Burnley Grammar School

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Burnley Grammar School
Burnley Grammar School
Year: 1959
Views: 1,409,704
Item #: 1607
There's pleny of room in the modern-styled gymnasium for muscle developing, where the boys are supervised by Mr. R. Parry, the physical education instruction.
Source: Lancashire Life Magazine, December 1959

Comment by: John Lavender on 25th April 2013 at 18:36

There is also a UK photo on this URL, Lads Shirtless.

Comment by: Dave on 23rd April 2013 at 15:01

Great scene.It brings back memories.Especially of outisde lessons in cold weather clad only in a vest.Are there any other european old movies which have a PE class scene?

Comment by: pierce on 20th April 2013 at 00:23

This is a very interesting forum which provokes many memories, some good, some bad. However my overriding memory of P E 1970s Northern England is the extreme cold. My PE teacher was a keen disciplinarian. Our uniform (or lack of) consisted of brief shorts (no underwear), vest and plimsolls or footie boots. Vests often discarded as a punitive measure or to distinguish teams (shirts vs. skins).
I recently watched a movie which also brought me back to my teens.
A scene in the film shows lads in a traditional vest and shorts uniform. The thinly clads boys are racing in a snowy park while their teacher and spectators are wrapped up in heavy coats, much like my own PE teacher wore.
Deep End was filmed in 1970 and stars John Moulder-Brown and Jane Asher.
It gave me a chill recalling those harsh winter PE sessions with snow on the ground, biting northern winds and, worst of all, sleet or driving hail stones. We suffered it all but were stronger for it, compared to todays youth who live in over insulated homes and are so susceptible to viruses and colds .
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sN2kFPVu_A4

Comment by: James on 13th April 2013 at 13:32

viewpoint James! From what you say I'm assuming the boys always went bare chested for PE (as well as detention). Do you think that made you more keen to work hard in PE and develop a good body, knowing the girls would be watching and commenting on it? And did most of the boys in your class feel the same? We sometimes did PE bare chested (vests versus skins) but never in front of the girls and that was only up to the age of 16.


Hi Darren, The boys did indeed go bare chested for all PE/Games lessons (and Gym detentions)and I think it did give a certain motivation for boys to put the extra effort in. It was amusing that girls from all different year groups looked forward to seeing us exercise especially on the colder days. The detentions were the worst as it was just you and the teacher so it made more difficult not to put the required effort in.

Comment by: Darren on 7th April 2013 at 19:22

Interesting viewpoint James! From what you say I'm assuming the boys always went bare chested for PE (as well as detention). Do you think that made you more keen to work hard in PE and develop a good body, knowing the girls would be watching and commenting on it? And did most of the boys in your class feel the same? We sometimes did PE bare chested (vests versus skins) but never in front of the girls and that was only up to the age of 16.

Comment by: James on 7th April 2013 at 17:03

Darren, the girls used to see us barechested indoors and outside through until I left at 18 and it made no difference even when doing co-ed classes. It was always good natured banter with them remarking on how we looked, discussing it in the classrooms and us wanting to impress them at the slightest opportunity. One of those girls, who later became my wife, still reminds me about a 2hr detention I was given by the PE teacher in the gym and watching a 16 year old me dripping with sweat as the session dragged on.

Comment by: Darren on 5th April 2013 at 18:27

Interesting how the film focuses totally on the boys even though it's a co-ed class, the girls seem very much in the background. Have to feel sorry for poor Nick, he gets criticised for his lack of ability even though it's the other boy (with the strapping on his leg) who stumbles during the routine! The boys look about 13 or so, I can't help wondering how they felt about being bare chested in front of the girls. Not sure I'd have been comfortable with it at that age (at my school PE classes were single sex).

Comment by: Tim H on 5th April 2013 at 09:54

An interesting piece of film - does anyone know the date? It refers to Key Stage Three which would be late 80s/ early 90s/

The commentary sounds a bit dated but as an example of gym in the UK the 80s its pretty good.

