Burnley Grammar School

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Burnley Grammar School
Burnley Grammar School
Year: 1959
Views: 1,455,558
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: Eastender on 21st February 2013 at 17:03

I have written previous comments about how inhibited boys have become these day and how they have become softies. Today I have senn a boy who had clearly just finished a football match. He was with his dad and the boy I should think was about 8 or 9yrs of age. Apart from his football shirt he was wearing quite thick padded shorts & showing underneath were what appeared to be a further pair and football socks looking like tights. The only part of his body showing was his knees,just. Perhaps he was a goalie & nowadays they seem to be proteced from head to toe. How many times were we hit with a real leather football which stung when the weather was cold & frosty. When will the youth of today start to toughen up again?

Having read the previous 2 contributors comments we certainly in my day have nor worries about changing in one room. Most os us went to Scout camp & there you had to dress & undress & all sleep together in a tent with no room for privacy.

Comment by: George on 20th February 2013 at 17:13

What an amazing picture and a collection of comments. If I may, I will add my own perspective which is that of a PE teacher and I don't think I've seen another similar contribution.

I qualified in 1966 so a little after this picture was taken but things hadn't really changed. The picture may have been of my own schooldays just as easily and it is a good example of how PE was taught for may years afterwards.

I joined the staff of a boys grammar school on qualifying and taught there for many years. There were about 800 boys on the roll and I was the junior PE master though my colleague was only a few years older than me. Other masters coached various teams according to their skills and interests. The school had only been open about five years.

We had an excellent gym which was beautifully equipped with all the kit you see in the picture and far more besides. It was carefully looked after and the gym was so big you could divide it in to two so that we could have held two separate classes had we wished. In practice that rarely happened as we generally planned outdoor and indoor lessons to avoid teaching two classes in the gym together but on the occasions we did when the weather was very bad (I'm not talking about a bit of snow or rain here) we generally took both classes in the gym for circuit training.

Team games played were rugby, cricket, basket ball and volley ball and we competed at all levels in these along with swimming. The school had its own pool which was a real luxury though it was used by other schools too so we didn't have unlimited access to it. The other thing we didn't have either compared to the better schools today was any highly specialist skill in individual sports. I knew more about rugby than most and was therefore the expert, I had played at county level in the first XV but no more. As such, in many things we were relative amateurs compared to today.

Training had covered many things about all sports, a lot about football which was great if you taught in a school that played football! We also covered a lot about muscles, anatomy and building strength.There was quite a bit of emphasis too on safety and discipline.

Safety was of paramount importance. We had never heard of risk assessments but of course we did go through the process without having to do all the paperwork we do now. No one expected a fat boy (yes, we called them that then) to shin up a rope and hold position in the same way as a muscular boy without an ounce of fat. We tried to design exercises that challenged the whole class and I think in the main we did it.

Learning to play as a team was important too from all points of view and we sorted out quickly who were the good team players and who were not. Competition was also important, we played sport to win and I think that was healthy and good. I really dislike the current culture of everyone wins a prize, it devalues achievement.

So, what of discipline as it's touched on so often. Yes, I had a very large plimsoll and a cane, in fact in the office I and my colleague shared, we had several of each. PE can be a dangerous subject, any boy endangering himself or others by mischief, misuse of equipment or horseplay could expect a very sore bottom for his trouble. The first time it would be the slipper and if he repeated his stupidity it was the cane. Almost always they were given in the office but very occasionally when an example needed to be made, in the changing room. Whether it was in the office or the changing room, it was always on the bare bottom which was permitted in the rules for use by any master but of course few actually did. Yes boys cried and hated it, they weren't meant to like it and standards certainly slipped when it was withdrawn. There were usually quite a few sore bottoms in any class at the start of the year but after the first half term when the boundaries were established, it was rare to cane a boy though there were probably still two or three slipperings a week. Of course we also saw very clearly when a boy had been caned as week by week they took off their underpants and I would say we whacked less than many masters.

