,we were allowed to wear swimming trunks when we were about fourteen depending on what date our birthdays were about the same time we were promoted to wearing long trousers.
Yes,we were viewed by onlookers passing the pool but we also had a large window above the pool in a viewing gallery where we could watched without the spectators being disturbed.
Our privacy was hardly a matter of paramount importance especially as we were supervised by one male teacher and two females.
To answer your question about canings I remember two boys holding me under the water for a while to see how long I could hold my breath.
They were duly taken out of the pool and received summary punishment with cane by one of the female teachers which left vivid marks on their buttocks.

Comments by Bill on 1st November 2014  

James, did she cane you herself?
Were there ever punishments in the swim class?

Simon, did you actually ever have viewers through the clear glass area?
Up to what age were you forced to be nude for swim class?

Comments by Simon on 31st October 2014  

In reply to peterc,I did swim naked and definitely would have preferred to have worn trunks but that was not allowed for some reason.
Although our changing area and showers had frosted glass we were far from being concealed in the pool that had large clear windows that allowed anyone to view us if they so wished.
In reply to Bill of course there was teasing but that was mainly if a boy had received a recent caning and the marks were still visible.

Comments by James on 31st October 2014  

I do think the teachers were trying to humiliate the boys by calling them out. The one time i was called out was when i had missed a detention through no fault of my own. The female teacher was not interested in excuses. She was furious and nearly exploded. I got the cane as a result.

Comments by Matthew on 31st October 2014  

To Bill. I took it to mean that the boys teased those who had to get out of the pool to be spoken to by these young women. There would have been plenty of other opportunities to find any boy in the school. It seems to me that it was quite deliberate on the part of these women to choose to find a boy in that situation.

Comments by Bill on 30th October 2014  

James, you said "I remember a lot of teasing with some of the younger good looking female teachers who came in and we had to get out of the pool to speak to them without towel."
In what way did they tease you?
Like the previous poster I am curious to know if these female teachers just found an excuse to have a look at the boys and embarrass them, at least the ones they chose to talk to.
Were you ever called out of the pool by one of these young female teachers, what did she say to you to tease you?

Comments by James on 30th October 2014  

Matthew, i remember often being interrupted in swimming and pe lessons by other teachers popping in to speak to individuals, quite often as detentions had been missed that was a serious issue.

Comments by Matthew on 29th October 2014  

To James. What was so urgent that good-looking young female teachers had to come into the pool area to speak to naked boys who had to get out of the pool to hear what they had to say?

Comments by James on 29th October 2014  

I am curious to know if schoolboys wore short trousers like myself at secondary school where shorts were optional.
My mum who used to buy our short trousers found mistakenly the legs of them too long shortened them and hemmed them again up to about 3cms from the crotch so that when I sat all my thighs were on display.
There was no problem in the first year of school but as I entered my second year the length of my short trousers remained almost the same and as I was showing more and more flesh much to the bewilderment of the onlookers.
It never dawned on mum that I had grown up and although I looked younger than my age these short trousers were obviously too short and not fitting for my age.
It took me three or four months to feel comfortable and be accepted in such short pants at the beginning of the year.
I had the jitters and felt extremely nervous every morning I got dressed in these short trousers.
I can tell you I had difficulty to sustain the bland stare of the teachers and the other students especially the younger ones sometimes with their chuckles and mockeries which were hurting me deeply.

Comments by James on 28th October 2014  

Bill, boys were up to 13. I remember a lot of teasing with some of the younger good looking female teachers who came in and we had to get out of the pool to speak to them without towell. The main females didn't worry us as they had often seen us in the nude, ie matron. Parents could sometimes watch the house galas and some did. All god fun

Comments by Bill on 27th October 2014  

James, up to what age were the boys?
I assume being a prep school the boys were not in their teens yet.
I find it strange that the boys were embarrassed if a female teacher came into the pool area during swim class though the house galas were done in the nude, which I assume had mixed spectators present.
Were there any females, like mothers, sisters or teachers present during the nude house galas?
What about inter-school competitions, were these also done in the nude?

