Burnley Grammar School

Childhood - Schools


Year: 1959         Item #: 1607         Views: 676,279         Comments: 2,436

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

2436 user comment(s) below:-

Comments by Dave Stuart on 6th December 2010  

I went to a secondary school in the 70's and for PE it was supposed to be white nylon shorts and white top and plimsoles (no socks) underwear at first seemed to be allowed as long as you brought a change of underwear. The first lesson in the first year all the lads appeared in the gym and some of us had T-shirts and some had proper vests. I had a T-shirt and found that my parents had bought the wrong thing. Our gym teacher had us all strip out tshirts and vests off so we were all now identical. I didnt mind too much and it didnt seem strange. We used to have to two gym periods a week and one games period which was normally football or rugby. For games it was red shirt and white shorts. Parents saved money so i wore the same nylon PE shorts for games as I did PE. Most lads had white cotton shorts though.
We only had a few PE and games lessons into the first term when we were herded into the gym and given a lecture about hygenine and trust and that some teachers had reported to the gym teacher that we were clearly not showering after gym and that lads had not actually changed their underwear or brought a spare set.
The outcome was simple and probably just - no underwear full stop.

PE was just white nylon shorts and plimsoles and games the red shirts and for me and few others white nylon shorts no underwear. The shorts were thin enough and transparent enough to ensure that you could not get away with wearing pants under the shorts.
This was no too bad except during winter when we would freeze and shiver and doing a cross country run in just shorts on freezing january morning was torture. I hated getting back frozen cold and being made to have a shower - the water was cold but bceause our skin was cold it felt as though it was burning standing under the water. A few people would conviently forget their kit or bunk off PE to avoid cross country etc especially when really cold.
In the second year we had an assistant PE teacher who came up with a way of putting a stop to the practice of "Sorry I forgot my kit Sir" It was a cold morning for our gym and I decided to forget my kit, hoping I could sit on the side of the gym instead. Our assistant teacher had other ideas and me along with another lad, had to do PE in just our pants instead. Having to strip down to pants in front of the rest of class was a bit humiliating as the others all laughed> it was more emabrrasing at the end of PE to be told to hang our pants on the wall bars and go and have a shower and we would could collect our pants after detention after school, great now had a detention also. The teacher said he was gettting fed up with excuses about forgetting kit and from then on anyone who forgot their PE or games kit would do the lesson in whatever they had brought or totally naked!
This happened on a Tuesday and we had PE again on the Wednesday afternoon. Wednesday lunchtime came and three of what you could only decscribe as school bullies for my year collared and told me to hand my PE kit over and threatned me with a beating if I grassed them up.
I dreaded the moment I went over to the gym and explained i had forgotten my kit again> i was told just to get into the gym and wait as the other lads got changed in the changing room. Everybody was in the gym sitting on the floor when the teacher asked me to step up and explain to the class why i ahd not changed. I sheepishly said I forgot my kit. The teacher addressed the rest of the class and wanted to know what he had said the day before. I was soon stripped off totally naked with my hands trying to cover myself with everybody laughing> the next hour was pure hell. I never forgot my kit after that! It happened to a few other lads over the years but it was just a different way of instilling discipline.

Comments by Rob Taylor on 24th November 2010  taylorrob5@gmail.com 

This photo certainly brought back memories. I could have been in the same photo just 4 years later. It is amazing how times have changed and what was acceptable then just would not be now. I suppose it is partly fashion and partly sensitivity. My friends and I at 12 and 13 yrs looked forwards to P.E. Much better than maths or chemistry! At 15 and 16 there was a definite split. Those who were sporty still liked P.E and all the training associated with school teams. However, lots of boys were no longer interested and worked out sophisticated avoidance tactics. At that age the P.E and games staff seemed not bothered as long as they has a core of fit boys for their teams.
I can remember exactly getting my first parcel of P.E. kit from the school shop when I was 12. Cotton shorts, light blue singlet and 'plimsols'. The letter home prescribing P.E. kit emphasised brining a towel and how important it was to shower. I have no negative memories about the showers. We were supervised through them, mostly to see that we got in and out quickly and were not late for the next lesson. Games was different. There was this big bath which we all jumped in to. Only some of the more 'developed' boys used the showers or walked naked from the changing room. The rest of us were just slightly modest. At 14, 15 and 16 things changed a little. Before then we had a no underwear rule to abide by. The teachers did not have much problem in checking, it was usually obvious. At the older ages there was a strange, very English way of signalling a different rule. At around14/15 the annual letter from the school shop had a different, longer, list of kit requirements. This was triggered by a wider range of sports but also by the demands of puberty. Boys P.E. Kit now included a Litesome Supporter. So you had to buy one or as it was suggested two. There was now a compulsory requirement for a protective box if you played cricket. Probably the most awkward point came when you had to go to the shop with your mum and the lady who ran it asked for your size! As neither mother or boy had any experience of such items it could be horribly embarassing. Looking back, I never did the washing so presumably we both got over it.