PE kit was in keeping with the times. For rugby there was a shirt, shorts, socks and boots, for cricket usual whites and for anything else there was a pair of white shorts and plimsolls or later trainers. Bare chests were the norm. For swimming there were no trunks unless it was a competition in which case, we had a box full for the boys to use. This certainly wasn't only our school, when boys from other schools used the pool, they didn't have trunks either. All this was quite normal until the early eighties.

Underpants were certainly not worn either. Any boy caught wearing them was in line for the slipper. The reasoning behind this was about hygiene. It had applied when I was at school, in training hygiene was emphasised alongside two other things the first of which was I suppose a crude attempt to educate boys about their bodies growing and changing and if they saw other boys developing hair, having their testicles drop and their penis grow then they wouldn't be alarmed if it happened to them and the second was that there really was an expectation that there would be a third world war and again, all men would be called to arms. In that case there would be no room for shyness so it was better that boys got over that now. This was also the thinking behind communal showers which did no one any harm.

We also used to be encouraged to shower with the boys and it was said it was a way of keeping order. As teachers, we had no private shower facilities so we did use the showers with the boys at times though it was more normal to shower with the older boys than the eleven year olds. Male staff who coached did the same thing and no member of staff wore trunks in the pool either.

Boys might have been uncomfortable at the start having to take off their underpants and shower in a communal shower and swim naked but I don't remember any boy being uncomfortable after after the first three or four weeks.

I stopped teaching PE in the late 80s - it's a younger man's subject and moved into school management as it became known. I missed it, I love watching the boys achieve more than they ever thought they could, it was great to see the smile and sense of achievment on a boy's face when he won, beat a record or just did something better than he ever imagined he could.

Comment by: Ambrose on 19th February 2013 at 14:31

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.
When I went to teacher training college in the swinging sixties we were given instruction which included showering with pupils as the best way of supervision. I was required to help out with PE in my secondary modern training practice schools, even though this was not my specialist subject. In all four schools the younger boys wore only shorts for gym, older boys sometimes wore pumps; and swimming trunks under their shorts, never pants. Outdoors it was usual to wear a shirt as well, but in all cases showers were compulsory and taken naked. At the end of the morning or afternoon it was not unusual for the teachers to join the boys naked in the showers.
When I started my first job I taught a few periods of PE and some games after school. I was told that the county advisor had instructed that all normal clothes be removed before PE kit was worn, and boys should shower whenever possible: so we were under orders. It was common for the 5 or 6 men teaching sport at various times to shower naked with the boys; and this practice continued throughout most of the 70's. It was not seen as inappropriate, and nobody was unhappy with the situation at the time.
It would be interesting to know who discouraged the practice and why,since thousands of teachers must have been trained to supervise classes this way. Parents are now neurotic about others seeing their child naked and demand privacy when changing. Pupils even wear swimming trunks in the showers! Staff now feel wary about being in the same room when pupils are undressing, although this is the best way of preventing bullying or horseplay which parents have complained about.
What was so wrong with the old ways?

Comment by: John Lavender on 17th February 2013 at 13:43

The 'Sticking Vests' syndrome is arguably THE most potent reason for doing gym / running without a top. Several people I know , as well as myself, have done half-marathons and shorter road-races as such, it is even more of an option if you are someone who sweats quite readily.
Doing Gym stripped to the waist is healthier than being wrapped in 2 or more layers, does not infringe any so-called 'Human Rights' and if truth be known, and pupils were asked, would probably be Preferred by Boys in Senior School. Does any school actually ask them what they Prefer, seeing as we are supposed to be in a Democratic Society?

Comment by: Eastender on 12th February 2013 at 15:34

I have contributed in the past & agree with many writers that I do not think many of us had inhibitions about the minimal clothing for PE. I was at Secondary school 1961 to 66 & some of our teachers had been in the war or National Service & they continued with the discipline & machoism they had experienced & that every expected in those days. Admittedly we never were running around with no clothes & trunks were worn for swimming but usally brief & showed your bump but we did have communal showers after PE where you would stand around chatting to each other whilst in the buff with out a thought until the teacher came in and hurried you up.
Without wishing to digress too much I think that having to have community showers & seeing each other naked prepared people for the time when they left school.I went to work in an office but some of my friends who I met up with had jobs in factories. I know of one lad who told me that from day one all the men changed into overalls in a communal room & he had no problems with that. However, a few weeks into his appretinceship,came the "Initiation" when at the end of the day he was taken by the older men and he ended up being stripped & losing some hair(not from his head) As he said at the time at least our schoolday experiences of changing rooms helped him through that event.

