Burnley Grammar School
Item #: 1607
Source: Lancashire Life Magazine, December 1959
I attended an all boys prep boarding school in the 1970's. We did early morning runs and in the summer we also had to swim 10 lengths of the outdoor pool, all before breakfast. We ran from the boarding house in white pe shorts and plimsolls, stripped off to do the swim and then ran back to get changed. It was quite fun but in the early weeks of the summer term it could be freezing cold.
In our house swimming competitions, we always swan without trunks as no one was allowed to wear anything. My mother has a picture of me and three other eleven year olds receiving our medals totally in the buff from the housemaster wife. We had no inhibitions and everyone treated it as normal. There were of course some dodgy teachers but they were harmless.
I was at a prep school in the mid 1970's which was boys only. We had a very stricy pe teacher who had been at the school for years and only white shorts were alllowed. This was never an issue and it is all we knew. We often did pe displays in front of the parents and we were always stripped to the waist.
For swimming we were not allowed trunks but I always remember that our swimming pool had individual cubicles which we all got changed in and then came out naked. I was quite a keen swimmer and had extra swimming tuition from the swiming coach at lunchtimes as I could never do the tumble turns. She was an excellent coach and taught me the tumble turns got me into the county team. I cannot imagine now a situation where a teacher would be allowed to do a one to one swimming lesson with a naked 12 year old but that was the way it was and no one minded. By the way, I always felt a bit odd as the swimming coach would not let me change in the cubicles. Odd what you remember.
I wasn't the worlds best student but remember my school days fondly & admired most of teachers - Mr Bentley who encouraged us to bring the old 45's to music lessons - Buddy Holly he could take but Conway Twitty wasn't his favourite.Poor old Benny Goodman came in for some stick although he was very poular & took his football pretty seriously & dressed for the part as a referee.I remember he was in tears when it was announced he was leaving BGS.School camps were a ball except for the food which was pretty average.I had to most of my studying again after leaving school as I pretty well wasted years 3 - 5.Still keep in contact with a few of my old friends although it's difficult to find a common thread as we've been in Australia for 35 years.Still working full time as a Tax Agent in the South West of WA.
The difference in my day was that by the time you where 16 your body was in the best shape it could possibly be. Given the Physical Training we endured no boy was fat or felt shame wearing only a pair of shorts, or swimming naked. We did not have a high fat diet or lead a sedentry lifestyle like todays teens
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.
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.
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!
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?
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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!
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).
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.
It is certainly not uncommon in sports schools outside the UK. Just watch this video:
It seems shirtless PE is still a rule in some schools:
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.
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 ‚Äì 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!
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
ron parry remember him well snigger snigger- mate of that pygmy grimes as I bitterly recall
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?
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!
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.