Swimming was a summer term activity. We only got to wear trunks when competing with other schools. Hard to believe now, although it was an all boys school so I guess the teachers were not bothered. I don't remember caring about this but I dropped the activity when I was 14. Surely they would have changed the convention after then? I did have a run in with a rather sadistic teacher, not from the P.E dept., but someone who covered. I was 13 and still in the shorts but no pants era. I think the P.E staff were annoyed with this teacher because I was pretty keen and good at P.E. As part of the lesson we had to run around the school field although it was a wet and cold day. I had ended up on my backside covered in mud but finished OK. Then we had to go into the gym, our plimsols were covered in mud and left outside the building on racks. So we were barefoot with just shorts. I was really upset when I was told, along with 4 other boy, to take off our shorts as they were a disgrace for being so muddy. Then we had to go through the last 20 minutes of the gym lesson naked. I don't think I cared about being naked so much as the injustice of the decision. The teacher was an arrogant bully. That is the problem with education. It radicalised me. I complained to the Head Teacher...about the decision to force me to go on rather than shower and clean up. You know what? He agreed. Was that when the rot started or did he realise he might have a problem teacher. Whatever, nothing came of it although I felt emboldened to go to the Head whenever I had a complaint. He must have regretted being sympathetic. Overall tough, wierd but life forming without regrets.

Comments by Steve James on 13th November 2010  

Despite the seemingly harsh environment I experienced with PE at school. I soon began to excel at both cross-country and track.
I had a very slim build well suited to wearing the briefest of shorts and actually learnt to embrace exposure to the elements so often encountered during these activities.
The PE Master would coach his best boys from 4th to 6th forms persuading us to put in extra time after lessons. His attitude to this training was even more intense than the regular PE to which so many boys found abhorrent. However he would not accept a weak performance from any of his 'elite' team and we certainly got to realise this.
Being too 'lightweight' for football or rugby I was consequently selected to be one of the 'lucky' boys to represent the school for cross-country on a regular basis.
We would be entered into various inter-school events throughout the Midlands mainly on Saturdays during autumn and winter terms for cross-country and occasionally track races and athletics.
Sir would coach us with intensity with the aim to gain kudos both for himself and the school.
Sir maintained the ethos of 'shorts only' strip for all training as well as all of these competitions as he argued that seeing us performing so lightly clad made us seem superior in the eyes of the opposing teams giving us the advantage.
On so many occasions we shivered and froze our balls off for the good of the school!
I recall more than one time where the boys we were competing against were made by their teachers to very reluctantly strip down to only shorts because the visiting team had done so.
If we performed well, Sir was jubilant. A poor result and every boy suffered as the ongoing training and coaching regime intensified fourfold in preparation for the next event!

Comments by Dan on 12th November 2010  

I can't see why PE kit contains shirts nowadays.What's the purpoese of shirts for sports?
Isn't freedom of movement important for gymnatstics for example?

Comments by Morgan on 12th November 2010  

I recall the prefects having pyjamas and dressing gowns! The staff quarters where adequately heated whilst us boys would shiver. Complaint was not an option. In my case I received a greater trashing a during home leave if I was seen to be a sissy. Certainly it was a harsh regime but we didn't have crime as a result!

Comments by Alan on 12th November 2010  

Yes, I remember the local school outfitters who supplied the games kit for my prep school. If we wanted just pe kit which consisted of white cotton shorts, white socks and plimsolls, we had to strip off and he would fit the appropriate size. We all liked them tight which he allowed. He lost a load of business as my school year (age 12) were asked to trial cotton briefs for pe as apparently they were better fitting. Only wore them for a year as they got ripped and basically they were hopelss and we went back to the shorts. We never wore shirts for pe in all the time I was there and swimming was naked and the only time trunks weer allowed was on open days.