Can you imagine anything like that happening at work today?

Comment by: Robin on 12th February 2013 at 11:31

Stephen, like you and James, we also played Pirates - usually as an end-of-term treat, but it seems the rules we used were slightly different. We were a class of 30 and the game started with three boys, chosen by the teacher, as 'IT' or the pirates, and as the rest of us were tagged, we were then 'out'. This went on until there were only three left uncaught who were the winners, and became the pirates for the next game. Our indoor kit consisted of white shorts and t-shirt but whether the shirt was worn or not depended on the activity - in this case, the pirates were shirtless so they could easily be seen.

Comment by: James on 11th February 2013 at 15:43

Stephen,we also played Pirates,but wore our shorts as the gynnasium was on the ground floor and and we could easily been overlooked.However,the swimming pool was built on the first floor and the changing rooms and shower area was next to the pool.We were told it was unnecessary to wear trunks and we had to swim in the nude.I thought swimming was great fun,I was totally unabashed and fount it invigorating.

Comment by: Stephen on 11th February 2013 at 11:32

Dear John
The game of pirates was a game of tag in which one lad was ‘IT’ and had to touch another lad then he was ‘IT’ and the first one retired to sit on the benches and this continued until the last lad how had not been caught . The wall bars, ropes and every other piece of gym equipment was set out in the gym, your feet was not allowed to touch the floor. The game was a lot more fun than it sounds. I suppose it sticks in my mind more because I was one of the lads who did it in the nude which was quite liberating in a strange way

Comment by: John Lavender on 8th February 2013 at 19:07

Steven: What was the game 'Pirates'? Explain the way it was played please. Did you need two teams dressed differently to differentiate?
Did you play Killerball as well?

Comment by: James on 8th February 2013 at 08:44

Stephen,our school like yours had a strict uniform policy where boys had to wear short trousers and minimun clothing for games.A shorts only rule was enforced by liberal use of the cane and regular inspections were carried out.Boys caught wearing underwear were given six strokes of the cane.

Comment by: Steven on 7th February 2013 at 12:32

When I was eleven and started at my new school the first time we had a PT lesson we were told by the games master in no uncertain terms that on no account were we allowed to wear vests or underpants to any PT lessons, He told the class that he would make random checks to see if we were sticking to the school rules, If anyone transgressed the boy concerned would be punished in front of the class this would be done across the boys bare backside either with a large flexible plimsoll or his favourite cane.
He then instructed ever one to strip naked the he showed the class of boys the shower room and told the class that everyone would have a shower after any physical activity. Then he told the class to put on their white gym shorts and nothing else, all inside lessons were done shirtless and shoeless. Outside lessons we wore rugby shorts, hose, rugby jersey and boots.
The next time we had a lesson with him we were taken to the swimming pool and were told that we would not be allowed to wear swimming trunks.
One day the class was playing 5 A-side and one lad passed the ball to the other team, there was a lot of comments to which the lad concerned said “I cannot tell how’s how “to which the games master said “I can see for you that are having difficulties so to make it easier for you and your team I will let you take off your shorts so you can see how is on your team” there was a few comments from his other team members but he quickly restored order by threating to use Black Jack ( this was how he referred to his plimsoll)
At the start of the second year after the assembly we were given our new timetables for my class we had double games in the afternoon, only a few lads had brought their games kit with them, so we all went to the sports block, to find that the gym had been set out for pirates, he ushered the class into the changing room, the asked “ who has their the sports kit” Just a few hands went up, “right lads for this once you may strip off to your underpants for this lesson if you don’t wear underpants tough.” About five of my fellow classmates did not wear underpants ever. I was a bit shocked at first but stripped off and to my surprise a couple of my classmates who wore underpants joined us in the gym naked so eight lads did the lesson completely naked, most lads of my generation wore y-fronts but one lad wore mesh trunks that gaped open at the front as he was moving about and he looked more ashamed that the nudists.
The strange thing is that I don’t think that anyone thought that this was odd it was just what was done at the time.

