Clitheroe Royal Grammar School
Item #: 1602
Source: Lancashire Life Magazine, November 1959
Hi Richard. Sorry you feel you have to patronise me, but I am neither young nor ill-informed, I was born in 1956 and attended two secondary schools and later taught in several others in the Manchester area before a career change to the Dept of Education in the 1990's. I received the cane (twice) during my time t school, saw the introduction of computers, calculators, even felt pens. Saw the disappearance of short trousers, showering after Games and mandatory nude swimming! (although this was not a requirement at any school I went to) However I have NEVER seen or heard of anyone doing Cross-country in bare feet, even in pre H&S days there was far too much risk of injury, and no PE teacher I have ever met (and some of them were real bastards!) would send boys off school grounds without shoes or shirts/vests. I know it wasn't 'indecent' for boys to go without shirts (poor choice of phrase on my part) but it was considered 'inappropriate' by all the teachers I knew, fine on the school field, but outside the gates? Never!
To Oliver - I'm not sure what the problem is. Quite a few people have commented that they ran cross country shirtless and barefoot many years ago. It was no big deal, except perhaps in the coldest of weather. There were certainly no "public decency" issues with boys exercising shirtless 50 years or so ago and bare feet gave as good a grip as plimsolls which were the only alternative then.
There is a short video on the internet of Ohope Beach School's 2011 cross country event. This is a primary school in New Zealand and most of the children ran in bare feet - the fact that some were wearing shoes makes it look as though they had a choice - the terrain was not all grassy.
We all had varying experiences in our schooldays and the lack of one particular experience in the life of one individual should not be taken as meaning that no-one else had that experience either. I appreciate that, in the interests of equality and political correctness, it seems that boys have become somewhat feminised recently and are discouraged or even forbidden from removing their shirts in situations where once it would have been quite normal and acceptable.
Reply to comments by Matthew
I know what Mathew is saying, and agree completely with him. I was at school a few years after that and it was exactly the same. At our school we wore t-shirts in the gym but I know that friends at other schools didn't, and indoor football was always shirts V skins, although we always wore shirts or vests for outdoor PE! Nude showering was compulsory, and heaven help anyone who tried to 'skip' it, and while we swam at the local council pool, so like Mathew we all had to wear trunks, but a couple of the boys in my patrol at Scouts went to Manchester Grammar which like many other 'Public' schools, famously had compulsory nude swimming for all the boys! We also did X-country in all but the most severe weather, dressed only in shorts and running vests or t-shirts (AND shoes of course!) with the PE teacher following us on a bike in a full tracksuit!!!
What I am very dubious about is these claims of boys doing X-country completely topless (round the school field perhaps, but certainly not out on the local streets and footpaths) and the frankly pretty unlikely claim of running X-country in bare feet. This is Britain guys, not S.Africa! Professional runners and modern schoolboys manage to run through puddles and mud without their shoes 'quickly disintegrating' and the potential for foot injuries is very high. With the possible exception of a few 'sadistic' PE teachers (and there were some!) I doubt this ever happened!
To Oliver - you are obviously young and ill-informed. In the 60s there were no computers in schools or homes; there was corporal punishment and some boys ran cross country barefoot, shirtless or both. Just because it might not happen now does now mean it didn't happen 50 years ago. I'm sure boys were a lot tougher then and it wasn't thought of as indecent for boys to be seen outside without shirts.
To Oliver. In the 1950s and into the early 60s, the school system had total power over us - conscription in post-school life would take the control to even greater levels. I never ran in rain or snow but, in my case, PE (including running) was always done stripped to the waist and wearing plimsolls and there was the compulsory communal shower afterwards. There was no swimming at my school but I had a friend who went to an all-boys school where swimming was done naked throughout his secondary school career (11 - 18)
Oh come on! Doing cross country running barefoot and topless? I just DO NOT believe that on the grounds of safety and public decency! There is a few too many erotic fantasies going on here!
Those lads look positively over-dressed! It was a little later when I was at secondary school but we always ran barefoot and stripped to the waist. These boys may have had to wear a bit more as the photo was going in a local paper, perhaps - what they are wearing is hardly uniform. We used to run through deep mud and streams - any footwear would not have lasted long so bare feet were the only sensible option.
Good for you John! It's interesting that you've found some of today's teenagers so accepting of people who prefer to exercise shirtless, even though they don't choose to do so themselves. I can't help thinking they might be more likely to go shirtless if it was something they had experienced at school, as we did in my day (and clearly yours too). The majority of PE lessons at my school involved Shirts v Skins so I had to get used to being shirtless from a young age. I remember the first time I was a Skin and had to strip to the waist it felt a bit strange but, like John, I soon found I actually preferred it. We weren't required to do cross country shirtless but one summer's day another boy in my class asked to take his top off and was given permission to do so. When I saw that I decided to join him, along with a couple of other lads, and I loved the feeling of freedom, of the elements on my bare skin. After that I ran shirtless whenever I could and have continued to do so. I think it's a shame that boys today aren't given the same opportunity because, as far as I know, Shirts v Skins just doesn't happen in schools any more.
