Burnley Grammar School
Item #: 1607
Source: Lancashire Life Magazine, December 1959
It’s clear that the summer athletics kit should just have been socks and trainers, there was no point in making you wear a ridiculously hot rugby top only to have to take it off.
Chris - why is that even important?. Brad has quite clearly stated in terms he felt cold and uncomfortable. A better question would be to question the motives of schoolteachers, who, as late as the late 1980s still felt it necessary to humiliate boys like Brad, to indulge their bare feet and bare chest fetishes. It is bad enough it happened 70 years ago - to know it was still going on this late (when certain websites were available to assist with all kinds of kinks, were freely available) is appalling. It really does make you wonder if any schools still have perverted PE teachers who still get their thrills in this manner. They seem to be a law unto themselves.
It was a mixed school but there were two gymnasium so we did not exercise indoors together. The only time the girls got to see us stripped was at the start of the lesson when both boys and girls had to line up in the same area before entering the gym. Then we were very close to them because it was a small area.
For games outside we did athletics together so when we stripped off because of the heat they would have been very close and would have been able to watch us for the whole 2 hours.
Bran, was this a boys only school or did girls attend your lessons too?
I went from a primary school to a Middle school at the tender age of 9 years and 1 month in 1985. The Middle school was on the same site as the high school and shared the sports facilities but was otherwise totally separate. I attended from 9 till 12 years old when I moved up to the High school. I was a shy 9 year old and very average when it came to physical ability but I was never an overweight child. I was also an only child, the little boy of the family, soft and spoilt. I remember nothing at all about primary school which is kind of odd as my recollection of PE and games at Middle school are still very vivid. I think I can put that down to the shock of the discipline, the hard physical demands and strict dress code the new school imposed on me.
We had a full afternoon games session, in that first year it was the Friday slot so the last thing to endure before the freedom of the weekend. First term it was rugby, second term it was cross country and summer term it was athletics and sometimes softball. For rugby we wore a royal blue rugby shirt with a broad horizontal gold band with black cotton shorts with no underwear, knee length blue socks and boots. It could be bitterly cold out on the windswept pitch so you had to keep moving that winter. Legs would be red and sore but at least the thick shirt kept the upper body warm. The very same kit (except boots swapped for trainers), served for summer athletics when the opposite would be true, the thick long-sleeved rugby top making you sweat unbearably in the heat as you ran around the "all weather" hot and dusty track. I remember those four summer terms as long and hot. I liked the sprints but the long 800/1500 and 4000m races were very hard at 9. Needless to say the totally impractical top had to come off despite my shyness and the long socks were left back in the changing room. I ran like all the other boys in just shorts and trainers most of the time. The teachers took this for granted, they may even have suggested the revised kit which would have been more of a command. Under no circumstance would the more practical indoor kit have been allowed, that was just for PE. Cross country also used the rugby kit. As the weather was colder in Easter term you ran in shirts although some did discarded them as the weather warmed a bit. Being shy and never happy with a bare top, I was one to always run with a top on even as the temperature rose and I worked up a good sweat. I hated cross country. The courses were very long for a 9 year old and exhausting. They were always run around the local streets so never true cross country more like mini-marathons. We must have been very fit by Easter but I suffered for it.
We had two hours of indoor PE split between two mornings each week. For this the kit was a royal blue cotton vest, short legged white cotton gym shorts, short white gym socks and white trainers. That's what the schools official kit list said. For the first term we did some serious fitness training, for second term basketball and for summer term gymnastics. The gym teachers spelled out the kit they wanted at the first lesson of each term as we changed. Fitness training was to be done stripped to the waist in just shorts and trainers, no socks, gymnastics was to be done in just shorts and bare feet. Only in basketball did the vest serve a purpose and then only half the time as all games were played shirts vs skins. Once chosen at the start of the lesson to be a skin you remained a skin though-out the lesson, my recollection is that I was a skin most of the time, I think now that was because one teacher recognised my shyness and picked on me for it being a natural bully. The knowledge that I would be almost always stripped to the waist for PE made me hate the lessons. PE was purgatory because of the humiliation and extremely hard work. At that school PE and games were used to produce fit kids without doubt. It was almost like army boot camp.
I didn't get much escape at home either those summers. My mother got tired of my shyness now I was a middle school boy, my wearing of jeans and even sometimes sweaters when the weather was warm. Whenever she decided it was sunny enough I was now ordered to play in the garden in shorts, barefoot and shirtless because it was good for me. Even when I went for a bike ride which at that age I loved to do I was made to leave my top at home. You might think that all the enforced minimal clothing at school and home would eventually eliminate the shyness but that never happened.
