Burnley Grammar School

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Burnley Grammar School
Burnley Grammar School
Year: 1959
Views: 1,455,576
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: David Wood on 19th July 2010 at 21:05

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!

Comment by: Tim H on 18th July 2010 at 14:35

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.

Comment by: Jim on 4th July 2010 at 16:13

I attended a boys only school in Scotland from 1965 -1971. We had always worn just white gym shorts in primary school. Primary school was mixed school and we had mixed pe classes- the girls wearing white vests and navy knickers.
It was no change when we went up to the secondary school. As I say we only wore white shorts, no tops or underwear. It may seem somewhat strange now but we had "underpant checks" where the pe teacher checked that we were not wearing underpants. The reader must remember that this was some 45 years ago and what is considered inappropriate now was acceptable then! Remember this was a time when corporal punishment in schools was also acceptable ( and even encouraged!) and I can assure you the "belt" was in daily use!
After any pe, swimming or games class compulsory showers following, naked in an open shower room supervised by the teacher. I admit all this was a bit of a shock at first, but we were all treated the same and it was soon the norm for classes.

PE was fairly hard work with lots of circuits, press ups, sit ups etc. I never really enjoyed it but it was accepted.

I appreciate that times have moved on and what was acceptable practice then would not be tolerated now-but I dont think it ever did any of us any harm!

Comment by: Sidona on 25th May 2010 at 15:42

At my secondary school (RC private) in Buckinghamshire in the mid 1950s, the specified PE kit was white shorts and PE vest; on economy grounds, those of us who regularly wore underwear vests, i.e. virtually all of us back in those days, got into the habit of substituting our normal everyday vest for the latter item. After I had been at this school for a couple of years, the PE staff decided that it would be healthier for us to do PE topless and took a vote among us on the matter. Not surprisingly, toplessness got a 100% vote. With this garb, "Shirts and Skins" was obviously out, so we had coloured sashes to distinguish teams when necessary. Although we were expected to wear vests between the changing room and the gym, this rule was honoured more in the breach than the observance and we soon got into the habit of "forgetting" to put our vests back on under our shirts after PE. As we had PE every day of the week, generally in the mornings, we ended up minus our vests for much of the school week and soon most of us didn't bother coming to school in a vest at all, much to the concern of most of our parents, who felt that all children should wear vests all the year round, regardless of climate. There was no prohibition on the wearing of underwear, although for the first couple of years, most of us freeballed. At one point, probably when we were 12 or 13 and one lad got accidentally kicked in the "privates", the PE master advised us that we should think about wearing some form of support, and mentioned a thing called a "jock-strap". I don't think any of us had ever heard of this item of clothing, and i don't think any of us took the trouble to obtain one, but most of us took the hint, and from then on we tended to keep our underpants on for PE.

Comment by: john on 11th May 2010 at 15:16

in my school we had to wear a jockstrap for all sport. It was compulsory ... I don't remember anyone having a problem with it either. Showers were communal ... don't remember anyone having a problem with that one, too.

Comment by: Crow on 7th May 2010 at 20:02

British Bulldog? A game where half the people in it line up facing a line of the other half, and each has to run through to pass the other side. The other side have to stop them. That's the aim whichever side's perspective you take. I only played it a few times. It's supposed to be really physical but it's actually psychological and needs agility, I got through by looking straight at one spot like I would be breaking through there, then turn sideways mid run and pass on the other side of the heaviest person in front of me. They couldn't respond fast enough so I got through. Once you engage in direct conflict you can't acheive the intended aim so I figured that wasn't really the point, just figure out how to pass, and do it.

Comment by: Trevor on 4th May 2010 at 18:58

Interesting that the picture is by far the most viewed and commented on on the Historyworld site. I attended a Secondary school in Yorkshire in the years 1972-79 and can well visualise our gymnasium and how it was very much like this one.

We we not required to be bare chested except for the occasional “shirts vs skins” basketball games. Sometimes outside in the summer (we had summers then!) one of the PE teachers would have his top off and nobody thought anything of it. I remember during one of the shirts vs skins games I was felt relieved to be a “shirt”. I was small and a little overweight. With hindsight, I felt it would have been better if we all generally did PE shirtless. As it was I did get a bit of a hangup and were I made to do PE bare chested I might have avoided having what was a substantial social handicap. People today may protest at boys doing PE shirtless. “What about those who are overweight, got acne etc?” they would say. My view is that one of the purposes of school (and PE in particular) is to get people to overcome these sorts of anxieties and pandering to them does them no good in the long term.

I go swimming at a local school (after school hours) and find that the boys changing room has individual cubicles for changing as well as individual cubicle like showers. The showers at my school were communal and nobody cared about being seen. Even one of the boys who even at the age of 12 was fully developed “down below”! I wonder which generation has the more body image “issues”?