Comments by Mark on 11th November 2010  

Well Morgan, now that you mention that the school was for children of military personnel, that rings a bell.
It seems that in several armies around the world, officers used to wear pyjamas whereas for the lower ranks nudity was the rule for bed.
Strange how this tradition found its way into a British boarding school.

Comments by Morgan on 10th November 2010  

The boarding school I attended in the late 60's was attended primarily by the children of military personnel and had a major discipine ethos. One house master regularly carried out inspections late at night. Looking back on it I believe he was a sadist who had a thing for punishing boys. He would give an entire dorm six stingers with the slipper if he found a lad in the dorm had slipped on a vest or shorts to combat the cold. I often wonder if some of these men where at all suitable for such positions. It was rumoured that boys in a dorm with a different head of house where allowed to share beds enabling them to have two sets of blankets and gain head from each others bodies. I would not be surprised if this was true given the gentleman in question however. He was one of those games masters who took a little two much interest in lads showering and drying properly and insisted on marching us into the freezing cold for outdoor games and used the gym in fine weather.

Comments by Mark on 9th November 2010  

Morgan, I am familiar with shirtless PE and naked swimming classes but I have never heard of boarders having to sleep naked, although I wouldn't be surprised if this was the rule in some boarding schools at that time.

Comments by Morgan on 7th November 2010  

Perhaps if schools today adopted the sporting and discipline traditions of my day then we wouldn't have a disfunctional society or require ASBOS! At my Boarding school I remember in winter the condensation freezing on the inside of the glass in the dormitory. We still had to sleep in the buff and we didn't have heavy quilts like today, just a sheet and blanket. The heating never worked properly so if you doddled around and didn't get to the showers quick smart you had a freezing cold shower first thing to wake you up, and often you're bare backside would feel the rath of a size 12 plimsole! It toughened us up and made men out of us! We also swam in our birthday suits and the pool was freezing cold. Two morning a week week we had swimming first thing (which made us very alert for the day's clsses) plus two afternoon swims. Any of the masters could use the slipper and for more serious infractions we had to report to the deputy head at the end of classes. A lad sent to the deputy head had to return to his dorm to strip off then proceed through the drafty corridors to queue outside the office. Standing naked with your hands on head in the corridor for all to see was as much a deterent as six welts of the cane on the bare behind. I can say it didn't do me any harm, even though it was harsh even by the standards in those days. I have hardly ever had a cough or wheeze in my life and I put it down to those formitve teenage years!

Comments by Steve James on 6th November 2010  

By the time I reached the 5th form, most of us boys were more conscious about our bodies and how we looked. Rules for PE kit were the same as for the younger boys in that we wore nothing but white shorts and plimsolls for PE, Athletics and cross-country even in the autumn and winter terms!
Black shorts were reserved for games , football, hockey and rugby. It was fashionable at the time to wear all trousers and shorts as low as possible below the waist but PE shorts looked silly if pulled down low or with the waistband folded over.
Myself and a few other boys found the answer to looking and feeling good in our shorts.
The local outfitter's in the town had always supplied both the school uniform and all other school kit. They also offered a tailoring service for alterations, repairs etc.
The owner was oldish but he knew what we wanted, we could select our shorts, I remember mine were thin white nylon split sided athletic shorts, he would adjust the fit and lower the waistband to whatever level asked for. Perfect! The only downside was you had to stand on a table wearing nothing but the new shorts as he fiddled about taking measurements and putting tailors pins in place. I remember he kept getting me to take them off and on again several times as I stood there butt naked!
The cost was nominal and it soon caught on with many of the other boys, there was developing competition between most of us to get the lowest, briefest fitting shorts that you could get away with even extending into the sixthform!

Comments by john on 6th November 2010  

Although I was at secondary school about 10 years after the date of the picture, the gym class looks remarkably similar, both in terms of the kit being worn and the equipment being used.
Our indoor pe kit was white shorts, white plimsolls or bare feet, no shirt and for the first two years no underwear allowed. At the start of our third year, the pe teacher sat us all down and advised us to purchase a 'Litesome Supporter' (jockstrap) from the local sports shop.