Comment by: Pandy on 4th April 2013 at 06:46

Here's a fairly recently gymnastics class which features the boys shirtless & in shorts while the girls don black leotards

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=l_gb0CUzwX0

Comment by: Alexander on 3rd April 2013 at 19:02

Shirtlessness is still de rigueur in several armies around the world.
I have found some pictures of Russian soldiers exercising in what they call uniform no 2.
And judging by the leafless trees in the background you can certainly tell that not all of these pictures were taken on a warm summer's day !

http://www.flickr.com/photos/62386222@N06/8615811441/in/photostream/

http://www.flickr.com/photos/62386222@N06/8616923656/in/photostream/

http://www.flickr.com/photos/62386222@N06/8616930006/in/photostream/

Comment by: Dave on 2nd April 2013 at 09:41

Hi Paul!

Where is this photo from?Is this was taken from a school's website?
Yes it seems there are still some schools where shirtless PE kit is a rule.

Comment by: Paul on 1st April 2013 at 23:00

Compulsory shirtless PE seems still to required in some countries today. This photo apparently is of a Polish school:
http://tinyurl.com/c7ck22x

Comment by: Paul on 1st April 2013 at 13:01

In reply to Tim,I had to change into shorts when I returned home from school,as the wearing of short trousers was not allowed at school.Under my parent's insistence and to keep me dressed identicaly as my younger stepbrother,I had to wear shorts for evenings,weekends and holidays.I prefered wearing long trousers,but as this ritual continued I became quite blase about wearing shorts and became indignant about the derogatory comments.

Comment by: Tim on 31st March 2013 at 14:49

My father used to keep my and my four younger brothers shirtless nearly all the time.
As soon as we got home from school we had to strip to the waist and remain shirtless for the rest of the day.
We soon got used to it and by summer time we were all quite sun tanned.

Comment by: Donny on 18th March 2013 at 22:56

have a look at this:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0yQth3QEXtA

Comment by: John Lavender on 18th March 2013 at 12:51

@ Dave: Yes, good video.
I do think PE should again be mono-gendered and should much more concentrate on Hard physical work in class (at least 5 1-hour sessions per week)with special emphasis on combatting over-weightness and muscle and general physical developement. PE Teachers should also be gender-specific.
Boys PE should concentrate much more on the forthcoming roles in life of the Boys, in both Sport and Personal Lives.
This might mean some howls of anguish from the "New Breed" of PE Teachers but I think after a few years result in a much better physical fitness profile of the population.

Comment by: Dave on 16th March 2013 at 22:15

If you watch this video you can see (from 5:15) that all the boys are barechested for massed P.T. None of them seems uncomfortable and unhappy because of the kit they have to wear even in mixed exercises.

http://yorkshirefilmarchive.com/film/childrens-day-leeds

Comment by: Simon on 15th March 2013 at 16:12

I attended a state Grammar School in the early sixties and altough the official PE uniform did specify a singlet many boys didn't wear them and always did PE stripped to the waist.
More and more of us followed suit and eventually we were all bare-chested in the gym.
Again a few lads went topless outdoors for cross-country and again more and more lads bared their chests and eventually we were all stripped to the waist.
Some were even barefoot both in and out of doors.

Comment by: morgan on 6th March 2013 at 21:19

Ambrose wrote;
When I was a pupil I thought the dress code for PE was at the whim of the teacher. We were never allowed underwear and were often without shirts; communal showers were compulsory.

Like Ambrose I experienced similar 'whims'.
I entered Boarding School in 1970, aged 15, when my parents moved abroad due to my Father's work as an engineer.
The regime there was brutal.
I soon discovered that some of the items listed on the Games Kit, which my parents purchased, were completely surplus to requirements.
Both games masters were sadists.
Every day of the school year began with a two mile run around the grounds and through the local village. This was year round in just a thin pair of shorts and trainers.
We were predominately shirtless for games including table tennis and cricket. Bare soles and chests in gym, except in teams when it was bibs vs skins. Only one set of bibs were ever issued, despite a huge supply in various colors.
Bare soles and chests outdoors were our games masters whims.
In the evenings other whims included open ended circuit training sessions with no set finishing time.

Some boys hated it and others tried to impress their hardness.

Comment by: George on 5th March 2013 at 18:21

Archie let me reply to your latest questions.

In the normal course of events I didn't catch that many boys up to things they shouldn't have been around the school. Those who I did catch, usually the smokers who for some reason thought a corner outside the gym was a good place to smoke were invited inside for the cane. Smoking got six on the bare bottom without exception.

In such circumstances a boy would be told to take off his blazer and drop his trousers and underpants before bending over a hurdle we kept there for just that purpose.