Our PE teachers were among the more memorable (in a good way) and respected of all. Ron Parry sounds as he is the same. My only criticism in my case was perhaps that the less able pupils (like me) tended to get ignored slightly. However I enjoyed PE and never tried to avoid it. With the increase in children with no father around, good male role models are vital and PE teachers I feel are able to provide this. It is just a pity that looking at the 1959 picture, something of real value with respect to a boy's education has been lost.

Comment by: Rob on 2nd May 2010 at 22:34

What was British Bulldog?

Comment by: JWB on 1st May 2010 at 23:25

In 1959 the school had just moved to new premises.
I was there 1960-67. The gymnasium was not a favourite place. I won't speak ill of the dead but games teachers, like maths teachers, never seemed to have much understanding of the less able. However, I do remember dazing Ron when I sat on his head in a violent game of British Bulldog.

Comment by: Will on 20th April 2010 at 00:00

I had a very similar experience to James when my PE teacher made me do laps of the playing field by myself as a punishment at the end of a lesson. The usual outdoor kit was white vest, white shorts (and socks) and trainers, but before I started the teacher shouted at me to take my vest off. Obviously I wasn’t keen to run bare-chested on a chilly afternoon but I had no option, and it probably made me run quicker, both to try and get warm and to get the whole thing over with. When I finally finished my laps I wasn’t allowed to put my vest back on and go indoors, first I had to do 20 press ups by the side of the field.
After that I didn’t mess about or not try in PE as I didn’t fancy repeating the experience, so in that sense it was an effective punishment. But it’s not a good idea to make boys strip to the waist outside as a general rule, then you remove that punishment option.

Comment by: Mark S. on 16th April 2010 at 15:19

When I was at secondary school in the late 1960s and early 1970s, boys' PE was done bare to the waist in very short black gym shorts and black plimsolls.No socks were allowed and it was forbidden to wear anything under your shorts.
Cross country running was done in the same kit. As it was a built up area,we had to run along residential streets, round a local park and back to the school past houses and small shops,exposed to public view throughout.

Comment by: James on 20th March 2010 at 19:31

The official kit was trainers, black shorts and white vest, but it seemed they forgot to tell our PE teacher. After changing we were taken outside, lined up and told to strip to the waist. Wasn't interested in your ability so long as you gave 100% and you were barechested.

I remember not giving 100% and found out the hard way one lunchtime when it was pouring with rain I was outside and having to do 15 laps round the rather large school field stripped to the waist. Lesson learned, I didn't make the same mistake again.

There's to much feminism in the school system today. Teach boys to become men and stripping to the waist indoors and outside for PE would help to do just that and maybe take away some of the edge youngsters have these days.

Comment by: Thumper23 on 7th March 2010 at 04:44

We were always shirtless and the school provided shorts. No UW was allowed, and if inside, barefoot, but shoes outside. One day one of my classmates arrived at PE without his outfit, and the instructor told him street clothes were not allowed, and to strip to his underwear for class. He was freeballing, so did the class naked. Remember back in the late 50's, it was all male classes. Everyone gave him a bad time, and he NEVER forgot it again. We also did our swimming at the YMCA, and that was nude also, so nobody had a problem with that

Comment by: Tony Marsh on 24th February 2010 at 11:52

Thanks for posting the photo of the Gym at Burnley Grammar School , it has brought back many memories . I was a pupil at the school from 1957 until 1962 and had many hard work outs in the gym under the supervision of Ron Parry , an excellent P E teacher. Basket ball was a relatively new sport in Burnley and I represented the school in local matches.An all boys school,in which the P E kit formed part of the school " uniform ". The stripes on the side of the shorts indicating which house you belonged to . Brun ( my house ) dark blue , Pendle red , Calder green , Ribble light blue . Happy days.

Comment by: andrew on 6th February 2010 at 20:15

What amazes me is this photo was from 1959 but 25 or so years later my uniform was much the same still. Tshirts and socks were listed on our uniform but for gym were still rarely worn- even 25 years on that was still the way.

20 years on again, brings us upto date and the simple shorts and plimsolls only uniform really does look like its from another era, but does capture the simple uncomplicated essence of all a gym uniform needs to be.

Comment by: Mark on 9th January 2010 at 17:14

Apparently the outfit is not uncommon in Continental Europe.
Here is a video of some boys training at a Belgian sports school in 2009:

Comment by: Rob on 6th January 2010 at 20:53

Yes, Neil - my son also went to an all boys school: barefeet was always an option for indoor PE lessons but apart from that the kit was white shorts and white t-shirt. Only a few weeks after he started the mum of one kid in his class packed his football shirt by mistake but he received no punishment - the teacher wasn't angry - he just said "If you haven't got the right shirt for the lesson, then you don't wear any shirt". After that more and more boys seemed to "forget" their shirts, soon joined by my son, and they never wore tops for PE again. He loved it because it meant that all he had to take were his shorts, which he used to roll up and stuff in blazer pocket!