For outdoor games in the winter we wore rugby kit and in the summer it was shorts and an athletics vest.
Showers were compulsary after pe lessons. The outdoor games changing room didn't have showers, but instead had one of the old style communal baths. You definitely didn't want to be last into that after playing rugby on a muddy pitch in mid-winter!

Ours was an all boys school, but my sister, who went to the local girls school wore a leotard for indoor pe and a hockey shirt and coulottes outdoors. At my wifes school on the other hand the indoor kit consisted of navy 'gym knickers'and a white polo shirt. She said that vests or a bra were allowed under the polo shirt (and that for some girls the change from the former to the latter was prompted by the pe teacher suggesting it was time).

Comments by martin on 6th November 2010  

Had to wear white nylon pe shorts,very smooth and sensual next to the skin,when worn solo.soon got excited in them ,wore them in bed and enjoyed them ,,then we had to wear a jockstrap.i liked the jockstrap..visible through our shorts.

Comments by Mark on 31st October 2010  

It is certainly not uncommon in sports schools outside the UK. Just watch this video:

Comments by Lucas on 29th October 2010  

It seems shirtless PE is still a rule in some schools:


Comments by Mark on 27th October 2010  

And then think that this outfit was actually condoned by parents! I once asked my mum why I wasn't allowed a warm shirt for PE like my sister and her answer made it very clear: because your sister is a girl and you are a boy.
The school policy was even extended to some house rules: our sister wore pyjamas to bed whereas even on the coldest of nights me and my brother slept in the buff.

Comments by Steve James on 24th October 2010  

I attended a boys boarding school in the Midlands between 1966 and 1971.
PT and Athletics were dominant activities in the school and were organised by an extremely overzealous PT Teacher. He regarded most boys, with the exception of a few 'prima donnas', as physically weak and in need of toughening up to meet his 'standards'.
He was quite relentless, setting fitness targets for each boy.
I made the mistake of answering him back on my first lesson, I was to soon regret this although unlike the other masters he rarely used corporal punishment on boys as he had many other more sadistic ways to discipline us.
The school was located out of town with playing fields and a dinghy lake formed from a disused quarry.
The school hall had to double as the gym so PT was often practised outside in the cold. There was a changing room together with a chilly long concrete walk-through communal shower partially open to the elements. There were multiple shower heads at different heights and angles to ensure that users got a thorough soaking. Showering was always supervised by Sir to eliminate boys shirking.
For all sports and athletic activities boys were only permitted to wear white shorts which were provided. No vest or tops no socks and definitely no underwear. The shorts were cotton but usually quite brief and low on the waist. I recall that when I entered the fifth year, nylon shorts took over from cotton and these were the athletics type with split sides they were much thinner and lighter. They were also very translucent when wet!
On my first lesson I was caught wearing my pants under my shorts and as a punishment and I was made to strip naked and stand up on a bench in front of the other boys for 10 minutes or so – very embarrassing.
Cross-country was at least a twice weekly event. Again boys wore just white shorts and plimsoles whatever the weather and all year round.
We would be set off in groups of similar level. Occasionally Sir would pick one group, usually with me in it, and half way round the course include a swim in the freezing dinghy lake from the wooden jetty to and around a buoy.
One of his favourite toughening-up activities was to line up a group of boys on the jetty have you lean forward in the diving position and one by one push you off. You never knew who was next.
Boys like me that initially could not swim had to endure swimming lessons in the same lake. The temperature was always freezing cold as it was spring fed and half an hour seemed like eternity for a typical lesson. You soon learnt to swim the required 100 yards. Boys were naked for all swimming activities even the inter-house gala races, but no one seemed to mind this.
The cross-country course often meant getting very muddy and this had to be cleaned off afterwards in the showers which were nearly always cold as the hot water always seemed to run out.
I remember on several occasions being particularly muddy from the very deep and wide so-called water jump. Before showering, Sir would then line us up naked against the chain link and hose us down with the fire hose, this was very forceful, extremely cold and it really stung on impact! He would instruct us to turn around in turn slowly whilst he directed the jet all over and not just on the muddy bits!
Happy days!