Comment by: Justin on 27th January 2013 at 17:12

Steve, I can't see the logic of that system. We also had shirts against skins basketball matches at school but if you were a skin you went bare to the waist at the start and stayed like that until the end of the game. I can't imagine it would have been much fun starting on the skins team and having to put a shirt on halfway through the game when you were already hot and sweaty.

Comment by: Steve on 21st January 2013 at 19:31

For inter house basketball competitions we were split into teams of skins vs vests. At halftime we had to swap over so the skins team put their vests on while the other team removed theirs. For PE/Games the boys would all be made to go barechested and teams picked out by the colour of the shorts black or white) This didn't cause any problems.

Comment by: Thomas on 20th January 2013 at 19:14

Agree with Dave - bibs are the best system for telling teams apart in PE. When I started at school we had these coloured sashes that you wore over one shoulder and diagonally across your chest. They were a nightmare as they were often too loose and hampered your movement when you tried to throw a basketball, for instance. It wasn't long before the school replaced them with bibs, they fitted much better and were also easier to make out in a split second when you were trying to find a team mate.

Comment by: Dave on 18th January 2013 at 21:34

If all the boys had to be barechested it is much more easier to have bibs over your shoulders and chests. The vests,rugby top,white shorts,black shorts...etc thing is too complicated for a team game I think.

Comment by: Simon on 18th January 2013 at 07:55

Sam,it would have been much easier to identify opponents if we had been allowed to wear vests,but our kit was dictated by our teacher and as I mentioned the only item of clothing we were alllowed to wear was a brief pair of satin shorts.

Comment by: Sam on 17th January 2013 at 12:27

Simon, what was it like playing in games where the teams were distinguished by different coloured shorts? Did it get confusing? I ask because we sometimes had a similar system at my school, usually when two classes had to share the gym because of bad weather. In the gym we wore white shorts, for outdoors we wore black shorts, so if there were two classes together that meant four teams - vests, football/rugby tops, skins and white shorts, skins and black shorts. But it was always a bit chaotic when the two skins teams were in direct opposition. Normally it was so straightforward if you were playing skins - you could see easily who was wearing his top and who wasn't when you needed to pass. But in these games, when every player was bare-chested, I remember looking around for someone to pass to and being bewildered by a sea of bare skin! By the time I'd checked to see whose shorts were white or black the ball had usually moved, or the pass had been made to the other team by mistake. Maybe it was just me but skins against skins didn't really seem to work!

Comment by: Guy on 16th January 2013 at 13:19

We always did PE and cross-country stripped to the waist.Also we went barefoot in the gym.A few lads would do cross-country barefoot as well.

Comment by: Simon on 15th January 2013 at 18:27

Welcome Lars! We also went without vests and also bare foot with no underwear,just brief satin shorts.For games our teams were identified by the colour of our shorts,blue,yellow,red and green.

Comment by: Edward on 14th January 2013 at 00:54

Looking back, I never questioned whether underpants should be allowed for games and gym. I went to school in the late 1950's/early 60's, and wore cream woollen trunks which had no elastic. They were kept up by tapes which my braces hooked through, so once my trousers were off there was no way that my pants would stay up, so it never dawned that it was odd not to wear underpants for sport. From what I can remember, most of the boys in my class wore similar underwear, except for a few who had progressed to 'Y' fronts, and these were generally derided! How things change!

Comment by: Lars on 13th January 2013 at 15:05

nice bodys....