Comment by: Neil on 5th January 2010 at 10:20

It’s noticeable that every boy in the picture is wearing exactly the same kit – white shorts, white plimsolls, no shirt.

At my school (early 80’s, boys only grammar), there was an official kit for PE and cross country (which we did one PE lesson all year around), this comprised white shorts, house vest, white socks and plimsolls.

To start with everyone wore all of the kit every lesson (with the exception that a few boys not wearing socks), but gradually items were skipped. By the time we reached the 2nd year, only a very few boys wore all of the kit, with around 50% wearing just shorts indoors, and others not wearing a shirt or being barefoot for indoor PE.

With cross country, a few boys ran stripped to the waist all year around, and nearly everyone did the same other than for the winter. One lad always ran in just shorts, always barefoot and always stripped down to the waist, so even on a freezing cold day with a biting wind he would just wear the same minimum kit, never any shoes or top.

Were other schools the same in that some boys wore less that the kit allowed, or were they the same as the featured school in that everyone wore the maximum kit allowed for each activity?

Comment by: mick on 3rd January 2010 at 21:14

my pe shorts were short.white nylon,a bit see through,my jockstrap was visible underneath,also the waistband,wore umbro nylon shorts,white for football,very smooth,and soft next to my skin.looked good in them,plus a jock.

Comment by: Rob on 3rd January 2010 at 16:39

Mark is right - shorts had got much shorter by the 60's and 70's. By the time we were aged about 13 or 14 I remember some boys had 3 or 4 inches of bare skin between their belly button and the top of their shorts - not good when we forced to do boxing or wrestling and the rule was "no hitting below the belt"! Anyone else experience that? I still agree it's exactly what today's kids need, though!

Comment by: Tim on 29th December 2009 at 17:26

This photo brings back many memories! Our official kit was a white vest, black shorts, socks and trainers. We were always made to remove our vests and go bare chested for all PE activities (from cross country, footie, rugby to basketball, fitness and athletics)regardless of the time of year or weather. This lasted until we left school after 6th form and A levels.

Comment by: Mark on 12th December 2009 at 13:34

The shorts in the picture seem quite large compared to those I can remember. I think we all had a couple of inches of bare skin below our belly buttons...

Comment by: mark on 2nd December 2009 at 11:20

My school switched from being an all boys school to being a mixed 6th Form College while I was there. A novelty was the arrival of the school's first female pe teacher, who helped out with the boys classes as well as 6th Form sports. It was team teaching, but I couldn't help wondering how she felt having to deal with 30 fourth or fifth formers in barefeet and no tops. That was in the 70s.

Comment by: pogue on 25th November 2009 at 00:51

I attended the school (Burnley Grammar)1975 -1980 Ron Parry was still the head of sports- he died I believe earlier this year.Nice bloke who cared for the school and the boys.you were only known by your surname as a pupil then.His school nickname was gay paris - never proven - but I never hung around in the showers. he once made me run twice round the grass track in the snow in bare feet and shirtless because my strip wasn't school regulation- he'd not get away with it nowadays.Other nicknames of the time were- bertie yoghurt- nobbie stokes- posy cowell- don juan (donald wain)- hitler and himmler the dinner ladies. takes me back.

Comment by: Peter on 11th November 2009 at 14:01

This shows you how important uniform is for school discipline. I am sure that boys play up much less when having to do PE like this, shirtless and barefoot, it puts them in their place and sends out a message about who is in control, the PE master!

Comment by: Toby on 21st October 2009 at 17:24

I was at a boys' school in the late 1970s/early 1980s and the PE kit was all white: T-shirt, shorts, socks & plimsolls. PE was never done shirtless or barefoot. The same kit was worn all year round no matter what the weather, including for outdoor athletics.

There was a "no pants" rule, which was strictly enforced at first, but after a few years was not, and boys started wearing pants and even swimming trunks under their PE shorts, which were very transparent.

Any boy who forgot his swimming trunks and towel would be made to swim in his PE shorts and use his T-shirt to dry himself.