I remember a particularly embarrassing day from that first year at middle school. Did your schools have open days when parents were invited in to see us kids in class and see displays of our work. We did I think about once per term. That summer term my class was chosen to be the gymnastics display in the gymnasium. At 9/10 years old we were all very flexible and had some skills. It meant that for 3 hours and 20 minutes, the full morning, we were made to perform for every parent who wanted to see the gym. For this occasion you might think they would want us to show off the full indoor kit which was pretty smart looking but no, teacher ordered us into our very short white gym shorts with he usual bare tops and bare feet. Hundreds of parents must have seen me vaulting and stretching whilst almost naked and I was a very shy little lad. I bet the men who stayed longest watching us exercise were the ones with a sexual interest for a young boy. My mother found me in the gym and stayed to watch me for a very long time. I was so embarrassed. I bet it was watching my pasty-white bare body like that which decided her on the policy of shirt off all summer when the sun was shining. I bet I did get a good tan that summer and the following ones until she decided I was old enough to decide again for myself.
Another big embarrassment to mention would be when kit was left behind. I never forgot my PE kit but I was an absent minded chap at 9 years old and on a couple of early occasions I left my bag behind in the classroom when we went across to the gymnasium. I think it was when the lesson before gym was in a different classroom to our home room. The school was very strict about getting to class quickly so there would have been little time to retrieve lost bags and I probably left kit behind deliberately so as not to be late and get a detention. PE detentions were evil. Once in the changing room you were not allowed to go back and get it however hard you pleaded. Instead the teachers acted like it was forgotten and I had to use the schools stock of kit. This consisted of a box containing only old worn gym shorts. Seeing classmates have to use items from this box was always a source of great amusement to every kid. There would always be one or two boys who would be the source of this fun each class. On a couple of occasions it was me. The teacher would hand me a pair of shorts he thought were the correct size. They would deliberately be the smallest in the box. And that was it. You would be the only barefoot boy in fitness class and running barefoot hurt after awhile. The joys of PE in the 1980's.
The final humiliation to mention would be having to stand to attention for long periods while being given instruction or when the teacher just got distracted. We had to stand in a certain way with legs slightly spread, back straight, hands behind our backs, looking forward with bare chests on full display just like a load of slave boys at a market.
I am glad young boys today have an easier time in PE than I ever did.
I approached this topic in completely the wrong way that is clear so I think I will start again. I had no experience of Misterpolls before so did not know of their unsavoury reputation so I removed the poll as soon as I was better informed.
I live in Kraaifontien South Africa. Its a town very close to Cape Town right at the southern tip of Africa. It is a relatively poor town compared to some neighbours but is slowly rising in wealth now. I started a gym club for junior boys back in 1995 when i was 30 using the local church hall. We have always done things on the cheap. DIY apperatus, limited mats and intentionally cheap gym kit.
The right kit for a gymnast is a close fitting leotard or singlet cost about 500Rand and will typically last only a year as the boys are growing so fast at this age. A t-shirt is never close fitting and there is an unacceptable movement when a safe contact or grip needs to be made. The boys like to work in pairs or groups. They balance on each other,make human pymamids, take firm hold in order to do candles and handstands and the older boys are used as the horses for vaulting. For all such activity skin on skin contact is safest unless the expensive close fitting garments are used. I chose right from the start not to give the mothers that expense. It never seemed necessary and still doesn't to my mind but there is greater wealth around now so the economy is less valid. Even so I don't want to see some boys in expensive kit and some boys bare chested, they all dress the same at my club.
A bare top does have other advantages. The hall is not air conditioned so you can imagine how hot it can get inside with all the activity for most of the year. Young boys don't sweat much they just get tired quickly from the heat so in order to be able to do more exercise they need to be encouraged to keep cool. Bare skin is a clear winner in that regard.
Other reasons for minimal clothing are less definate and more about my own opinions. I do think there are pycological advantages to making them work in just shorts. It helps concentrate their minds to the activity with the result they are harder working and generally more disciplined, and tight control is another aspect of safety in the gym. It is the main reason for using standing to alert as a control too.
As for the boys going barefoot. It is quite normal in south Africa for boys to do sport and run barefoot. Strong feet are essential for good gymnastics so I encourage them to be barefoot at all times. The alternative are gym socks but I don't have enough matting so the boys are usually on the wooden floor which is too slippery for gym socks.
