Burnley Grammar School
Item #: 1607
Source: Lancashire Life Magazine, December 1959
I think Physical Education, Games and school sports in general need a rethink.
I am very interested in the La Sierra programme developed in the USA in the 60s and 70s. There are detailed videos and articles online.
The programme was based around daily Callisthenics based strength and conditioning for all students. It had an element of competition as students progressed obtaining different coloured shorts as they became fitter and stronger. At the same time it was inclusive as everybody took part and everybody was able to make progress at their own pace.
The scheme ultimately failed and one of the reasons given was a budget cut which stopped the schools providing and laundering towels for post workout showers.
Although to my way of thinking it seemed a waste of time, the physical effort I had to make three times weekly for years at school, resulted in a degree of physical fitness. I'm still in reasonable shape today, aged nearly 70.
But, I didn't enjoy the experience. Vivid in my memory are the chilly, dank changing rooms; the lukewarm, cold or freezing showers; the sweaty odours everywhere and worst of all, the always irascible, sometimes violent, instructors.
I'm sure that with a bit of consideration for the less physically adept, and some fundamental re-thinking of the subject, the whole process could have been made much less scary, and, dare I suggest it, even enjoyable.
This is in response to Pete’s question, “How does one assess if someone in these jobs and professions enjoys 'looking' to be accepted for such work?”
There are two ways:
One way is by pupillometry. It has been suggested that suspects for sexual abuse should be shown photographs of nude children while having the dilation of their pupils is measured.
Atwood, R. W., & Howell, R. J. 1971. Pupillometric and personality test score differences of female aggressing pedophiliacs and normals. Psychonomic Science 22, 2: 115-116.
Since men’s and women’s eyes aren’t much different, both men and women could be tried that way. I admit that the second way, which is phallometry, might be kinda hard to administer to women. A research team in Toronto has explored the use of phallometry in both diagnosis and treatment of psychosexual disorders. The following is only one of their many studies:
Freund, K,; Chan, S.; & Coulthard, R. Phallometric diagnosis with ‘nonadmitters.’ Behaviour Research and Therapy 17: 451-457.
The authors of the first article suggested the use of their suggestion so that “child molesters can be identified without having to catch them ‘in the act.”’ If a nation ever decides to set up a department of thought police, that would be a good place to start.
There’s no telling how many pupils are going to dilate. Although most men claim to be either gay, pedophile, or straight, just about all of the subjects under the Toronto team has reacted to pictures of people of all ages and both genders.
If Atwood & Howell’s suggestion is ever put to use, we’ll ALL go to jail!
Well, Alan and Pete - if "tradition" excuses everything, perhaps we should send little boys up chimneys again, or reintroduce slavery or hanging people for stealing a sheep - they were "traditions" as well, you know.
Pete have you not read of cases - there was one just a month or so ago, where a GP has been sent to prison for enjoying his work a little too much - on many occassions over a number of years?, by using degrading and humiliating procedures on women which were unnecessary, but merely part of the GPs perversions and fetishes. Males can also be abused, it doesn't just happen togirls and women.
Such men enjoy the power they have over people - their apparent infalability and insistence they know what is right. I suggest many school teachers were exactly the same, and luckily for them they had some very pliant schoolboys to play along wth them. They were not doing their job properly, because they probably turned off more than they turned on.
I am just glad they wouldn't get away with it today, and if they tried it, and got caught they would end up serving a prison sentence. Complaints would be taken much more seriously today than they were back in the "good old days"
As for the faceless politicians that worked their way through the system to higher things, who got their start in grubby local politics and school governers, not only were they out of date, but they probably included in their ranks the likes of the late Cyril Smith M.P. among many others.
I repeat because some of you enjoyed swimming naked and being "checked" for underwear under your shorts - good for you, but you should not just assume that because you liked it, everybody else did. Too many of you seem to make that mistake.
Trevor, the argument that some teachers may have enjoyed looking is irrelevant as long as they did their job proper and never abused.
With your same argument we can say that nurses and doctors who enjoy the sight of a naked male or woman should not be in this job even if they do their job proper.
Also, how does one assess if someone in these jobs and professions enjoys 'looking' to be accepted for such work?
The argument of whether it was right or wrong to make boys to swim naked at school is a different matter and several reasons were given for it, including tradition, practicality and other reasons.