I have been following this thread for a while and note the comments. I'm an older person and have no qualms about running Shirtless, like Dave I used to try and do without a Vest or Tee in Gym/PE class at school and used to prefer being on the 'Skins' Team when it came to "Skins v. Vests" for any team games played in the Gym. I run shirtless when ever possible as well. I'm training for an off-road event including obstacles at the end of March (which I intend to do shirtless in view of the extreme wetness/mudiness-likleyhood of the event); last week I was doing a Shirtless run and Obstacle Practice at a local Outdoor-centre, I had finished-up and was going to get showered-off when I got talking to one of the Centre Staff. They had no objection to me running shirtless personally and that the *kids* present at the centre probably would not mind but that any *parents* picking up their kids Might, so they asked me to stick a shirt on for my walk-back to the Changing rooms, which I did.
)I think it might have been half-term for some of the local schools).
What does this say about the Parents, as opposed to the Children?
I did a shirtless Run yesterday at the same place yesterday, involving more muddy off-road sections and Obstacles Practice, I cam across a group of about 6 or 7 16-18 year olds practicing Bouldering/Climbing on a large Boulder edifice. I stopped with them for about 5 minutes and we had a general chat about what they were doing; they were cool about my Shirtless-ness although of course they were dressed for THEIR activity including the customary 'Slogan' Tees and hats.
I explained that I was 'old-school' and that running shirtless as such wasn't really a big deal for me and I got the impression that they did not mind at all. The day's weather was cool - around 7c and breezy with occasional Rain squalls interspersed with brighter intervals. I had around 50minutes out on the trails at the Centre and the Obstacle Course and felt fine afterwards, no ill-effects.
re: Andrea's reply,
We were the same for swimming, as I stated we had to wear normal swimwear for 'official' swimming lessons, gala's, competitions etc. The school swimming lessons when we all went in the pool completely naked were additional, and were held on weekday lunch-hours, Wednesday being mixed boys and girls, and Saturday mornings being mixed and open to everyone, swimwear was optional and most of us went nude!
With regard to changing for PE, we had to use the classrooms for things like sportsday, (because of the numbers involved) but for normal PE and country dancing lessons we had a changing room, and of course at our school boys and girls did these lessons together, all of us had to strip-off, we were only allowed to wear a pair of shorts with no underwear, shoes or tops, and the no-tops rule applied to the girls as well! I didn't like PE or country dancing as I wasn't any good at them, but at the end of the lessons Miss Newman (who took us for PE) always told us all to take our shorts off and go in the showers with nothing-on. Somehow I doubt if a female teacher would be allowed to supervise a crowd of naked 11 year old's in the showers THESE days! I confess that I might not have liked games or PE, but I DID love going in the showers, I could have stayed there for hours!
Martin - I think you must have been at school later then me. I was at a boys grammar school in the 60s and we did "proper" cross country runs - along a rough track, out on to a road and on to a large area of open countryside where we ran on paths, across grassy sections, through a muddy stream and around the edge of a ploughed field. We did this all barefoot and shirtless throughout the year but mostly in the winter. There was probably less broken glass around then but plenty of sharp stones etc but no-one ever came to any harm. I don't think I could do it now but youngsters feet are tougher than adults or they were then. From seeing visiting schools cross country teams it seems as though it was not uncommon - some teams wore plimsolls, some ran barefoot.
I never knew what a jock strap was - I heard of the boxes that cricketers wore but otherwise nothing was allowed under shorts for any p.e. or games and certainly no shoes or shirts!
This is a repeat of a post I made under the Burnley Grammar School thread, but relevant as it's about primary school pe.
There was no nude swimming when I was at primary school in the 1960s. The boys wore swimming trunks and we wore one piece bathing costumes.
For pe. I generally wore a pe skirt or shorts and a T shirt. As there were no changing rooms we had to change in our classroom along with the boys, so by the final year I got quite adept at putting on my pe kit before removing my school skirt! I was still flat chested when I left primary school so changing into the T shirt wasn't an issue (I generally wore a vest anyway), but a few of my more 'developed' classmates were allowed to go to the toilets to change.
In a very similar vein I will repost what I posted earlier under another page. I was at Shears Green Primary School in Kent (southern UK) from 1979. Our school was a normal local primary school with just over 400 children from 7 to 11½ years old. PE and country dancing lessons were always mixed but we were only allowed to wear one item of clothing, thin cotton shorts for the boys and knickers for the girls, we ALL had to do the lessons barefoot and topless (even the girls!) although girls who had started to 'develop' could request permission to wear a t-shirt. However the school was MOST famous (infamous?) for it's nude swimming lessons in the schools indoor pool, this went on from the late 1960's to the mid 1980's and was girls nude swimming on mondays, boys on fridays and MIXED on wednesdays, I seem to remember there was mixed nude swimming on saturday mornings as well. Look up Shears Green Primary on facebook, there are many memories from former pupils about it!