Comments by Michael on 28th September 2010  

Yes, the photo brings back fond memories. I attended a grammar school in the 1960's. Although there was a long inventory regarding sports and PE kit, all the indoor lessons were conducted with the students barechested and barefoot. We were permitted only a pair of white shorts for gymnastics. Occasionally we could wear a singlet vest during the winter months but this was always at the discretion of the PE master. Outside activities were performed with a white vest, shorts and plimsolls. Lost or forgotten kit was never tolerated and I remember having to run barefoot around the rugby pitch as a punishment for my amnesia.

Comments by Dick on 26th September 2010  

gym kit for us in school up to aged 18 was simple.

Boys were only allowed to wear white briefs - nothing else

Girls were allowed navy blue knickers and white T Shirts and a bra if needed

Comments by Mark on 14th September 2010  

By the way barechested PE and naked swimming classes later on made that me and my brother both chucked our pyjamas at a very early age.
When we were 8 or 9 we started sleeping shirtless and by the time we reached 14 or so we both slept in the buff.

Comments by Mark on 13th September 2010  

Our shorts were a lot smaller than the ones in the picture.
I remember one teacher who used to make fun of the new boys who sometimes broke out in gooseflesh. "We have a few plucked geese again in here" he used to say.

Comments by peter s on 17th August 2010  

Remember these scenes well, around that time too. Gym teacher used to open all the windows in the coldest weather. We were always topless in there, I was so skinny I envied others who were more "manly" looking. I don`t envy them now. I was also amazedat the lack of self consciousness in general. Good school.

Comments by cass on 8th August 2010  

ron parry remember him well snigger snigger- mate of that pygmy grimes as I bitterly recall

Comments by Rob on 31st July 2010  

Not at all, David! As a special "treat" in the last PE lesson of each term we played a game called Killerball whereby the two teams (consisting of the boys from each of the two classes which were put together to do PE) had to score goals at the opposite end of the gym. Any tactics were allowed to get the ball in the goal - there were no rules at all! My class usually lost so rather than just use brute force and strength we hatched a plan at the end of one term whereby everyone but the biggest, strongest boy in my class was secretly paired up with a boy in the other class except their smallest, wimpiest kid. When the whistle sounded, we all went for our targets and just started fighting with them, meaning our strongest member was free to grab the ball, and only having to deal with their weakest team member, just keep scoring! It sort of worked, but backfired on us in a way because we were never allowed to play it again - I guess the teacher thought our tactics, original, inventive and intelligent though they were (in our opinion!), were just too violent to be allowed in school for a bunch of 13 year old boys even at that non-PC time!

I suspect the specifics of these sort of games and their names varied by region or part of the country - I lived in London - were there similar games in other areas?

Comments by David Wood on 19th July 2010  woosmull@gmail.com 

Rob (2nd May 2010) has clearly had a sheltered upbringing. British Bulldog is a game in which one gang of blokes attempt to stop (by almost any means) another gang of blokes getting past them. Last man standing is the winner. Never played it against girls though. That might have been more interesting!

Comments by Tim H on 18th July 2010  tim@photrek.co.uk 

Strange how this photo brings back so many memories!

I can't remember what we wore for games at Primary school in Lincoln in the late 1950s. Moving on to a Grammar School in the 1960s it was white shorts and tee shirt with plimsolls (no socks) for PE. For football and cross country it was black shorts and a rugby style top with boots or plimsolls. No underwear until we got older - I can't remember any checks on what we wore under our shorts - most people wore briefs. (Our school wasn't particularly sports orientated).

In PE some of us started wearing vests and then went down to being barechested. When I went there shorts were baggy and lasted us as we got older, but by 1966 many of us had switched to the new shorter style becoming popular then.

The school wasn't sports orientated - if you were good at games, fine - if note you seemed to be forgotten - or so it seemed.

And, yes, I think PE & games like this did make us 'better' people.

Comments by Jim on 4th July 2010  

I attended a boys only school in Scotland from 1965 -1971. We had always worn just white gym shorts in primary school. Primary school was mixed school and we had mixed pe classes- the girls wearing white vests and navy knickers.
It was no change when we went up to the secondary school. As I say we only wore white shorts, no tops or underwear. It may seem somewhat strange now but we had "underpant checks" where the pe teacher checked that we were not wearing underpants. The reader must remember that this was some 45 years ago and what is considered inappropriate now was acceptable then! Remember this was a time when corporal punishment in schools was also acceptable ( and even encouraged!) and I can assure you the "belt" was in daily use!
After any pe, swimming or games class compulsory showers following, naked in an open shower room supervised by the teacher. I admit all this was a bit of a shock at first, but we were all treated the same and it was soon the norm for classes.