As has already been said this policy of making boys swim nude for swim classes was not decided by teachers but by school and local authorities, so you are blaming the wrong people.
I am actually curious to know what were the actual reasons given by these authorities, if any documentation exists about these local authority and school board meetings that took these decisions.
I am sure that this tradition had long been in place in many schools, so the boards just let it continue and not as if they took the decision suddenly themselves.
At my prep school in the 1970’s, we did nude swimming from the age of 8 right through to 13. It was an all boys school and that was it, no discussion and we all just got on with it. When visitors came round, we generally got in the pool but quite often the headmaster would want to speak to one of us. I always preferred it that way and always hated wearing trunks. Luckily, my best friends parents had their own villa in Cyprus and we were encouraged to be naked When we went there. As for teachers, some were a bit over enthusiastic and we did get quite a few who came to watch, mainly the swim team which I was part of. I always felt slightly exposed when on the odd occasion I was the only boy at the swimming club, so it was just me and the teacher. I always remember in my last year so I was 13, a lot of time was spent outside the pool doing stretches etc. I always enjoyed it and my parents never thought twice about it. It was very common and in fact at my public secondary school, we had to swim naked for the first two years and then could choose. Most boys just found it easier to swim naked. That was the way it was then, no dramas and so much easier
Trevor, I had no wish to be antagonistic - just hoped that by offering a different perspective you might appreciate that for some of us communal nudity at school was a positive experience. I was one of the less "manly" boys who benefited from it. I hope you can at least accept that from me as a view honestly expressed. Incidentally, and sadly, I have never pranced or cavorted in my life!
I can confirm William's comment about nude showers before swimming at pools in Iceland, but would add that costumes are then required for swimming.
William, with all due respect, it is that sort of complacent and naive attitude that creates problems. I am sure many teachers were as pure as the driven snow, and if female would have been Mary Poppins, BUT the fact remains in those days of more casual employment, many men got into teaching that would never slip through the net now (though even today some do - a bit like those doctors who use their position of authority to molest their patients).
Perhaps many who use this site are naturists but most people are not, and don't have any wish to prance around naked either now, or when as children they might have been forced into it - that they were forced is disgusting, and even if some of you regard more modest boys, then and now, as less "manly" at least today those boys who you might regard as "wimps" have the guts to rebel against this sort of behaviour, and question the motivation behind it, which I am sure was not as pure as you imagine it to be. Even Mr. Parry was described earlier on in this lengthy thread as a "pervert", and another poster suggested he had a nickname which was far from complimentary.
It is a question of what people are comfortable with. Obviously there are those who didn't mind it, or even enjoyed it, but I am sure that for every boy who enjoyed cavorting naked in the swimming pool with the old quack of a school doctor, mentioned a few posts down, there were many more who were scarred by his behaviour. As for the footballers, many of them had no doubt been drinking post match.
It seems to me many of these old time teachers should have had their motives questioned more deeply by both pupils and parents.
Tom B, The idea that non-sexual nudity among men can be a positive experience is supported by the newspaper photos that some of us will remember of professional footballers celebrating in the team bath after a match. The Imperial War Museum has photos of soldiers in both world wars swimming, showering and larking about in their birthday suits as welcome relaxation from the stress of war.
There is much evidence that after centuries of nude swimming men in England only started to wear costumes (once usable costumes became available) when women were present. Against this background nude swimming in boys schools seems much more understandable. The prevailing attitude when I was at school was that nudity was nothing to worry about because you were all boys.
The most natural way to swim is with nothing on, and although this may seem strange to the British, our neighbours in northern Europe think nothing of it, with single sex swimming being preferred in some pools so that people can swim nude. Months ago some contributors to this site told us that this was so in pools, I think, in Berlin and Helsinki. And if you go swimming in Iceland you have to have a supervised nude shower before entering the pool. The people of Iceland take this in their stride.
It does concern me that our proper and intense desire to protect children may have the unintended consequence of making them anxious about exposing their bodies in circumstances they should not worry about.
I agree with the comments about ‘non sexual nudity’. I do think that being naked with others is a healthy experience.
When I was at school only a few boys showered regularly, most of us avoided it. I was too embarrassed for the most part and regret that now as I looked up to the boys who would shower without a care in the world.
