Burnley Grammar School
Item #: 1607
Source: Lancashire Life Magazine, December 1959
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.
Over fifty years ago, my PE teacher said that some of us would miss the discipline of school PE. Former pupils had approached him about this and he had taken them on. I never knew quite what he meant as he was a real martinet and an outspoken advocate for corporal punishment (much to my parents' approval).
Although I have kept fit since school days (running, swimming) I was never tempted to contact him.
The point is that while society may demand PE/PT and education is done in a soft fashion, hundreds of young people want to put themselves through a harsh training course. During the course they get shouted at, get homesick, repeatedly end up crying their eyes out, but in the end they achieve something and see the value in tough discipline.
Tom B, I remember my Army selection test held in mid November. We were made to strip to the waist both inside and outdoors for all PT. We also stripped off during basic training too Those lads would be far better off being made to strip off to exercise for the whole 6 months regardless of whether females are present.
While not directly related to the image, I have just watched a programme on My5, the channel 5 on demand service called Raw Recruits - a fly on the wall documentary about the Army Foundation College in Harrogate.
Boys and girls aged 16 and 17 join by choice for what by modern standards is a pretty harsh 6 month residential course involving everything from fitness, leading to a 6 mile march in full kit, to the theory required to be a soldier. Interestingly the mixed sex situation doesn’t seem to cause any issue though rules against bonding too closely are strictly enforced.
It’s well worth a watch.
Josh H. Yes you are right. I think the number of things that boys can do together in a single sex arena have diminished a lot since i was a kid. There used to be scouts, boys clubs, many single sex schools ( the 2 in Portsmouth boys and girls have done mixed).
I think it is a shame as there was i noticed growing up a different vibe and group dynamic when it was boys only and I'm sure the same for girls only. Nowadays it seems everything has to be mixed except sport.
Not sure that this a good thing. The girl guide movement is thriving which suggests girls certainty want girl only space
Stuart, your comments re single sex groups confirms the thoughts I shared on 7th June. It is interesting to read that girls also like their own space as your comments re Guiding show. Also I am in favour of singles sex schools because there is no distraction from the opposite sex. However, it is essential that there should be some opportunity to mix so that social skills can be learnt which I think is something missing today.
Wiliam that you tube clip did not leave much to the imagination especially the boy in the front on the far right column nearest the watching adults!
Re all male groups - i too was a scout leader when it was boys only and certainly my group of lads were not keen on letting girls in to their boy only space. I know from others that the dynamic changed. Interesting though that the guide movement is flourishing by offering girls only space, something now not afforded to boys.
Where i lice now two years ago the education authority closed the 2 surviving single sex schools and made them both mixed.
It seems to be a trend, though my daughters now aged in their mid 20s tell me they really liked their single sex girls secondary school ( state) they went to and not having boys there. That school and the boys one next door in Salisbury are still going strong.
In reply to Tom B I agree again with your comments and I read a long while ago that when asked, young lads liked to take an opportunity to go a way in all male groups when they could enjoy time together which was different to when girls were present.
I am sure it is the same for girls also because they seem to like the opportunity to go a way without lads being around.
It does seem that today society is trying to get men to be less masculine in their out look.
Josh H, Our gym master didn't check our shorts either. He supervised the showers after gym and saw us when we stripped so would have seen any pants. I can't remember anyone trying to flout the no pants rule. I never found it uncomfortable and got to like the minimal kit.
Besides, as in the photo we did a lot of exercises with legs up (handstands, ropes, beam etc) where pants would have been seen. Every gym lesson started with star jumps, causing obvious flopping about in the shorts if no pants are worn. There is a clip on Youtube called Physical Fitness 1936 in which boys demonstrate PE, starting with star jumps, which shows what I mean. We were more likely to laugh at it than be embarrassed.
I firmly believe rules and fear get in the way of real positive experiences both in schools, sports clubs and other organisations.
I also believe that the push for gender equality is detrimental particularly for boys in organisations such as the scouts. Boys need to experience freedom with their peers and they cannot do that with girls involved.
Although I asked the question about inspecting under the shorts at P.E. lessons, I can never remember our teachers doing that.The majority of us wore dark blue or black shorts and I do not think boys flouted the no pants rule. WE knew it was in place.rule. Perhaps the thought of severe punishment was enough. However, I remember that there was only one occasion when punishment was administered and that was when one lad wore the new fashion white umbro nylon shorts, and I do not know to this day what he was thinking but he kept his pants on and they were visible.Perhaps because they were white they would not be seen.He was sent to the changing room to remove them and on his return was punished with "touch your toes" and several whacks of the plimsoll.
I agree with you Tom B about trust by our parents in the teachers , and leaders of other organisations,and I think this was in a way passed onto us through their trust in them.
As you say it is sad that there have been a small but significant scandals which has in some way reduced peoples trust in teachers and other leaders.
For many years I was responsible for leading a Scout Troop. This was back in the days when it was an all male organisation. I started off as was in those days a Wolf Cub and progressed through all sections of scouting, and that experience and learning from my leaders taught me how to become a leader myself.
During the year we would hold several camps the highlight being a two week camp in August, when we travel quite a long way from home. The parents trusted me and the other leaders to take care and protect their lads during this time, and we used common sense which now has to be legislated as Child Protection. We never had any problems or complaints from parents.
When I married, I moved to another county, and did not return to Scouting as a leader although I do support my son in his scouting. However, whilst I know it is for protection of the child and the adults, all that is involved in safety and protection makes me reluctant to become involved. I just support with fund raising from the sidelines.
Have things changed for the better, or are there so many safety regulations that they inhibit the freedom of spirit for the young people of today?
Yes at my prep and senior school definitely no underpants in PE and at prep school one teacher checked. Like others state being caught meant a whacking on the now bare bottom having removed the offending garment!
Always showers afterwards. I still find it incredible today that kids dont shower after sports. So unhygenic.
We had a no underpants rule for PE and it was enforced quite simply.
PE shorts were white and thin cotton. All the PE teacher did was instruct us to turn and face the bench in the changing room and bend over and he could see as clear as day who was wearing underpants and any lad caught had to take them off and the plimsoll was applied to his bottom several times usually while it was bare.
As this happened at the start of every lesson there was no cheating on the rule. I remember once rumaging in my bag for my shorts, trousers off but underpants still on, pulling out my shorts and having them in both hands as though ready to put them on, the PE teacher's whistle blew and he roared at me, 'you're wearing underpants lad, get them off now'. I was going to comply but did so very quickly lest the plimsoll land.
I guess parents just trusted teachers more when it came to underpants inspection and being present in the showers/changing rooms if they were really aware of it at all. Teachers were trusted to discipline after all.
It is sad that there have been a small but significant number of scandals which have destroyed trust in teachers and sports coaches as I do believe the team sport, locker room and communal shower experience is good for boys in particular.
My school enforced a "no underpants" rule, but formal inspections were not needed.
Our gym shorts were made of material that was so thin, that the outline of any underwear was immediately apparent, and the culprit swiftly dealt with.
With regards to the checking for wearing of pants at P E was there no complaints from parents that a teacher might look down the back even more so the front of the lads shorts?
I too remember the checks at the start of the gym class. I was always amazed how a minority of boys didn't seem to grasp the rule but, as you say, a few whacks of the gym shoe seemed to assist them in their understanding! It didn't take long before adherence was 100%!