PE was fairly hard work with lots of circuits, press ups, sit ups etc. I never really enjoyed it but it was accepted.

I appreciate that times have moved on and what was acceptable practice then would not be tolerated now-but I dont think it ever did any of us any harm!

Comments by Sidona on 25th May 2010  

At my secondary school (RC private) in Buckinghamshire in the mid 1950s, the specified PE kit was white shorts and PE vest; on economy grounds, those of us who regularly wore underwear vests, i.e. virtually all of us back in those days, got into the habit of substituting our normal everyday vest for the latter item. After I had been at this school for a couple of years, the PE staff decided that it would be healthier for us to do PE topless and took a vote among us on the matter. Not surprisingly, toplessness got a 100% vote. With this garb, "Shirts and Skins" was obviously out, so we had coloured sashes to distinguish teams when necessary. Although we were expected to wear vests between the changing room and the gym, this rule was honoured more in the breach than the observance and we soon got into the habit of "forgetting" to put our vests back on under our shirts after PE. As we had PE every day of the week, generally in the mornings, we ended up minus our vests for much of the school week and soon most of us didn't bother coming to school in a vest at all, much to the concern of most of our parents, who felt that all children should wear vests all the year round, regardless of climate. There was no prohibition on the wearing of underwear, although for the first couple of years, most of us freeballed. At one point, probably when we were 12 or 13 and one lad got accidentally kicked in the "privates", the PE master advised us that we should think about wearing some form of support, and mentioned a thing called a "jock-strap". I don't think any of us had ever heard of this item of clothing, and i don't think any of us took the trouble to obtain one, but most of us took the hint, and from then on we tended to keep our underpants on for PE.

Comments by john on 11th May 2010  

in my school we had to wear a jockstrap for all sport. It was compulsory ... I don't remember anyone having a problem with it either. Showers were communal ... don't remember anyone having a problem with that one, too.

Comments by Crow on 7th May 2010  

British Bulldog? A game where half the people in it line up facing a line of the other half, and each has to run through to pass the other side. The other side have to stop them. That's the aim whichever side's perspective you take. I only played it a few times. It's supposed to be really physical but it's actually psychological and needs agility, I got through by looking straight at one spot like I would be breaking through there, then turn sideways mid run and pass on the other side of the heaviest person in front of me. They couldn't respond fast enough so I got through. Once you engage in direct conflict you can't acheive the intended aim so I figured that wasn't really the point, just figure out how to pass, and do it.

Comments by Trevor on 4th May 2010  trevor01@blueyonder.co.uk 

Interesting that the picture is by far the most viewed and commented on on the Historyworld site. I attended a Secondary school in Yorkshire in the years 1972-79 and can well visualise our gymnasium and how it was very much like this one.

We we not required to be bare chested except for the occasional “shirts vs skins” basketball games. Sometimes outside in the summer (we had summers then!) one of the PE teachers would have his top off and nobody thought anything of it. I remember during one of the shirts vs skins games I was felt relieved to be a “shirt”. I was small and a little overweight. With hindsight, I felt it would have been better if we all generally did PE shirtless. As it was I did get a bit of a hangup and were I made to do PE bare chested I might have avoided having what was a substantial social handicap. People today may protest at boys doing PE shirtless. “What about those who are overweight, got acne etc?” they would say. My view is that one of the purposes of school (and PE in particular) is to get people to overcome these sorts of anxieties and pandering to them does them no good in the long term.

I go swimming at a local school (after school hours) and find that the boys changing room has individual cubicles for changing as well as individual cubicle like showers. The showers at my school were communal and nobody cared about being seen. Even one of the boys who even at the age of 12 was fully developed “down below”! I wonder which generation has the more body image “issues”?

Our PE teachers were among the more memorable (in a good way) and respected of all. Ron Parry sounds as he is the same. My only criticism in my case was perhaps that the less able pupils (like me) tended to get ignored slightly. However I enjoyed PE and never tried to avoid it. With the increase in children with no father around, good male role models are vital and PE teachers I feel are able to provide this. It is just a pity that looking at the 1959 picture, something of real value with respect to a boy's education has been lost.