If it had been mandatory I am sure my embarrassment would have disappeared fairly quickly and I’d have just got on with it. I also think it would have brought us all that bit closer together.
Re the debate on swimming in the nude, this does detract from the original postings about P.E. If it was common place in schools I never experienced it. However, I went to a state school and our swimming lessons were held at a municipal pool.But whatever did happen else where, parents would be aware of that school's rules and in effect it was not as if the parents were unaware. If they had a problem surely they would have raised it. As Pete has made the point in his post 2nd July " parents attended for the nude swimming galas at these schools shows that no one saw anything wrong with this."
I also agree with William's comments about male non sexual nudity. It has always been commonplace in various situations. I do not know if miners in more recent times worked naked, but there are pictures and scenes of miners in communal pit head showers all washing (and in Wales possibly singing at the together) and I agree with him that I to have no difficulty showering after swimming or the gym, unlike some young men today. (it seems especially the younger adults)
I agree hygiene shouldn't be optional, but the prurient interest in it shown by some teachers is highly questionable. As for the teacher showing no "interest" in the boys, well clearly they wouldn't make it obvious, would they? - even back then when parents and the boys themselves were so innocent, apparently, they would'nt have risked it (though judging by some of the anecdotes on this site, if genuine, alarm bells should have rung in the decrepit institutions. I m sure that there are far more outside checks and box ticking going on in schools today than there was then, and it is interesting that such behaviour isn't considered appropriate these days. I think this "only obeying orders" defence is a very poor one, and for every boy who "accepted" it there were many who dreaded and were terrified of it, but were too scared to admit it or say something about it - the teachers no doubt relied on that and took their silence as acquiecence. Was life better in the good old days? - for the man who abused his position of perceived power, no doubt yes. I am sure many of those long dead teachers would not enjoy life in school today, no longer able to use their canes, straps and slippers and denied entry into the changing rooms, and gawping down (or up) shorts, and managing to instil fear in the name of good old "discipline"
Trevor, I think Pete has made a fair point. My parents were not stupid. If I had been abused they would have been outraged but I saw nothing like that at my 1960s grammar school, and my gym lessons were no pants, no top and communal showers. The gym master never looked down our shorts because he watched us strip for the showers which he supervised to make sure we behaved ourselves. He never showed the slightest sign of any improper interest in us.
Not wearing our pants was not a quaint custom. It meant that we didn't sweat in them during gym and that they were clean and dry for the rest of the day. That sounds like common sense hygiene to me.
The fact is that non-sexual nudity amongst men and boys was commonplace - in schools, sports teams, the armed forces, even coal mines, and to judge from the comments on this website the vast majority took it in their stride. I'm glad it was compulsory. Given the choice I might have opted out, but I quickly got used to it and to this day I have no difficulty showering after swimming or the gym, unlike some young men today. In my view, hygiene shouldn't be optional.
All it "proves" Pete is that parents were way too trusting. There can be no doubt whether the teacers were folliwng the Nuremburg excuse that they were just obeying orders there is little doubt that many of them enjoyed their duties rather too much. I still think it disgusting and distasteful and I cannot believe anybody can seriously condone these practices.
Any teacher "concerned" that boys were wearinng underpants under their shorts coud quickly have disabused themselves of their worries by just seeing the outline of a garment under the shorts which given the thiness of the material would hve been obvious. Please don't less us believe this was just some old quaint harmless custom.
Pete, you are quite correct. School rules were what were followed by teaching staff, and in State schools these rules were usually suggested by County Advisors for each subject.
I had experience in my teaching career of County Advisors for two different subjects. These gentlemen would drop in every now and again and check the work being done in the department; they then reported their findings to the Headteacher. Failing to follow County guidelines usually ensured your departmental capitation (finance for the year) was adversely affected. So if you wanted to improve the status of your department, and your chances of promotion, you didn't rock the boat too much.
So far as PE was concerned, several of my colleagues and I when we were training were encouraged to use the showers with the pupils, - usually with the older boys. This practice stopped in the mid 1970's. It was deemed inappropriate for pupils to wear their everyday clothing for PE and games and they were to be encouraged to shower after a lesson when time permitted, - County Advisors guidance.