Also, close to the sports complex were the music rooms. The head of music was a delightful lady in her late fifties and coming up to retirement. As a colleague she was great fun and often the life and soul of a party.

As a teacher, she was mercilessly baited by the boys and unfortunately she used to rise to it. Her lessons often used to descend into chaos and she could not regain control. It was a pity because she really knew her stuff, she taught me to play the piano which was something I had always wanted to do and she was a superb teacher.

Needless to say, I and my colleagues used to pass by the music room and there was a large glass panel in the door which was at the back of the room and we could observe the class without being seen.

With her tacit agreement we would often pause for long enough to determine who the ringleaders were in any particular class and then quietly enter the room and summon them out for a 'discussion'. That usually had the effect of sobering up the whole class in an instant.

The boy or boys summoned for a discussion made their way to the changing room where they were invited to explain their behaviour, I never yet heard a satisfactory explanation and so delivered a just punishment. A first offender got four, a second offender six and a repeat offender eight, always with the cane.

The boy or boys would then be escorted back to the music class, usually with tears in their eyes and told to take a seat at the front where everyone could see them. Usually I delivered a warning that I was close by and that there was plenty more of the same available for anyone who wanted it as an alternative to working hard for the rest of the lesson.

I also used to deliver the odd warning in my classes that any boy I caught misbehaving in music classes was guaranteed a sore bottom.

Comment by: Ambrose on 5th March 2013 at 18:02

It's unfortunate that my original observations on how PE training and supervision has changed seem to have deteriorated into a prurient discussion on caning naked bottoms.
George's original response confirms that we were trained to be naked around boys; in my case in an inner city secondary modern/comprehensive school rather than a single sex private school. The rational behind our training was that we would not appear aloof to the pupils, and that nudity was not something to be shy about. Showering naked together was for no other purpose than to encourage cleanliness and confidence in pupils and to dispel any sense of unnecessary modesty; nobody saw any ulterior motives, and of course any touching was strictly discouraged.
It was not until the 80's that the situation changed, for whatever reason, and nowadays a teacher appearing naked in front of pupils is likely to lose his job for supposed indecency. How have standards deteriorated to this neurotic state? Are their now more teachers with an unhealthy interest in their pupil's bodies?

What are the views of older or retired teachers, or of pupils who saw their teachers naked?

Incidentally, at my school only the Head was allowed to cane;and although we used the slipper, no pupil was ever punished on a bare backside!

Comment by: Pete on 5th March 2013 at 16:04

I'm glad I didn't go to George's school; swimming naked, pe stripped to the waist, no underpants - none of that would have bothered me, but that 20 - 25% of boys at any time bore the marks of caning suggests to me that the custom was widely practiced. I wonder if there was any standardisation to caning or whether the number of strokes was on the whim of the master administering the punishment. Wearing underpants in pe, for instance, would hardly be the most serious "crime" that a boy could commit yet did it make any difference in relation to other contraventions of school rules?

Comment by: Adam on 5th March 2013 at 08:01

When we played football etc.stripped to the waist the teams were identified by wearing different coloured shorts.

Comment by: Archie on 4th March 2013 at 17:06

George - thanks for your latest reply. Slightly off topic, but I was wondering how you dealt with lads who were being caned or slippered but who were not already in PE kit - perhaps, if you caught a boy doing something and made him report for punishment at a particular time.

Presumably you still caned/slippered their bare backsides? Did they keep the rest of their uniforms on with just their trousers and pants round their ankles, or did they have to strip entirely? Did they just bend over and touch their toes or did you have them bend over something?

Did you often slipper or cane other than during a PE lesson?

Comment by: George on 28th February 2013 at 17:23

Archie, no lad was ever slippered or caned in the pool area, it only ever happened in our office or the changing room. Any lad leaving the pool area, if he was not going straight for a shower put his shorts on even if it was only to drop them a few minutes later for the slipper or cane.

Lads often had stripes from the cane across their bottoms when swimming but we saw them when lads were in the showers too. In the earlier years, I suppose it was common to see 20-25% of bottoms sporting marks of the cane, in later years it was much less common and of course eventually it would have died out.

In 1975 the school left local authority control like many others when faced with the comprehensive choice and we were lucky enough to be in a place that had sufficient demand for private education, so the cane remained for quite a few more years than it might have done.