Comments by Rob on 2nd May 2010  

What was British Bulldog?

Comments by JWB on 1st May 2010  

In 1959 the school had just moved to new premises.
I was there 1960-67. The gymnasium was not a favourite place. I won't speak ill of the dead but games teachers, like maths teachers, never seemed to have much understanding of the less able. However, I do remember dazing Ron when I sat on his head in a violent game of British Bulldog.

Comments by Will on 20th April 2010  

I had a very similar experience to James when my PE teacher made me do laps of the playing field by myself as a punishment at the end of a lesson. The usual outdoor kit was white vest, white shorts (and socks) and trainers, but before I started the teacher shouted at me to take my vest off. Obviously I wasn’t keen to run bare-chested on a chilly afternoon but I had no option, and it probably made me run quicker, both to try and get warm and to get the whole thing over with. When I finally finished my laps I wasn’t allowed to put my vest back on and go indoors, first I had to do 20 press ups by the side of the field.
After that I didn’t mess about or not try in PE as I didn’t fancy repeating the experience, so in that sense it was an effective punishment. But it’s not a good idea to make boys strip to the waist outside as a general rule, then you remove that punishment option.

Comments by Mark S. on 16th April 2010  

When I was at secondary school in the late 1960s and early 1970s, boys' PE was done bare to the waist in very short black gym shorts and black plimsolls.No socks were allowed and it was forbidden to wear anything under your shorts.
Cross country running was done in the same kit. As it was a built up area,we had to run along residential streets, round a local park and back to the school past houses and small shops,exposed to public view throughout.

Comments by James on 20th March 2010  jamrob@hotmail.com 

The official kit was trainers, black shorts and white vest, but it seemed they forgot to tell our PE teacher. After changing we were taken outside, lined up and told to strip to the waist. Wasn't interested in your ability so long as you gave 100% and you were barechested.

I remember not giving 100% and found out the hard way one lunchtime when it was pouring with rain I was outside and having to do 15 laps round the rather large school field stripped to the waist. Lesson learned, I didn't make the same mistake again.

There's to much feminism in the school system today. Teach boys to become men and stripping to the waist indoors and outside for PE would help to do just that and maybe take away some of the edge youngsters have these days.

Comments by Thumper23 on 7th March 2010  

We were always shirtless and the school provided shorts. No UW was allowed, and if inside, barefoot, but shoes outside. One day one of my classmates arrived at PE without his outfit, and the instructor told him street clothes were not allowed, and to strip to his underwear for class. He was freeballing, so did the class naked. Remember back in the late 50's, it was all male classes. Everyone gave him a bad time, and he NEVER forgot it again. We also did our swimming at the YMCA, and that was nude also, so nobody had a problem with that

Comments by Tony Marsh on 24th February 2010  tonymarsh1946@aol.com 

Thanks for posting the photo of the Gym at Burnley Grammar School , it has brought back many memories . I was a pupil at the school from 1957 until 1962 and had many hard work outs in the gym under the supervision of Ron Parry , an excellent P E teacher. Basket ball was a relatively new sport in Burnley and I represented the school in local matches.An all boys school,in which the P E kit formed part of the school " uniform ". The stripes on the side of the shorts indicating which house you belonged to . Brun ( my house ) dark blue , Pendle red , Calder green , Ribble light blue . Happy days.

Comments by andrew on 6th February 2010  

What amazes me is this photo was from 1959 but 25 or so years later my uniform was much the same still. Tshirts and socks were listed on our uniform but for gym were still rarely worn- even 25 years on that was still the way.

20 years on again, brings us upto date and the simple shorts and plimsolls only uniform really does look like its from another era, but does capture the simple uncomplicated essence of all a gym uniform needs to be.

Comments by Mark on 9th January 2010  

Apparently the outfit is not uncommon in Continental Europe.
Here is a video of some boys training at a Belgian sports school in 2009:

Comments by Rob on 6th January 2010  

Yes, Neil - my son also went to an all boys school: barefeet was always an option for indoor PE lessons but apart from that the kit was white shorts and white t-shirt. Only a few weeks after he started the mum of one kid in his class packed his football shirt by mistake but he received no punishment - the teacher wasn't angry - he just said "If you haven't got the right shirt for the lesson, then you don't wear any shirt". After that more and more boys seemed to "forget" their shirts, soon joined by my son, and they never wore tops for PE again. He loved it because it meant that all he had to take were his shorts, which he used to roll up and stuff in blazer pocket!