So far as being present in the changing room while pupils were undressing, this was seen as the best way of maintaining discipline. In all the 6 secondary schools that I attended, trained in or taught at, the staff changing room was within the pupil's changing area. It was obviously designed that way and approved by C.A.s so that the teacher could always be present, since he is , afterall, responsible for the behaviour of the pupils.
I think some posters are off the mark concerning this subject.
Firstly, it was not teachers or coaches that made boys to swim nude or checked that they were not wearing anything under their PE shorts, it was School rules and teachers had to abide by them, whether they liked it or not.
Secondly, comparing young boys swimming nude to male animals for attracting the opposite sex does not hold water (excuse the pun) in this case since the boys that were made to swim nude were too young to consider this, even if they were made to swim nude in front of females which wasn't their choice.
In any case this was mostly done in a male only environment, with few exceptions like swim galas or when they had female swim instructors or teachers.
So I don't think that sexuality or perversion had anything to do with this, at least at face value, although a few teachers could have taken advantage of this.
It was the same with corporal punishment in schools.
I think both customs were due to tradition rather than anything else.
The fact that the vast majority of parents never complained about their boys being made to swim naked at school or being given corporal punishment proves this point.
In fact the same parents attended for the nude swimming galas at these schools shows that no one saw anything wrong with this.
We may view it in a different way today, but customs change with time. What was acceptable 50 years ago is not acceptable today and vice versa.
Lately, there has been some talk about the adults’ motives for making boys to swim nude. Were the adults’ motives healthy or unhealthy? I’ll share a couple of morsels which show that their motives could be either one:
It must have been exciting to attend Shears Green Primary School in Northfleet, Gravesend, Kent between the 50’s and the 80’s. I first learned of this school right here on this Website. (Check out the messages written by Martin from December 7, 2013 to April 1, 2014.) Before class, all the children undressed and dressed in the same classroom. The uniform—excuse me, “kit”—consisted of shorts only. After class, they all returned to the same classroom and undressed for the showers.
Judging from the messages on Facebook, this seems to have been exciting for some but traumatic for others. It was especially embarrassing when the students were partner dancing.
Maturing girls were supposedly allowed to wear T-shirts, but this matter did not always get prompt attention. Facebook participant Kevin Pearce has gleeful memories of the class, while Facebook participant Sharon Scott says that she “hated PE.”
And if that was not enough nudity, the children had the option of attending mixed nude swim sessions at lunchtime on Wednesdays and on Saturday mornings. One alumnus says that they “were always very popular!” but there are comments both ways. Both male and female alumni on Facebook say that they were not shocked at the time, but were left with an unpleasant aftertaste.
The administration claimed that they only allowed students to attend the Saturday swim with parents’ permission, but there is evidence to the contrary. Facebook participant Judith Wenban only told her mother that she was going swimming, and her mother luckily never noticed that she returned with a dry swim suit. Facebook participant Saul got out of the house by telling his mother that he was going to the library.
For that matter, it is questionable that the Saturday swim was voluntary on the part of the children. Facebook participant Jon Clark hated the sessions “but had to do it.” Facebook participant Linda Crowley wrote, “If I recall, we were all forced to go at least once.” Both Michelle Wainhouse and her mother had ill feelings about her attending the sessions, but were pressured by the school.
Some of the alumni are suspicious of Mr. Hale, the principal—excuse me, “headmaster.” One participant called him a “pervert,” another commented that he was “perving on us all.” It would seem to me that an 11-year-old girl is quite capable of drying herself off with a towel, but mr. Hale was always eager to help with that task.
There was also some funny behavior on the part of Mr. Roberts, one of the teachers. Like Mr. Hale, Mr. Roberts wsa always eager to help with the towel. According to another alumna, Mr. Roberts always smissed the boys first. Then, he told the girls to line up. Finally, he dismissed each girl after she sat in his lap and kissed him.
Now let’s change the subject. Let’s talk about the nude swim meets—excuse me, “galas”—which at one time predominated in Great Britain, United States, Canada, Germany, and goodness knows where else. It would be simple to say that Mr. Hale and Mr. Roberts had counterpoints everywhere that boys were forced to swim naked in front of their mothers, their sisters, and their girlfriends.
But why was it boys only? If it were guys like Mr. Hale and Mr. Roberts behind all this, why didn’t girls have to put on a comparable show for the male half of the species?