Comment by: Lars on 13th January 2013 at 14:48

Hi, I am lars fom germany, 19 jears old, and I like verry much your comments to this picture. Unfotunatelly we had pe lessons not always shirtless. For some games with two teams, one team took off there shirts, so I could see the nice chests of my class mates!!!
Since I am bisexual, I like the nice bodys while they play games or do sports!!
I specially liked the comment, where somone wrote, that they wear only the shorts and nothing else!!

bye Lars

Comment by: Malc on 7th January 2013 at 22:03

Kevin, I remember doing dancing at primary school when both boys ang girls were dressed in normal uniform. What it would have been like being with secondary school girls while I was bare chested, I can only try to imagine.

During dances like the waltz, the girls would presumably have had to put their hands on the boys' bare shoulders. What was the temperature like in the hall during these lessons? Were you covered in goose pimples?

Comment by: Mark on 6th January 2013 at 07:55

Kevin:-Did you really have to do ballroom dancing while bare-chested?

Comment by: Gordon on 5th January 2013 at 21:45

Reading these accounts I now realise how lucky I was as a scoolboy. I went to a grammar school in the south in 1959 where there was a very relaxed attitude towards sporting dress, though not to uniform in general. For football I think we were told we ought to wear some form of support, and most of us wore swimming trunks under our shorts, but no-one ever checked. I don't remember any strict rules about dressing for gym or cross-country, we were just told to put on gym shorts and plimsolls. Some boys never wore a vest anyway and they would go bare-chested in the gym, but most of us who did wear vests kept them on for gym and for cross-country runs. The same applied to underpants. In all the six years I spent at the school I can't remember any time when anyone was even told off, let alone punished, for wearing underwear in the gym. Vests could not have been more visible. I wore old-fashioned baggy white trunks which had a habit of slipping down after a bit of vigorous gym exercise or cross-country running, and an inch or two of underpant-leg would very often show (for other boys wearing the same style of pants, too), so it must have been obvious that we had kept our underwear on. I can't see what the problem was! We sometimes did cross-country runs in cold weather and the gym was never well heated. You can call me a southern softie if you like, but I think I was fortunate to be in a school where this relaxed attitude was taken. With a variety of different styles of vest, and with our sagging underpants, we were not the height of sartorial elegance, but did it matter? At least we were comfortable.

Comment by: Kevin on 5th January 2013 at 17:40

The uniform the te picture was exacty the same for us in the early 50s. This was not a problem because we quickly got used to it. We had PE twice a week plus a games afternoon. Being a co-ed school the girls alternated with the boys for use of the gym, the other lesson taken outside, whatever the weather. When it was wet sometimes the female teacher would arrange for the girls to share the hall with the boys, so the lesson was spent learning ballroom dancing. This was the only time when some of us got embarrased about being topless. As 11 year old we weren't that keen on getting too close to girls, especially girls dressed in navy blue knickers and white aertext shirts. As we got older these shared lessons were often more enjoyable, with us boys jostling to be partnered with the more developped girls.

Comment by: Andrew on 4th January 2013 at 10:06

The comments from Ed are so accurate! Bare chests and icy cold communal showers were my experience too. Add in the slipper and the odd dose of the cane and it summed up PE sessions which in spite of those things were still great fun.

The general shyness of the current generation amuses me, do they think they have something different and need to hide it? I'm glad I grew up when I did and not in the current time.

Comment by: Dave on 3rd January 2013 at 22:44

"I suspect that Eastender is right about a possible rebellion if boys were required to go bare-chested today."

I think boys wouldn't really mind. They are shirtless for swimming lessons. What is the difference?
I think some parents and teachers are the ones who take it like a problem not the boys themselves.

Comment by: Doug on 3rd January 2013 at 00:47

Eastender,you raise interesting comparisons.
As a teenager at school,I received several detentions for having my shirt coming untucked. Like many of my mates,I started to tuck my shirttail into my underpants, and this cured the problem,although the elastic of my drawers was usually showing above my trousers. Surprisingly, my teachers never picked upon this,and I still use this method to keep my waist tidy. Braces were not allowed, nor were belts, so I guess we were the first saggers!

Comment by: Neil on 2nd January 2013 at 18:41

I suspect that Eastender is right about a possible rebellion if boys were required to go bare-chested today.
In my day you had no choice and wouldn't dare rebel.