Comment by: Crow on 4th October 2009 at 17:16

I remember a curious inversion of what most here said. I was at Northgate High School in Ipswich in the late 70's, a huge sprawl of brick and portacabins strangely absent from Google Maps, hell knows where THAT got hidden. :) While we played shirts and skins games in the unheated gym even when it was freezing out, and cold air coming in the wire mesh covered gap between the gym and the portacabin we changed in, we were supposed to wear more outside. One time I forgot my kit, as did one other boy. The teacher was a right taskmaster, and all the other boys were outside so as not to irk him or keep him waiting when he turned up. This time he was actually late. Two of us, still inside, wondering what to do, and I decided that I didn't want to be the butt of some kind of teacherly retribution so I said sod it, I'm going out there without the shirt I haven't got, better that than lurking in here. He agreed and joined me and we stood there fending off a few funny remarks from the rest, and the other guy had his hands together drawn up under his chin, like fending off the cold, while I was discovering how much I actually liked it. There was a biting sub-zero wind off the North Sea and ice all over the asphalt but I liked it. I rarely ever felt more alive up to that point, and having made the choice to do it was maybe part of it, having deliberately opted not to make myself a victim of circumstance. Anyway, the teacher came along, demanded why we were shirtless, etc, and found us shirts. The one I got stank, really, it was like vomit. It came off before I'd got halfway through the cross country run. One other guy also went shirtless, not the other guy who first chose to do it. He clearly also got it. It IS invigorating, it really does something good to feel the weather and know it isn't going to hurt or kill us, we just need to use our energy to balance it, not fight it. Very liberating. Towards the end of the run, coming back through the streets, a different teacher (there were two, and we rarely saw anything of them for most of a couple of hours) bellowed at us to put our shirts back on. Such a strange inversion, no? I always run shirtless now, even if it gets to -10¬?C with wind and freezing fog doing entertaining things to the hairs on my head and forearms. People look at me with varying looks, but the over-riding pattern is one of being unusual. It should NOT be such a big deal, but to many it now is. The 'reasons' against it border on the pathological, too, and I can only guess that the increased portrayal of people as sex objects to sell things and offer gratification in other ways has made people afraid of their own reactions to this, so they don't like being caught out feeling or thinking that way when they see someone shirtless in public. It's stopped builders being allowed to do it, far more than any risk of skin cancer would. It has nothing to do with safety, or health, and everything to do with a warped sense of morality. Fortunately you can see that it hasn't gotten to everyone, so it's just one of those stupid things peculiar to our age. Right now, for a few years so far, it's actually been fashionable for men to wear shorts all year round, it's big in the UK, and the US. Can't be doing with it myself, I'd rather be shirtless, it looks better, feels better, and I suspect that this fashion is a bizarre displacement of the same desires, changed into something different to find a socially acceptable form when older forms have somehow been denied to all but those of us who don't mind what people think enough to stop us. Things HAVE changed from what most here have said, maybe too much.

Comment by: Richard on 25th September 2009 at 13:26

I left school in the 90s and we didn’t have PE classes where everyone went shirtless as in the picture, but we did still have teams of shirts and skins. I was 13 the first time I ever heard the PE teacher use that phrase and didn’t even know what it meant when he announced my team was ‘skins’. Then one of my friends ran to the side of the gym, took off his vest and dropped it there and ran back bare chested. Suddenly the penny dropped and I realised I had to take my top off as well. From then on indoor football, basketball and sometimes other sports were always done as shirts and skins, with the teacher picking the teams, and that continued until I was 16.
I remember on one occasion we had to share the gym with another class whose outdoor lesson (either football or rugby) had been cancelled because of bad weather and that meant the teacher had to split more boys into more teams. Because the outdoor kit included black shorts, while my class wore all white in the gym, we ended up playing basketball as ‘skins and skins’, with every boy on the court bare chested but wearing different coloured shorts! That was a strange experience and, not surprisingly, fairly confusing when you tried to pass the ball.

Comment by: James on 22nd September 2009 at 15:46

My most abiding memory of this was after I moved to a new school at the age of 11.

My first PE session (a double!) took place on a cold Thursday morning in November. There'd been a sharp frost overnight, and so after assembly we changed into our kit (white vest and black shorts)and were told by the PE teacher the session would be outside.

Once we outside and in a line on the field the teacher looked along the line and told me to go in front of the class. Moments later I was told to strip and drop my vest on the ground. A couple of minutes passed then my new classmates were also made to strip down. There were no moans or groans, just a line of vests.

The teacher alternated the sessions so either the whole class were bare chested or half would wear their vests. I do remember being one of four or five lads who he very rarely picked to wear a vest and as a result almost permanently bare chested, irrespective of the temperature or if we were indoors or out.

Inter class competitions were done this way too, but differed for basketball and football. If you wore a vest for the first half, you stripped for the second and vice versa, allowing the girls to see both classes representatives bare chested during the match.

Comment by: john on 28th August 2009 at 09:56

at my junior schools we had to wear white nylon shorts solo,no vest, and plymsols.at the senior schools i ad to wear a jockstrap ,plus a crcket box for cricket,and nylon pe shorts.nylon umbro shorts for football,and a jock.we all showerd off after sports/pe nude.we had a medical once a year,wearing our shorts only,but had to take them off for the doctor.