Comments by Neil on 5th January 2010  

It’s noticeable that every boy in the picture is wearing exactly the same kit – white shorts, white plimsolls, no shirt.

At my school (early 80’s, boys only grammar), there was an official kit for PE and cross country (which we did one PE lesson all year around), this comprised white shorts, house vest, white socks and plimsolls.

To start with everyone wore all of the kit every lesson (with the exception that a few boys not wearing socks), but gradually items were skipped. By the time we reached the 2nd year, only a very few boys wore all of the kit, with around 50% wearing just shorts indoors, and others not wearing a shirt or being barefoot for indoor PE.

With cross country, a few boys ran stripped to the waist all year around, and nearly everyone did the same other than for the winter. One lad always ran in just shorts, always barefoot and always stripped down to the waist, so even on a freezing cold day with a biting wind he would just wear the same minimum kit, never any shoes or top.

Were other schools the same in that some boys wore less that the kit allowed, or were they the same as the featured school in that everyone wore the maximum kit allowed for each activity?

Comments by mick on 3rd January 2010  

my pe shorts were short.white nylon,a bit see through,my jockstrap was visible underneath,also the waistband,wore umbro nylon shorts,white for football,very smooth,and soft next to my skin.looked good in them,plus a jock.

Comments by Rob on 3rd January 2010  

Mark is right - shorts had got much shorter by the 60's and 70's. By the time we were aged about 13 or 14 I remember some boys had 3 or 4 inches of bare skin between their belly button and the top of their shorts - not good when we forced to do boxing or wrestling and the rule was "no hitting below the belt"! Anyone else experience that? I still agree it's exactly what today's kids need, though!

Comments by Tim on 29th December 2009  

This photo brings back many memories! Our official kit was a white vest, black shorts, socks and trainers. We were always made to remove our vests and go bare chested for all PE activities (from cross country, footie, rugby to basketball, fitness and athletics)regardless of the time of year or weather. This lasted until we left school after 6th form and A levels.

Comments by Mark on 12th December 2009  

The shorts in the picture seem quite large compared to those I can remember. I think we all had a couple of inches of bare skin below our belly buttons...

Comments by mark on 2nd December 2009  

My school switched from being an all boys school to being a mixed 6th Form College while I was there. A novelty was the arrival of the school's first female pe teacher, who helped out with the boys classes as well as 6th Form sports. It was team teaching, but I couldn't help wondering how she felt having to deal with 30 fourth or fifth formers in barefeet and no tops. That was in the 70s.

Comments by pogue on 25th November 2009  poguemahone@ukonline.co.uk 

I attended the school (Burnley Grammar)1975 -1980 Ron Parry was still the head of sports- he died I believe earlier this year.Nice bloke who cared for the school and the boys.you were only known by your surname as a pupil then.His school nickname was gay paris - never proven - but I never hung around in the showers. he once made me run twice round the grass track in the snow in bare feet and shirtless because my strip wasn't school regulation- he'd not get away with it nowadays.Other nicknames of the time were- bertie yoghurt- nobbie stokes- posy cowell- don juan (donald wain)- hitler and himmler the dinner ladies. takes me back.

Comments by Peter on 11th November 2009  

This shows you how important uniform is for school discipline. I am sure that boys play up much less when having to do PE like this, shirtless and barefoot, it puts them in their place and sends out a message about who is in control, the PE master!

Comments by Toby on 21st October 2009  wettoby@hotmail.com 

I was at a boys' school in the late 1970s/early 1980s and the PE kit was all white: T-shirt, shorts, socks & plimsolls. PE was never done shirtless or barefoot. The same kit was worn all year round no matter what the weather, including for outdoor athletics.

There was a "no pants" rule, which was strictly enforced at first, but after a few years was not, and boys started wearing pants and even swimming trunks under their PE shorts, which were very transparent.

Any boy who forgot his swimming trunks and towel would be made to swim in his PE shorts and use his T-shirt to dry himself.