Burnley Grammar School

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Burnley Grammar School
Burnley Grammar School
Year: 1959
Views: 1,470,448
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: sid on 15th January 2012 at 16:12

To continue with this topic, as I have said I think previously PE without tops was accepted in our day.
Why does there seem to be such inhibition now & boys have to cover up.
During the summer countless lads are seen posing in the swimming pools or on the beach & even walking down the street topless.It does not make sense to me considering that there seems to be no inhibition in showing off designer underwear(in many cases more than the named waistband) by almost wearing low slung trousers.

Comment by: Cornelius on 14th January 2012 at 01:53

i don't think it was compulasary at that time, it was more a habit for me.

Comment by: Cornelius on 14th January 2012 at 01:01

I was transferred to that school for gym, and we had shirtless gymnastics (as a habit, no questions asked).Must say that it was good for me also to be like that, I improved a lot in the performances

Comment by: Dave on 13th January 2012 at 23:02

Hello Cornelius!

Was it compulsory or voluntary being shirtless for gym? What was your compulsory PE kit inside and outside?

Comment by: Cornelius on 13th January 2012 at 22:45

Interesting topic here. Just to mention that i did my gyms shirtless as well on atheneum classes in the netherlands during 1970 -1973. (Stedelijke scholengemeenschap), it was great gymn though, and i learned a lot. Perfect!!

Comment by: sid on 5th January 2012 at 13:52

Well Derek reading your account it must have been mortifying for you. I suppose that as most schools are now co ed swimming without trunks would be considered a complete no no & would reult in absolute shock horror even if the lessons were boys only

Our school used the local Municipal Swimming Pool although not open to the public during our lessons we wore swimming costumes in the design of what would now be called speedos.

Was it better in the "good old days" when we could go into the local countryside & just be all boys together swimming without worryinh about wearing anything?

Comment by: Sid on 3rd January 2012 at 14:01

Well James it must have been worse for you when you had to share the lesson with girls. At least our school was all boys & all male teachers so to a certain degree it was all males together

Comment by: Derek on 3rd January 2012 at 12:58

At Berkhamsted School for Boys in the 1950's we had excellent gym lessons in the normal curricula of the day. On any particularly hot day in the summer, with no notice, the master would take us to the school pool as a treat. We had no swimming gear with us so we swum naked, age about 14-16. As kids we just assumed this was normal practice.

One day we were having a naked swim, when the Head Master, assuming the pool would be out of use in the middle of lessons, walked in with prospective parents, a couple, who had brought their son and their two teenage daughters in school uniforms complete with hats. To say that we made for the safety of the water quickly was an understatement.

Comment by: James on 2nd January 2012 at 21:36

Dave,Inside we wore the shorts which I described,no vest and barefoot.Outside vest and satin shorts.Bit chilly in winter dressed in skimpy kit.

Comment by: Dave on 2nd January 2012 at 20:58

James, what was your whole PE kit inside and outside?

Comment by: James on 2nd January 2012 at 13:10

In reply to Sid's comments,we too wore shorts without underwear in the seventies up to my leaving age of sixteen.We wore brief satin shorts,which were fashionable in that era for games,cross country running,and yes we did share the gymnasium with the girls when it was too cold for them to go outside for their games.These shorts were very shiny and filmy and anyone foolish enough to wear underwear would easily have been detected.I felt quite ridiculous wearing miniscule shorts at adolescense.

Comment by: Sid on 1st January 2012 at 21:24

I have recently discovered this site & find the history interesting because it is my era i.e. boys schools in the mid 60s. I have just caught up with the previous comments & I am surprised by the comments made by Dick 26 Sept 2010. re the fact that up 18yrs of age boys only wore briefs for pe. I assume pe lessons were seperate genders. Perhaps Dick can advise & what year was this. I cannot see it being allowed in more recent years besides in more recent years haven't boys changed to boxers which could present a problem. At least we were allowed if nothing else to wear shorts although they were very tight.

PE & sports were very physical but had the effect that by the time we left school we seemed to be more manly than todays youth.

Comment by: Eastender on 26th December 2011 at 12:58

Re comments by will & the Welsh Marshes. It seems in the sixties normal for no underpants &teachers did check us to see if we were wearing any.Perhaps it was the era but no one seeemed to think anything about it. It just semed the norm. We were more nieve or just not so inhibited abiut our bodies.

Comment by: Will on 25th December 2011 at 23:09

Very similar to the late 60s on the Welsh Marches - pe with shorts, and no underpants, and the master lined us up in a row in the gym, and put his fingers down each shorts at the front, to make sure we weren't wearing underpants - I think he got quite a thrill out of it - cheeky ******

Comment by: Robin on 24th December 2011 at 00:37

I attended a large boys-only secondary school in the 1980s.
The PE year was divided into six half-termly blocks of football, basketball, cross-country running, volleyball, athletics and cricket.
The outdoor PE kit was a plain white football shirt, white shorts and white football socks and trainers. The indoor PE was done in shorts, bare chested, with teams either “skins” or “bibs”.
With regard to underwear, most boys wore white vests and y-fronts. Pants could be kept on but vests had to be taken off when you took off your white school shirt.
At the end of the lesson, everyone had to undress for a communal shower.