To Spence again we would only see the girls on Sports Days etc.
I do recall on one Sports Day when after Running the mile race stripped to the waist a few girls came up to me and spoke to me.
Yes we were always stripped to the waist whatever the conditions.
When we went outside the school grounds I don't recall anyone making any comments.
Were you aleays stripped to the waist outdoors, regardless of weather/time of year? Did you do cross country through streets where you could be seen by the public? If so, what was their reaction?
You say you never saw the girls. Did you never use the playing fields at the same time?
Reply to Mark: My previous comments about boys and girls at my school doing swimming lessons together completely nude and doing PE 'topless' related to Primary school, ie we were all under 12, and while swimming nude was optional, topless PE was mandatory for everyone! I then went to a boys only Grammar School, but even in the Co-ed Secondary Modern school I very much doubt PE lessons would have been mixed, largly because of the much greater number of pupils at secondary schools! I do know that we would NEVER have been allowed to do cross country 'topless', out on the local streets a vest was considered the minimum for 'decency' and running barefoot simply wouldn't have happened, I am slightly skeptical that anyone actually did 'proper' cross country in bare feet, there would have been far too many opportunities for foot injuries from tree branches, broken glass, sharp stones and other debris. I think the limit of outdoor barefoot running would have been round school fields, and given the number of inconsiderate people who exercise dogs on school fields, that also would be a potentially rather unpleasant activity (YUK!) As for the enthusiastic discussion about types of jockstraps, we never used them, I don't recall ever having seen one in all the time I was in secondary school, and certainly never wore one (not that I ever had very much for it to support, sadly!) the only 'protection' we ever wore was a cricket 'box' they were mandatory and were held in place by wearing swimming trunks under our flannels, the ONLY time we were allowed to wear any form of underwear for PE or sport.
I went to mixed schools throughout my school career and doing mixed PE was unheard of.
What the girls wore I don't know but boys were always stripped to the waist for indoor PE and many also went barefoot.
For outdoors and cross-country again we went stripped to the waist and again some lads went barefoot.
I went to Shears Green Junior School in Kent, from the 1960's until the late 1980's boys and girls did PE and country dancing together, before the lesson we had to take ALL our clothes off and were only allowed to put on one item of clothing, cotton shorts for boys and PE knickers for the girls, everyone (even the girls) did PE topless and without shoes or underwear. Girls in year 6 were allowed to wear t-shirts or vests if they wanted to, but ONLY if they had started to develop noticible boobs! After PE and dance lessons we had to take our PE kit off and go in the showers naked, we also had nude swimming lessons in the school pool, this was for everyone, right up to 11 years old, girls only on Monday, Boys only on Friday and mixed nude swimming lessons (for which we needed our parents written permission) on Wednesday and Saturday morning, which were always very popular! Shears Green has pages on facebook and Friends Reunited and there are many, many memories of those days, many people think now that it was a bit 'weird' but we really enjoyed it at the time
Like Dave I was shocked at having to do PE and cross-country stripped to the waist especially as I wasn't very well-built or muscular.
When I started at Secondary School in the late 1950s I was shocked to find out they we had to do PE stripped to the waist.
After a few sessions indoors we were told we would be doing cross-country going out of the school grounds - again stripped to the waist.However I soon got used to it.
The pe kit at my secondary school in the 1970s was just white shorts. I was more bothered I suppose with being barefoot than without a top. In the hall that we sometimes used our soles became black with dust within a couple of minutes and climbing wallbars in the gym meant getting boys' barefeet in your face, or climbing onto your hands which I didn't like. PE outside was also sometimes done in shorts only which could be cold and the wet grass made it quite unpleasant until you got used to it. I always did cross country in plimsolls thankfully, though.
Like Mark I had to do cross-country stripped to the waist and barefoot running almost entirely on pavements.
When I did cross-country we all were stripped to the waist and barefoot running mainly on pavements and grass.
Mostly paths some grass some dirt and pavements . I new the rules if we had P.E that day you had to do it . Not having the right kit was not a reason for getting out of it. So if you forget you trainers you did it in barefeet.
That seems tough. Did you run across rough ground or just on grass?
I went to school in the 70's I remember forgetting my trainers and we had cross country and he made us run in barefeet
Those lads were lucky.
We were bare-chested whatever the conditions.
The winters in the 1960's always seemed to be cold and again at my school we always had to do PE stripped to the waist whatever the the weather.
This also included doing cross-country bare-chested.
I well remember coming back to school after the Christmas holiday in January 1963 with maybe upto a foot of snow on the ground.
The boilers had also frozen and we were sent home for the rest of the week.
But when we came back on the following Monday we had PE and we still had to strip to the waist albeit indoors in the cold gym.
A few days later we had to go outside and again we were all stripped to the waist.