A participant in the Voy forum (https://www.voy.com/223876/4246.html) had an interesting explanation in terms of evolutionary psychology:
“Those naked boys were learning that to attract females they must put on a display, following the lead of a lot of other species, where males attract females by doing so. The girls were learning to evaluate those boys as potential husbands and fathers.”
That was something I never thought of before, so I did a little Websurfing. I found that male animals undoubtedly tend to attract females by displaying their fitness as mates. Some bird species do this by nest-building, the Japanese puffer fish does this by drawing patterns in the sand, some bird, insect, and spider species perform dance numbers,
The peacock species holds events which resemble nude swim meets in that many females have a chance to examine many males. There, each member of the cast of peacocks performs for the audience of peahens by displaying a plumage which he probably doesn’t even know he has.
Last but not least, how do our simian cousins do it? When a male chimpanzee is in the mood, he shakes a tree branch or displays his erect penis to a female. Now isn’t that ridiculous? All through the Gymnopedokolympic Era, parents and coaches got all upset when boys erected, and now we see that it was all according to nature’s plan!
When Derrick (https://www.voy.com/223876/1083.html) was a youthful skinny-dipper, he probably wasn’t an avid student of animal behavior. But that didn’t stop Derrick and his friends from following their natural drives. Nor did that stop their female admirers from following their natural drives. The girls brought tape measures with which to record each boy’s measurements, both flaccid and erect. They also held competitions to see who could ejaculate the farthest. The boys felt a tinge of embarrassment, but they willingly complied.
So why do we hear so many stories about traumatic YMCA swim classes, traumatic public swim classes, and traumatic summer camp swim classes? What’s the difference, if skinny-dipping wasn’t so traumatic?
Think over all these examples, and you see the difference. Among all of these examples of animal behavior, there is no mention of the parents of the mating animals. Likewise, in Derrick’s post, there was no mention of the parents of the skinny-dippers or the parents of their female onlookers.
If boys want to show, let them show. If girls want to look, let them look. But they can do just fine without any help from us adults.
Stuart, I was not suggesting that all homosexuals are paedophiles, but what do you call a grown man who appears to get pleasure from looking down boys (in their early teenage years) under their shorts, or enjoy inflicting physical punishment?. I could say more on this topic, but as it clearly offends I won't. Somebody quoted a sports journalist yesterday, about the antics of a dirty old school doctor - you can be very certain that his was not an isolated case - the sad thing is too many people (adult and pupils) were willing to turn a blind eye, not rock the boat, until a decent teacher turned up. That is truly sickening.
I am astonished and disgusted that parents apparently condoned their young sons being forced to swim naked as late as the 1970s. I can assure you if I had been at that school in 1974 they would not have got me to do it, and I could have been certain of my parents backing in that. For myself, if I had children and I knew that sort of highly questionable practice was going on, there would have been trouble.
Thank goodness kids are more savvy these days. I am sure some of those teachers who are still living who forced children to go through this humiliation must dread a knock on the door from the boys in blue, since we know that these days, however far in the past such indiscretions were committed it is never too late to investigate.
As for those kids who "enjoyed" or say they did, nude swimming . I can only say that IF they felt entirely comfortable practising it, then I suppose it was (just about) OK, but because they enjoyed it, or prancing round half naked in a gym, that is their choice, they should of allowed the more shy lads to exercise their rights as well, and to feel comfortable.
Trevor Cooper: re naked swimming there is plenty of proof that naked swimming lessons occurred for boys in public schools from the 1950s - 1970s. Please see this photo contained on a professional photography site taken in 1974 at City of London Boys school
I can vouch that I swam naked between 1973 - 1975 at a prep school in Surrey which I am prepared to name.
Also I think many people will rightly object to you putting "homosexuality and paedophilia" in the same sentence. By so doing you perpetuate the myth that gays are peadophiles. I know from my career in the criminal justice system that a clear majority of victims of this crime are girls.
Manchester Grammar School is an independent school i.e. fee-paying.
The football journalist Jim White has written of his experience of nude swimming at MGS. As well as being required to swim naked in class the pool was open for recreational swimming after school when all from first formers to sixth formers swam naked, a member of staff acting as lifeguard would himself be in the nude.