Comments by James on 20th October 2014  

I attended as a boarded quite a traditional all boys prep school in the early 70's. Swimming at all my time there was done naked and when parents were being shown round we just got in the pool. House galas were all done naked but we did have to wear hats to show our house colours. We never thought anything about it and was never an issue. Sometimes female teachers would come in the pool area if they needed to speak to someone. Always embarrasing if you had to get out and always got a lot of teasing if it was the nice french teacher

Comments by Toby on 19th October 2014  

Bill, sometimes there were female staff present but these were confined to sports teachers, matrons or house mistresses. We did not bat an eye lid if they were in the pool area as they had seen us nude before and it did not matter to us.If other females turned up however we would get covered up pretty quickly. As a boarder there was not much privacy and we were used to it. My housemaster always used to say the boarders were were much less inhibited than day boys

Comments by Bill on 19th October 2014  

Toby, did you also have to swim nude when there were female staff, teachers or other females present?
What about swimming galas and competitions, were you allowed to wear trunks?
How did the boys feel about the nude swim rules, did it bother them?

Comments by Robert on 18th October 2014  

Both long and short grey flannels were permitted at my secondary school. Shorts were in the minority, but I had to wear mine until they were worn out, because they were nearly new when I moved schools, and my parents said they were not well off enough to just waste good clothes. I couldn't wait to get rid of them, and gave them really rough treatment. They lasted only a couple of months!

Comments by Paul on 18th October 2014  

In reply to Gary I was aware that some parents and schools used the height of a boy as a criteria whether to promote him to wearing long trousers.
As in my case this was done by my age and I thought this was much fairer as a boy may not have reached the desired height usually 5'3" by the time he had left school.
Most boys would have found it amusing to see boys wearing short trousers as they were really meant for junior boys so for a big teen to be wearing those would have been shocking and some might thought it sissy as the peer thinking was that if you were already in high school then they should have been in long trousers.
I guess it depended on the kind of short trousers too and brief tight fitting shorts I considered totally unsuitable for a teenage boy to have to wear.

Comments by Paul on 17th October 2014  

What I meant to say was two teenage boys entered the waiting room with their mother.

Comments by peterc on 17th October 2014  

Shane, my school was very similar to your's. Not many boys did pe in just underpants but when they did - I didn't - it wasn't seen as a big deal. The problem with forgotten kit was showers and the need to share someone else's towel, or drip dry. Simon - did you have to swim naked or would you have been bothered if you had to?

Comments by Gary on 17th October 2014  

Of course my previous message should have read as not tall enough to wear longs. I do not suppose nude bathing would be allowed these days. At primary School PE was for boys in their normal grey school shorts and vest (singlet design which everybody wore all year) and for girls vest & knickers. They had to remove their dress or skirt because girls did not wear trousers those days (up to the year 1961)

Comments by Andrea on 16th October 2014  andreatwo@hotmail.co.uk 

In general I agree with Bill that we were far less self-conscious about what we wore or didn't wear for PE in primary school.
Certainly our primary school didn't have changing rooms so the boys would be one side of the classroom and girls on the other, with no screens or anything between the two.

There was always a teacher on hand to ensure that there was no silliness and in our final year a few girls who had started to wear bras rather than vests were allowed to change separately in the toilets.

I also agree with Gary that things like the no underpants rule couldn't be enforced nowadays. When my son was at high school he just used to wear his normal underwear under his shorts.

Comments by Toby on 16th October 2014  

When i was at prep school, we did pe in just shorts and always swan naked. As a boarder, we often used the pool at weekends and were always naked although the older boys could wear trunks if they wanted. Always felt odd when at home had to wear trunks for swimming

Comments by Gary on 16th October 2014  

I must agree with you Bill I would be embarrassed if I had to appear in public at a swimming gala naked. Especially if other boys sisters were allowed to attend. Perhaps it was mums & dads only.

Re the comments on long trousers, I wore shorts until I was 13 as did many boys. In my case mainly because I was considered by my dad to be tall enough for longs. The shorts were by today's fashion really short & tight. Well above the knee. No saggy waistline showing your pants as most wore tight white briefs. How fashions have changed.