The headmaster however foresaw a day when it would be banned and he encouraged a reduction in its use so that withdrawal would not cause a problem which in the end it didn't. I think in the last year it was legal, it was used twice on senior boys who had bullied junior boys.

The following year two senior boys who had bullied a junior boy were expelled on the spot and that's what happened to boys who ultimately would have been caned and as we were out of local authority control, there was nothing to stop it.

Personally, I still think the cane was the better solution as I doubt most school boys who overstep the mark appreciate fully what they are doing and how much expulsion will impact on their education and therefore life opportunities in a way that a sore bottom for a few days never could although I recognise it will never be reintroduced.

Comment by: Archie on 27th February 2013 at 20:52

John:
I looked at your link and searched a bit online and think that the garment you mention is similar to the slips our masters (and my father) wore, though theirs were the very skimpiest kind. Most of the pictures online have fairly full fronts to the garments, and a 3/4 back whereas our PE teachers had much smaller front areas of cloth whilst their buttocks were totally bare save for a very tiny triangle of cloth at the top of their arse cracks. The strings were very narrow - say 1cm - but did tie at the sides.

George - again, really interesting to hear your answer. Did you ever slipper or cane lads when they were naked in the pool area? Presumably it was a usual enough sight to see lads with cane lines on their backsides during swimming classes?

We had the no underwear rule at school as well, though I have to admit that I (like many of my classmates) flouted it as we became older. We didn't always get away with it and the belt then made an appearance, even in 5th and 6th forms!

Comment by: John Lavender on 27th February 2013 at 18:20

Hi Archie, I think you are referring in your post a few days ago to an Item of swimwear originating in Germany, named in that language as 'Dreieckbadenhose', translating Literally as 'Triangular bathing wear'
Here - the URL shown - is a photo. The Garment has ties around each hip.
If you want to correspond further off-thread, just email me.
John

Comment by: George on 27th February 2013 at 15:51

Archie, I was twenty one when I started teaching.

Usually for a swimming class we were either in the water or not, it wasn't usual to get in the water in mid class but except as below, I took my shorts off at the pool side if I did. Whether you were in or not depended on the level of the class, if they were beginners it was more common to be with them but less so once they were swimming well. You might get in to demonstrate a new stroke with the boys on the poolside but then get out to observe them, you can't actually see much when you're in the water with them.

If I jumped in spontaneously usually because a boy was in difficulty I didn't stop to take my shorts off.

As to what I wore under my shorts, certainly never underpants and nor did any other master I taught with which I know because we shared an office. I had a jockstrap for playing rugby as a team member but having worn it a few times I found I preferred not to and no one else on the team wore one or for that matter wore underpants. How things have changed now where you see a second pair of shorts appearing down the legs of some rugby players, presumably when you don't see anything they are going commando, much more healthy.

Comment by: Archie on 27th February 2013 at 00:58

George - that's really interesting. So when you were at the side of the pool you had your rugby shorts on and you took them off to jump in? What did you wear under them?

How old were you when you were teaching like this?
Archie

Comment by: George on 26th February 2013 at 09:29

Archie, in the main, we didn't go in the water with boys during swimming lessons though when we did, we were naked. The pool was available to masters and boys during lunchtimes and everyone swam naked during those times. Masters from other schools varied a bit, I can remember one or two who used to come with trunks under their shorts but most were naked in the water.

We also usually taught with bare chests, my usual kit was a pair of black rugby shorts and a pair of trainers. It was a good incentive to stay in shape! I kept a rugby shirt handy for leaving the sports area of the school but didn't see the need to wear it in the gym or out on the fields unless I was a referee or similar.

Eastender, your account typifies all that is wrong with boys today. I can't imagine the poor lad was warm in all his gear, much healthier had he been in shirt and shorts.

Cold weather was often an excuse for wearing underpants when lads were caught. They never actually thought that even it it was cold they would still sweat in the usual places while running, one layer of clothing might dry on a cold day, two would have no chance so, had it been permitted, they would have been wearing cold, damp underpants that would get colder in the wind whereas without them, the sweat would dry off immediately. Similarly if they rolled on wet ground, one layer of kit would dry in a few minutes, two would not dry at all. I suppose these days they don't roll on wet ground in case they catch cold or get dirty.

Of course, there was always hightened vigilance for underpants on cold days and any boy caught failing to take them off left the changing room with a warmer bottom than he might have wished for but he certainly could no longer complain of cold!