Comment by: James on 16th December 2011 at 07:47

We wore short trousers at secondary school and they were compulsary.I had my first girlfriend at thirteen wearing short pants and my second girlfriend at fifteen still in short pants,although her younger brothers half my age were in long trousers.I finaly wore my first long trousers at sixteen.

Comment by: peter on 11th December 2011 at 18:42

I was at a Northern Grammar School in `59 onwards. It was as has been described here; the H Teacher ran it like a public school.

I loved going bare chested but was very shy too. There was no bullying, body image issues like the girls had and still do. And now the lads have it too.

There were some sights as you can imagine. Who cared? To this day I go without a shirt whenever possible. Feel sorry for the girls! . .

Comment by: Paul on 9th December 2011 at 22:29

I certainly remember pe in the 1970s in just shorts, in the gym and on the playing field in the spring and autumn term. I particularly recall playing soccer with no top and barefoot when it felt really cold in October with cold grass covered in dew. I remember other boys playing cricket in summer barefoot and barechested wearing pads to protect against the hard ball - but that was for pe not games (which had different kit rules). I also remember communal showers and one time when I accused another boy of using my towel. He denied it but let me share the one he was using. It was only after everyone had left the showers that I saw my towel (with the same pattern) hanging on the radiator - someone else had covered it with his. Hoe embarrassing was that?

Comment by: Michael on 8th December 2011 at 19:39

We were often sent out in the snow to do cross country runs wearing only thin white shorts, singlet vests, white ankle socks and white plimsolls. Nothing else.

At the turning point of the run, the PE master would be seen, sitting parked up in his big Ford Zodiac with the engine running, all toasty warm with his flask of coffee and the radio playing. The clever part was that he didn't park there on every occasion, but of course we never dared risk taking any short cuts in case he was there.

As we ran past in the freezing cold, he would mark off our names on his register. This was to ensure nobody had dropped out part way. Only by exerting ourselves to the utmost, could we hope to cover the distance in the time allowed.

By the time we arrived back at school, he would be there, waiting, with his gym shoe in hand. No mercy was shown to anyone coming in late.

I was late, once, because an elderly lady called me into her house to change a light bulb. Always obedient,
I had done so, hoping a minute or two wouldn't make any difference. But, even that small delay put me past the deadline and earned me the wrath of the gym shoe.

Comment by: Simon Casey on 8th December 2011 at 14:05

Thats just the way it was. Coaches and Games Masters where feared and games were hell instead of being fun, which they should be. At my prep vests and rugby shirts were purchased by parents re uniform list. However it was made clear on the first day that we'd never need the vest and rarely be using the rugby top. We soon discovered we'd receive a severe pinch to the nipples if we failed to try hard enough. Hence the reason for bare chests indoors and out in all weather. We used the playing fields year round, a very unpleasant place when snow covered and still no vest, underwear or sock. Those plimsolls were designed for dry indoor use only, yet we only wore socks and boots for rugby. I'm shivering remembering it.

Comment by: eastender on 8th December 2011 at 13:26

Just a further thought . The history of pe is interesting . When you think of all the comments regarding outside activities in the snow cross country runs, games & even naked swimming & nowadays the schools all close at the meerest hint of snow!!

Comment by: eastender on 6th December 2011 at 12:56

in response to the comments by collin 17 nov we did not wear any top but I recall our shorts were very short I am sure shorter that those in the photo.

We were told the no underwear rule was for hygenic reasons although showers were available.
I remember one boy told us he was going to flout the no pants rule aand was prepared to risk the consequences. He must have been a masochist. We all knew that the teacher would see the outline under his shorts (no boxers those days only briefs which showed up) He was made to go back & remove them & was slippered.

That was the way of the world

Comment by: Simon Casey on 4th December 2011 at 10:42

I also had a spartan regime in an now infamous prep school I attended as a boarder. Bare chested morning runs and cold showers par for the course. We had one sadastic games master who adopted a particularly harsh pumishment routine. He would regularly slipper boys after they had showered. He would have a line of still wet boys clad in only towels waiting in the corridor outside his office. In the depths of winter he would wedge open the outside doors to allow the elements in. The corridor was like a wind tunnel and we would shiver with the cold awaiting the slipper. One at a time we would be called in remove our towels and bend over a trunk for several whacks of a size 11 plimsoll. I received many a stinging rear in this fashion.

The cold wait was almost as bad as the slipper.

It prepared me well for a prefect with CP rights at my next school.

Comment by: Ben on 1st December 2011 at 11:52

This is how I remember PE at school in the late 1960s/ early 1970s. Gym classes were great fun with sessions just as this one divided into groups to work on pieces of apparatus be it a horse, ropes, bars, wall bars or any of the rest. Sometimes we played killer ball or pirates both of which were fast and furious but great fun. The two pe masters were both strict but encouraging and as long as you did your best they were happy but they always pushed you to your limits, great education.