One lifeguard, the school doctor, would stand naked in the shallow end with several boys crawling all over him attempting to push him under the water. White says this was generally a prelude to the old pederast plonking himself in the foot bath, where he would honour his favourites by encouraging them to squirm about in his lap. When this game was mentioned by sixth-formers to a new master he was horrified. Shortly afterwards Doc disappeared from the school with none of the usual send-offs for departing members of staff.
There are numerous verifiable accounts of naked swimming at school but before reading this account l had always been sceptical about naked teachers but, leaving aside the Doc, this was apparently normal practice at MGS.
Further interesting comments here.
As I commented a few days ago, the theme of being stripped to the waist / bare chested / shirtless pops up frequently. I’m not sure how much value it has now that sports shirts are made of fabrics which wick sweat away. I don’t think it makes a huge difference to the toughening up of boys.
Regarding rose tinted specs, you may be right - but in my case I make my comments more based on the benefit of hindsight. By that I mean that I genuinely feel a tougher physical training approach would have been good for me even if I would have disliked it at the time and I’m sure I would.
I changed schools at the age of 7 and had to wear shorts for school. I complained bitterly during the first winter but by the second I was used to it. When I changed schools again I didn’t really want to go back to long trousers. I’m sure the same would have applied if it had been a more minimal PE kit or tougher PE lessons.
Hi Bernard. I have to start off by saying that I know if I had gone home from school in 1973 and said to my dad - do you know what dad, I had to go swimming with nothing on at school today, my dad would have been straight up that school the next morning - and I think most of my mates dad's would have been as well. Whether it was a schools private pool (which on the face of it sounds even more sinister since it suggests a covert situation behind closed doors) or a public pool, I firmly believe it was as inappropriate in 1953 or 1963 as it would have been then. What on earth was the point of it, except to satisfy at best some ancient "ritual" or at worst a games masters latent homosexuality?
As I believe in honesty, I will say that I am bisexual (which explains why my marriage ended within three years), so I have knowledge of both sexes, and men on the whole are more voyeuristic than women. The situation on many of the replies I have read on here, where you have boys complicit in the strange fetishes of games masters is too much like the gay "coach" videos, popular in America where boys acquiesce to the father figure coach whims. Tnis is why I doubt the authenticity of some of them. That sounds rude, and I don't mean it to. Either those lads were cowed to a terrible degree, or they in some way enjoyed the practice - a few men have said that they were always being picked on by the teacher to be on the skins team - did they never wonder why?. To pick on the same few suggests that the teacher either knew the boys in question wouldn't complain or comment, or that they enjoyed ogling that particular boy. And looking down boys shorts??, that is totally pervy.
What concerns me is that by the time I left school we were in the era of "latch key kids", boys and girls from broken homes, many without fathers. I would (and was) comfortable telling my dad things that I would have found much more embarrassing to tell my mum (My mum had embarrassed me enough by my teenage years). Some lads would have kept their misery to themselves.
Let's take another point: the concencous seems to be that the majority of the writers say, I had to do PE without a shirt or in bare feet, I didn't mind it or even enjoyed it, so every other boy should have done as well - indeed, some have said in terms they enjoyed it or preferred it. They didn't think any lad minded, but - what lad has empathy at 13 or 14?. Because they didn't say anything (probably because they knew they would be laughed at) they stayed quiet and suffered in silence.
You could argue that as some women perform striptease, and some say they enjoy it for the "power" it gives them, all women should do striptease. Of course, nobody in their right mind would expect this, so why should boys or men not be allowed to be as modest as girls and women?. It is not effeminate to not want to show your body off in public - there are even actors who have it in their contracts that they will not have to do nude or topless scenes.
Just a few other comments: here in Birmingham they are very proud and rightly so, of the Youth Gymnastics team - they have many videos on You Tube and you will see some of the lads wear tops and some don't. I assume it is what they are comfortable with - and they make the choice. I believe this should extend to boys in school. Schools in the 50s or now should not have been recruiting sargents for nudist clubs, and though many of the teachers in past years had been in the army as my dad would have said - they are not in the army now.
The shouting and yelling, the drilling, the physical punishments probably explain teddy boys and the mods who smashed up seaside resorts in the 60s - bullying breeds bullying. Sport should be fun, not a punishment or a humiliation.