I must admit that when I was eventually bought some longs I really felt that I had grown up and was "now a young man"

Comments by Paul on 15th October 2014  

In reply to Andrea stating that most boys wore long trousers reminded me of when I attended the dentists during my school days.
While waiting for my appointment two teenage boys entered the waiting wearing their school uniform with their mother.
What intrigued me was that both boys were wearing short trousers and they both looked perfectly comfortable wearing them and left an impression on me.
They were wearing a small boy's clothes but looked really stunning and sharp in them.
The shorts they wore were also not baggy but were really shockingly short -above the knee and maybe around mid thigh.
It was fascinating to know that these boys had to wear such a uniform and I guess they thought nothing of it and I liked how they got naturally tanned and toned legs and could show them off.
It was like their uniform was your typical high school uniform from the waist up and the only difference being instead of long trousers these were replaced by short trousers and knee socks.

Comments by Simon on 13th October 2014  

In reply to Bill,I'm sure most boys would have preferred to have worn swimming trunks,me included,rather than suffering the embarrassment of appearing naked for their swims.

Comments by Gary on 13th October 2014  

Shane, what years were you at school. Were there many occasions when boys forgot their pe kit, or was the possibility of doing pe in pants a big enough deterrent? I am sure the underpants rule would not be applied today.

Comments by Shane on 12th October 2014  

I went to an all boys school, all boys did PE in their bare chest and bare feet, white shorts and no underpants. If you forgot your shorts, you had to do it in your underpants, this was for all boys from 11 to 16. Our gym teacher insisted that all boys had to have naked bare chest and naked bare feet when doing PE, there were about 40 boys to a class.

Comments by Bill on 12th October 2014  

I don't think it bothered us back then what we wore or didn't wear for PE in primary school.
We even changed in class in front of each other for PE. Like someone else said it was more innocent time than it is today.
The body self-consciousness would only come later in secondary school.
Like Phil mentioned at his school, I had several friends who went to a boarding school with a pool where the junior boys, up to age 11 or so, had to be nude for swimming class. They even had female instructors up to that age for swimming.
I don't think anybody, including parents, made a fuss or bothered about this in those days.
Some earlier posters even mentioned that the boys also participated nude during swimming galas and competitions in front of parents and guests and school staff and teachers.
I don't know how common this was, but maybe someone who experienced this, or knows about it, can tell us more.

Comments by Andrea on 5th October 2014  andreatwo@hotmail.co.uk 

In response to the question from Another Person Named Phil, when my son was at High School(he left 4 years ago)his pe shorts were long and quite baggy.
When we were first married, I can remember my ex wearing white nylon shorts for football. As you say, they didn't leave much to the imagination when they got wet (although he did wear a jockstrap under his).

With regard to skinny-dipping as children, when I was with my mum and dad I always had to wear a swimming costume. However occasionally when I was playing with some of the local children in the summer, we would sometimes splash about in a shallow river in just our pants! I did that up to leaving primary school at 11, but by the following summer I had to make sure I was wearing a swimsuit top!

Comments by Another person named Phil on 1st October 2014  

James, I am sure that the TB queue was mortifying for you. As you say fashion and also for us school rules dictated the type of shorts worn.

Our school swimming lessons were in a public pool (although hired exclusively for us) so at least we wore swimming trunks for those lessons unlike many who have contributed saying they were not allowed to were anything in the pool.

Comments by James on 27th September 2014  

In reply to Phil,it was the early seventies,1971 to 1976 and we were co-ed but PE and games were fortunately separate.
I do agree the shorts in the photo were more substantial but he type of shorts that I described were quite fashionable at that time.
I remember being called in from my sporting activities to receive my TB inoculation without any time to change and had to queue in front of girls whilst I became the object of fun and ridicule.

Comments by Another person maned Phil on 26th September 2014  

In reply to James, what years are you referring to. My secondary schooling was 1961 to 1966. Boys only so I do not think we were worried about wearing minimal clothing. Was your school co-ed, if so I presume pe was boys only.

Reading the about the flimsy shorts, brings back memories for me.White light thin nylon with slits, with the same shorts being worn outdoors. If it was raining, then we might as well have been wearing nothing!!

The shorts worn by the boys in the photo, look more substantial and slightly longer, than we wore. However, we put up with what we had to wear, no questions asked. Furthermore, I do not know of parents complaining as I am sure they would these days. Is it long shorts & track suits these days?