I don't think anyone was embarrassed about being topless, white cotton shorts were the only gym kit we had and defintitely no underpants. Showers were cold and communal but no one was bothered about things like that, I laugh when I go to the gym these days and the showers are in cubicles.

Discipline was strict, any misbehaviour was dealt with swiftly by use of a long brown strap than hung in the changing room for all to see and four to six strokes of it sobered up any bad behaviour very quickly. For anyone stepping out of line too often there was the cane which over thin gym shorts was not something you wanted to repeat.

Great days!

Comment by: eastender on 28th November 2011 at 19:52

The history in this picture is interesting. It brings to mind my secodary school days (all boys)in the 60s. I can still clearly remember my father had been to an open evening for parents of boys due to start in the following September & when he came home spoke about the uniform & thnme said " for pe it's shorts & pilmsolls no socks or underpants. This was just accepted as the norm also communal changing room & showers. I do not recollect any problems perhaps a bit of towel flicking but generally the whole concept of w=exposed bodies seemed to be a great leveller. Football was any old footie shirt & no particular loyalties so no oneupmanship. The shorts were short & no such things outside such as tracksuits not even in winter just very short shorts. Only one boy got modern with white nylon shorts, but after the first time playing rain after becoming see through he changed back

Also in this era most boys at secondary school were still wearing grey shorts for uniform including the cold winter of 1963 & did not go into longs until they were about 13 & this signalled the beginning of puberty.

Comment by: John on 27th November 2011 at 15:17

This photo brings back a host of memories. I went to a Grammar School near Birmingham in the early sixties (I won't name it because I don't want to upset the current school management, which I have no doubt is excellent). I hated PE with a passion. The PE teacher was "strict" and had a predeliction for administering the slipper for petty offences; being the last to get changed, for example. I once got five whacks for this mesdemeneour. To be truthful, this never really bothered me. However, on occasion he humiliated me. Initially gym kit was a pair od short shorts and gym shoes. However, in the second year we were instructed to wear swimming trunks underneath. After one lesson he decided to do an inspection. We were ligned up and told to drop our shorts. The other boys did as they were told. I was mortified. I was wearing nothing underneath. He insisted that I dropped my shorts and I protested that I wasn't wearing anything underneath. My protestations fell on deaf ears. I dropped my shorts and stood in the line fully exposed. The walkway to the girls gym was opposite, although thankfully noone saw me. This humiliating experience is still vivid in my mind. Thank you for the opportunity to share it. This is a History Site and this is the experience of a Grammar School pupil in the early sixties. By the way, I love the site!

Comment by: OD on 26th November 2011 at 09:37

Aaron, may I ask how does it feel to perform P.E shirtless? Were you embarrased at first? If so, is it because of exposing your belly, chest or nipples?

Comment by: Dave on 26th November 2011 at 08:32

I totally Agree with you Aaron in all the things you've posted.
Yes, the photo were taken in 1959 but why can't anyone posting about present experiences if it is similar to the photo.And you've written your opinion of the photo either. Yes you're right to correlate discipline and shirtless PE kit as well as being barechested it's much more hygenic and there isn't anything for restricting movement especially for difficult gymnastics exercises. T-shirts are not beneficial for gym.
I encourage you to write more posts even if it's connected with present day experiences. Past and present experiences have a place in here together.

Comment by: Aaron on 25th November 2011 at 22:07

Matthew sorry to offend you! I assume you meant me in your last comments. I am a young man who is interested in photography and history and that's why I wanted to view the 1959 PE photograph. A photograph can capture the mood of the time. everyone has noticed the minimal same kit and for that reason,the kit is not focal point of the lesson but the activity is. and you can see that the boys looked dedicated,enthused and engaged in the activity they were doing they looked relaxed and comfortable in each others presence. Of course I did read the posters comments,some said forced shirtless the norm pre 1980's,alot said they found it beneficial, some aked if it is still practised in some schools or would it never be brought back on a big scale. I responded to these comments being a boy of 18 who probably would be among few my age to have had both compulsory shirts and compulsory skins in my school time.I was a bit longwinded in my descriptions but I was only reiterating the consesus that maybe the old Style PE lessons were better wth the fulfillment and discipline that it gave boys,and that I started upper school forced to wear shirts and the apathy and discipline problems forced a change in policy to bare chest for boys and the better behaviour and enjoyment that came from it and that the modern equality pc brigade which promotes same rules for everyone is not necessary the best in some areas. I should have commented only on the picture I am sorry.

Comment by: Matthew on 25th November 2011 at 17:24

This forum is to discuss the photograph of P.E. in 1959. Some comparison with modern day lessons is justified but all the relevant points have now been made so can we stop these long-winded diatribes that have nothing to do with the photo at all. This is a history site. If you have some facts or experiences to add about P.E. in 1959 please share them. If you want to comment on current practice please find a more appropriate site. Thank you.