One other point -a few people mentioned the TV show "Raw Recruits" which was a rip-off of Bad Lad's Army - again a few of the posters went on about these "tough lads stripped to the waist". If you watched the series, you will know that all P.E. sessions were conducted in tee shirts (I think the programmes are still available on Vimeo). We could be charitable and say the men were wearing tee shirts because of the TV lights they would have needed body make-up without them, but I think that would be a very poor excuse. Even in the swimming pool they had life jackets on and carried their rifles. I think some people "saw" what they wanted to see. Another thing I liked about that programme was that with one exception (and he was an undersized little runt wearing glasses) all the officers, especially the CO Harry Porteous treated the recruits with dignity, though firmly. Bulying children, boys or girls, is totally unacceptable and shows I think some very deep personal flaws. It is a shame the pictures are from the 30s and 50s, it would be good to see some more recent history a decade or so ago, after all, even yesterday is history now.
As regards my mate at school - he might have faced some childish banter in the showers (as I did), but at least he would have been spared the previous hour of being stared at or having very unpleasant remarks made.
There are some things I won't say on a public forum, but anyone is welcome to email me, if they feel my views are too strong and want to challenge them - I don't want to upset the forums usual "Four Yorkshiremen" attitude :-)
Trevor - that is a very interesting post - if you had not said when you were at school I would have guessed that it was quite a bit more recent than the 70s.
The stories of naked p.e. relate to swimming, I think. Although I never experienced naked swimming at school I'm sure it was not particularly uncommon. It would have been in schools that had their own pools and mainly non-state schools probably. I'm not sure if Manchester Grammar School is a state school or not but I see that they had naked swimming into the 70s.
In the 50s and 60s body shame was not the issue it has now become. Nowadays it seems that nudity is equated to sex which is, I believe, very unfortunate and damaging to our youngstersilbka. I remember the first time we had to all cram naked into the showers after p.e. We were all a little apprehensive until some-one broke the ice by comparing people's tan lines at the bottom of their backs. This made us all laugh and there was no more awkwardness about being naked together through the rest of my school career. I have no idea how many boys in the class were circumcised - we never talked about that sort of thing or looked that closely. There was one Jewish boy so, presumably, there was at least one.
We had no boys with very prominent scars but we had one who was pigeon chested. This was only apparent when he was shirtless. He was a little self-conscious at first but soon got over it and no-one took any notice. I wonder if the boy in your class with the scar would really have been any happier if he had been allowed to wear a shirt when the rest ofthe class was shirtless. This would have certainly caused comments and possibly bullying and would he have been excused showers?
Bare feet and bare chests were required for p.e. in my school but I don't think there was any question of any teacher having an obsession or fetish about it. That was normal in the 60s when I was in secondary school - it was a healthy and practical way for boys to do p.e. and most of us thoroughly enjoyed it. We never wore anything under our shorts - I didn't hear anything about jockstraps until long after I left school. Being shirtless in public was not an issue - we ran along a residential street to get to the countryside for our cross country runs and back along another whilst a bus route ran alongside the football pitch we played on, also shirtless and barefoot. It just wouldn't have occurred to any-one that there was anything even remotely inappropriate or undesirable.
My p.e. teachers were very encouraging rather than sadistic though they didn't tolerate bad behaviour any more than our academic teachers did. I would not, of course, suggest that as I didn't have a sadistic p.e. teacher then such people didn't exist.
I have to be careful what I say here, as I don't want to offend anyone, but I have to say that (as a 1970s schoolboy in East London), though we had a fairly sadistic PE master (I am sure a lot of them have too much of a fetish for discipline then and now - more so then), I find it hard to believe the stories of naked P.E. We had to take our shirts off indoors, but always had plimsols out of doors and we never had to be shirtless in pubic view (perhaps because our school was on a main road with buses going past). We also had to shower. When my brother who is 5 years younger went to the same school, with for the first two years the SAME P.E. teacher, by that time he was allowing the lads to wear tee shirts, and though he still took compulsory showers, my brother, unlike me, did not have said P.E teacher wondering in and out of the shower room. I thin, by the later 70s the possibility of the perception of paedophilia had entered the consiousness of headteachers and school goveners. I am not suggesting that all P.E. masters are that way inclined, but the fetishism of being "stripped to the waist" and "told to wear jockstraps" is something I cannot believe has been allowed in British schools for at least the past 30 years. I was indifferent to it in the earlier 70s, but there was no doubt it was difficult for some of the lads. My best mate at school for example, had undergone a serious operation as a baby and he had a scar down his chest all the way to his navel and he dreaded having to take his shirt off, but our P.E. teacher relished making him take his shirt off, even though his dad had written to both him and the headmaster asking for him to be allowed to remasin covered. Yes all the arguments about sweating etc, but given that we had showers after the lessons - what the hell did it matter?. My mate had this hang up throughout his teenage years. In my view the teachers action was verging on cruelty. You can abuse a kid mentally as well as physically. Because a lot of you feel that being undressed makes you "tough", doesn't mean that those lads who wear tee shirts or board shorts are weak.