I said before that the kit for the games sessions was black shorts and white t-shirt but in reality the boys are encouraged to remove their tops right at the start of the session and nearly all do as instructed. At camp the temp is nearly always over 15C so all outdoor exercise and running is done in just shorts.
It is a club not school remember so all attendance is voluntary and if kit was an issue they would leave. In reality of course the mothers use the club as cheap babysitting so the boys won't initially have a say but for boys of this age being instructed to do something is normal and I see no problem with that at gym. They need to be told what is best for them and as boys they should obey instruction and always do.
The "survey" was up on Misterpoll earlier today, but now seems to have been removed. Not surprised! It looked somewhat unsavoury, to say the least.
I sincerely hope "Skipper 55" returns to the site, because I personally found his two posts yesterday some of the most disturbing messages I have ever read here.
What went on in 1950, 1960, 1970 or 1980s is one thing - though many readers enjoyed (or say they did) the days of bare feet/bare chests/cold showers and liberal doses of the cane or slipper for the most minor digressions, they are, perhaps, looking through rose-tinted glasses, they perhaps don't understand the misery lads who were either over or underweight (the latter in my case) or who had large birthmarks or scars, went through several times a week.
We are - or should be - at this late date, aware of some of the - shall we say? - indiscretions - that were allowed to be overlooked in past times, but not today, are we?.
May I take a quote from his "survey"?:
"If I said the varnished wooden floor was slippery and bare feet are an essential safety precaution could you agree with me
If I said that for young gymnasts it is important to go barefoot because it has been proven to strengthen the foot and aid in both balance and jumping, could you agree with that
Forgive me, Skipper, if I say this sounds like excuse rather than a reason., onthe lines of: If I tell you A and you don't agree, if I give you another reason, B - will you agree with that?
He says that many of the boys come from poor families - so did many at the school I went to, but even then, you can get cheap tee shirts (try Primark), and many children wear their older brothers clothing once they grow out of it. Sometimes you would pass something on to a mate if you didn't need it anymore.
As I said before boys don't sweat very much at this very young age, if hygiene is the reason he chooses for "minimal clothing" - will these lads be allowed to wear underpants, or are they off to in the interests of "uniformity"??
In mitigation, it can be said that Skipper is being open - it does make you wonder how many men who run junior clubs inflict their own beliefs or desires on to their very young charges who are probably still too young to question them.
If you are helping young, poor lads, many supermarkets, for example, run community schemes to help clubs by the equipment they need. Why not apply to, for example Asda, Tesco or Morrisons. Buy them the same colour shorts - and the tee shirts to go with it.
What Skipper is doing is what I, and many others, resented years ago, was that somebody else's idea of discipline and toeing the line makes those you are doing it too, uncomfortable and resentful.
I repeat my usual caveat - if a boy or boys, WISHES to remove his shirt, by all means let him, but don't use that as a trojan horse for making all the rest conform.
The links are working fine if you type them in directly to your browser Bit of a weird place for a serious objective survey, though
Skipper55: It s 2021, not 1951 - Frankly, this obsession with a "shorts only" policy worries me. It was bad enough when we are talking about 40-60 years ago, but to try to introduce it today - and to make such a "thing" about it..... If I were a parent I would discourage my son from taking part - my memories of the past perhaps colour my judgement, but there is absolutely no need for it today - showers are freely available, and anyway boys of 7-11 don't sweat that much.
The links do not seem to be working so I will copy the questions here and maybe you will all comment for me.
I run two sessions. Three and a half hours on Saturday afternoon and two hours on Monday evening. Is this amount of exercise
Just about right
Of the 5.5 hours about 1.5 is games, often the boys favourite choices and 4 hours is continuous exercise or skill practice. Is this a good balance.
No - should be more game time
No - should be more serious gym
Because of the young age of the boys my emphasis at the club is to develop very good conditioning so they can be optimally prepared if they wish to do more serious gymnastics beyond 12. I think skills are less important at this age. Is this the correct approach.
yes, it is essential for them to have the strength, flexibility and balance so concentrate on conditioning
No, the boys would probably enjoy more skill training and less hard physical exercise
The surrounding area is quite poor so the kit is kept as simple and inexpensive as possible. White T-shirt and black gym shorts with bare feet for the games. Shorts only with bare top for the exercises and skill training. I strongly believe there should be a prescribed gym kit so they all look the same. Do you think my choices of kit are appropriate today.