There seems, if I may say so, an element of looking back at the past with rose coloured glasses. Teenage boys can be quite cruel - my only problem (and I got used to it quickly) was that I was the one boy in my class who was circumcised, and from time to time I would get remarks - I know it was "banter" and you learned to stop blushing (the best way I found was to ask them why they were looking at another lads cock - that took the wind out of the sails of the more macho bully, to suggest they had a rather unhealthy interest in another lads body). My brother wasn't circumcised and I was glad about that because he was/is far more sensitive than me - it would have been torture for him, and nobody in my view should be made to feel bad about something that could make them feel good.
As I know it interests several readers here, we were allowed to wear swimming trunks under our shorts from age 11 onwards.
As a matter of fact our dad had been in the army and even he said that he thought our P.E. teacher thought he was still in the army and was treating pupils like conscripts (my dad was a National Servicemen)
Finally can I say with all due respect I cannot believe, even in the 50s and 60s boys would have been compelled to swim naked, especially with various staff members of both sexes and girl pupils strolling in and out. Even back then I am sure newspaper reporters would have sensed something rather unhealthy was going on. I don't mean to offend, but I wish some younger men would comment on this because as far as I am aware (I was at one time married to a comprehensive school teacher) topless P.E was unheard of in the 1990s due to the fact that boys were becoming much more aware of homosexuality and paedophilia and would have wondered about a teachers obsession with bare feet and bare chests. I honestly don't wish to offend but please let us have some reality.
Tom, have to agree we are becoming too soft. Can't even imagine the current generation going out for a school xc run completely shirtless and barefoot on a winter's afternoon like I did.
Mike L, spot on. Your thought about lads being barechested for exercise during 6 months training makes perfect sense. I hope if they ever had boxing sessions as they do in the Army then both lads would be expected to show bare chests.
Boys exercising shirtless is a common comment under these photographs. I have little interest either way, though I would not have been unhappy (looking back) if white nylon shorts with nothing under and nothing else had been the norm for me together with a tough physical training regime.
Regarding modern trends I guess that as school PE no longer seems to involve hard exercise the issue of a "sweat soaked" shirt doesn't arise. Also, a polyester sports shirt wicks moisture away from the skin allowing it to evaporate so is actually relatively comfortable.
I do agree that culturally the British have become soft, though our sports kit is only one part of the problem. Several generations of parents deciding not to hand their children over to ex military gym teachers who believe in tough exercise is an issue.
Again, the Raw Recruits documentary on channel 5 shows that some children will put themselves forward for it - I think many would get a lot out of it and those who are reluctant would benefit from not having a choice!
Hello Tom B, interesting points you raised. At one time not that distant, it was seen as common sense and practical for boys/ young men to exercise stripped to the waist, you toughened up naturally and you were worked hard so it was normal to show sweat on your bare chest/back. PE was never an easy ride at school. When I joined up my basic training started late January and the PTIs didn't think twice about making us strip off our vests. I do find it odd it's regarded as harsh. No-one wants to have a sweat soaked top on when you're in a rigorous physical exercise environment. We've become too soft. Boys need to learn the lessons that barechests exercise provides and the benefits it brings.
I think my interest has been generated because as a child I was able to get away with putting in little effort.
I was not a bad kid and academically did well but my performance in PE and games was poor. Because it was the 90s it was just accepted and while I have never been overweight, I didn’t meet my fitness potential and I regret that.
In my 30s I have found strength training but because I’m a couple of decades late progress is slow.
Corporal punishment aside I wish I had been pushed more in the gym because i recognise it would have been good for me. Some military style discipline wouldn’t have done me any harm either.