yes, as a parent I would have no problem with this
no, as a parent I feel it is inappropriate for my son to be bare chested while exercising
no, I feel the T-shirt is unnecessary and therefore the kit could be further simplified
no children should not be made to work barefoot
no, I see no reason for a prescribed kit at all, let them wear whatever they like
If I said the varnished wooden floor was slippery and bare feet are an essential safety precaution could you agree with me
If I said that for young gymnasts it is important to go barefoot because it has been proven to strengthen the foot and aid in both balance and jumping, could you agree with that
If I told you the boys often worked in pairs, hold on or balancing on each other, and that I often need to take hold of a boy when teaching new skills and that a shirt, even tucked in, always slips. Could you agree that having a bare top is a reasonable safety precaution
If I told you the gym hall was always very warm with so many active boys and that being hot leads to quicker tiredness and less work achieved and that bare skin is the best way for the boy to stay cool while exercising. Would this be a good argument to retain exercising with minimal clothing.
If I told you that watching the boys work with minimal clothing helps me to ensure they are neither over or under-worked/stretched due to my long experience observing could you agree with that
If I said that working without a top encourages the boys to achieve a good body image of themselves and loose shyness from my experience. Could you agree with me
If I said that boys made to work bare chested have greater discipline and that for safety reasons a high level of discipline is essential for gym could you agree with me
If I told you that almost all the boys come to prefer working in just shorts after some initial apprehension would that sway your decisions
yes it could
no, it makes no difference
I also take the boys to weekends away in the country each month using a large sleeping barn which is very reasonably priced if very basic. I take no more than 6 at a time which is about half the boys. The following questions are about activities when away. First is wrestling acceptable if the boys love it and they can do it safely.
Is a shorts only policy for wrestling ok with you
yes I am now fine with this
no, I still find this unacceptable
Usually the boys are asked to do a morning run of about 1 mile on grass in the surrounding fields. For this I ask the boys to run barefoot unless there is frost on the ground and if the temperature is greater than 10C I also require them to run without a top. Would you be OK with this
yes, toughens them up
no, too strict
During the weekend there would normally be three, 3 hour exercise sessions outside on the field behind the barn. My policy is that if the temperature is greater than 15C the boys work out without a top as the usual practice. Does this now sound reasonable to you
yes, again it toughens them up and encourages harder work
no, again too strict
A simple final question. If you had a son aged 7 to 10 would you allow him to be a member of the gym club.
yes I would have no problems at all with your methods
no your methods are just too old fashioned
I have just found this forum and it is very interesting and also surprisingly relevant to my current situation. I run a small gym club for 7 to 11 year old and have done now for 25 years. In all that time I have never changed the way the club is run and I was a bit traditional to start with. Some mothers have voiced disapproval of some of my methods and although I don't think it has ever caused me to loose boys it might be effecting new membership. I though I would create a poll and ask for peoples opinions. I look forward to hearing what you all think.
And for message forum https://www.misterpoll.com:80/forums/327868
We had official PE and cross country kit, but could omit items if we wanted to.
Some boys wore shorts, t-shirt, socks, plimsolls, with a range of kit down to some boys only wearing shorts in the gym and xc.
So, did boys hate this limited kit, or were they quite happy to run outside barefoot and shirtless ?
Shortly before my 9th birthday my dad told me I'd be starting boxing lessons so very reluctantly and not having any say in the matter we turned up one morning and that was me. There were a good few of us around the same age and most trained and fought barechested like the older boys For me school was no different,the expectation of going barechested in the freezing gym (which was cold all year round) and cross country and teams of skins v vests outside. I remember my dad complaining to the school after the PE teacher left me on the vests team, I never wore a vest for any PE/Games lesson afterwards.
Judging from all the long-suppressed angst expressed here about vests, I am rather glad that that this particular childhood experience passed me by! I don't remember Mum or Dad ever wearing a vest, neither did my sister or I once we outgrew baby-style vests, and I can't remember seeing any of my mates at my boys-only junior school wearing one when we were changing for PE or games. PE indoors was always topless, with reversible two-colour rugby shirts for outdoor activities, cross-country, team games etc. Going commando was encouraged, but not insisted on, but if you kept your underpants on for the lesson, you had to have a clean pair to put on afterwards, and most of us chose to go without. There were no showers, but on PE and games days we were expected to bring a towel to rub ourselves down after exercise.
John, I had no issue with the shirt free kit. And we very rarely had indoor PE. It was my Mother's insistence on wearing a vest I found bizarre. Given that I would be outdoors at 9am in nothing but a pair of thin shorts, regardless of weather conditions
I can’t see why you thought that you needed a top for doing indoor PE when you’d very quickly get hot and sweaty exercising. The kit made sense, it never bothered me.
I wore sleeveless singlet-style cotton vests throughout my schooldays. In the days before central heating or double-glazing were the norm, my mother had a perception that all manner of ills could result from being cold, and hence considered a vest to be an essential underwear item.
On a winters day aged 12, I used to leave home well wrapped up - in effect, vest, shirt, eater, blazer, coat.
Our first lesson was cross country (part of PE), so an hour later I was back outside, stripped down to only my shorts, no shirt allowed plus in the case of a number of boys bare feet as well.
One of my neighbours saw us running one freezing day, and commented, saying none of them had shirts on, Andy looked frozen". My Dad's response was "they all have to run like that, he doesn't mind" (I did mind, but as you'll guess didn't get a say in it).
I couldn't leave home without a vest in my early High School years. Having PE first on a winter morning made the requirement rather ridiculous. From the mandatory vest, shirt, blazer and parka to mandatory no vest or top of any nature.
Our official kit was shorts and pumps (outdoor) But most went barefoot. It was preferable to wet pumps. I got chiblains wearing them so went barefoot.
At grammar cshool we had to do indoor PE in juts our shorts and run cross country shirtless. My Mum didn't think it was right her "little lad" had to run outsde in winter stripped to the waist, but, as always then "teachers know best"
So now of course did I have to wear a vest, after all shirtless outside in winter, but vest under shirt inside ? The "no one wears a vest approch" won in the end.
Andy. As I have posted previously my nan had a great deal to do with my upbringing and that was rather old fashioned., because she was the generation before my parents.
So when I went to my first Scout camp my first experience away from home I felt a great sense of freedom. We slept in tents about 6 to a tent, and we had activities which nowadays would be deemed too risky. With regards to kit, PJs were on the kit list but no one insisted we wore them. I felt quite a rebel sleeping in my briefs, and then later on into the camp most of us decided not to wear anything in our sleeping bag. The PJ's went home suitably creased and a bit of dirt as if worn. But then at home back to PJ's.
Thinking back on my school days I suppose the fact that pe was nothing under shorts gave me the freedom that even Nan could not argue with.
Finally, I still remember the horrible woollen swimming trunks we wore on holiday all itchy and when wet very saggy.
Ah! - the much hated vest!
In primary school we stripped to our underwear for p.e. There were two boys in my class who didn't wear vests so they did p.e. topless whereas the rest of the boys and all the girls had to keep their vests on. I remember thinking that was unfair and hating the vest even at that early age. In the last year of primary school p.e. was segregated and we boys changed into p.e. shorts, removing our tops and footwear though I think we kept our pants on. This was to prepare us for secondary school and made us feel very grown up!
At grammar school we wore shorts only for p.e. - no tops, footwear or underwear right the way through the school. This, however, had little or no effect on vest wearing the rest of the time. When I started at the school in 1964 about three quarters of my class wore vests under their white uniform shirts - it was easy to see. By the time I got to the sixth form I think there were only two boys still wearing vests. This was not just because we were getting older - it seemed that vests were disappearing right through the school. Boys frequently walked aroung the building without blazers so it was obvious if a boy had a vest on under his shirt. It was a great sense of achievement when I persuaded my mother that I didn't need to wear a vest one very hot summer day and I never looked back.
Andy's comment "you can leave your vest off until it gets cold" describes it precisely, only it was Mum who got to define "cold". However, I managed to put off the evil day until the end of the October half-term oliday, and unilaterally declared "Summer" the following Easter. When the next school year started in September, topless PE was introduced, and vests effectively became redundant as far as i was concerned.. As for PJ tops, I carried on sleeping topless, a state of affairs that Mum, rather surprisingly, never questioned,
At 11/12 everyone wore pj's, at school some boys said they didn't anymore. they wore pants/briefs, or just the pj bottoms.
At a scout camp at 14 or so we shared a dorm - mostly boys slept in their briefs/pj bottoms, one "brave" lad stripped totally (I was shocked !)
So Andy did that mean you did not want to wear anything in bed? Is that what your friends did?
All sounds very familiar - "you can leave your vest off until it gets cold" "But Mum none of the other boys wear a vest, Steve doesn't wear pj's either !!"
Claire, see these these for example.
Chris G. You said (2 Sep) that, after a summer of not wearing a vest and sleeping topless, when cooker weather returned you were expected to be wearing vests and PJ tops again. Did you manage to dispense with these next summer, and did you get to go without them altogether while living with your parents?
William, any citations available?