Burnley Grammar School
Item #: 1607
Source: Lancashire Life Magazine, December 1959
John S - Maltamom is a 'well-known' individual, who's been around for some time. I think 'they' used to troll Mumsnet and I've come across 'them' elsewhere.
Just a little fed up with ‘Mr Dando’s’ endless interventions/posts on here and the other similar threads. He obviously has a ‘thing’ about kids changing for PE and a quick look through earlier contributions shows a similar set of posts from ‘Maltamon’. Is he the same individual I wonder?
My first school was very easy going kit-wise. As long as you had white shorts, a white top and clean plimsolls it didn't matter where they came from. Until we went topless, most of us just wore our ordinary underwear vests, and Mum a free-lance dressmaker, even made me a pair of shorts on one occasion. My second school was more demanding. We had to have a round-neck short-sleeve top in white and black rugby shorts, both from a specified supplier, and topless was never an option,
Yes my P E kit was often passed down from my older brother. When eventually I had new there was no particular school shop stockist. Plain football shorts (also worn for P E)and of course there were very few brand labels, and we had to have plain shorts.
Umbro produced lovely plain white nylon shorts in vast quantities. I missed them by a few years but they were ideal in my view. With just ankle socks and trainers if necessary there would be no excuses for putting together an expensive kit.
In the early 1960s my PE kit, including ankle socks and plimsolls, had to be plain white, with no stripes or coloured hems, etc. of any kind.
Even if they had been available, the school would not have allowed fashion labels or logos. This meant we avoided this form of peer pressure.
Additionally, my PE kit could be bought from any sports wear or school uniform stockist, without the price being inflated by designer styles.
I have never had the experience of swimming naked. Obviously from what a lot of people have recorded it is enjoyable, but now a days in modern Britain it is very unlikely for me. that now I never will.
AS I have stated before the general opinion is that males should not wear a brief style swimming costume. Long shorts and board shorts seem to be the norm.
@ Tom B. How I agree with you on all points you have made, especially on PE kit, a lot is peer pressure into having the best kit, trainers, shorts, fancy tee shirts and track suits all costing a small fortune, I can attest to this as my grandson when he was at school had a small fortune spent on him, for the various sports that the school ran, and actually he wasn't really a bit interested in most of the sports, just keeping fit, he did them of course because he had to, he was more of an academic and studied hard, to which that has now rewarded him with a good job.
Like many he does use a gym now and wishes that facilities like that were available to him when at school instead of the "team" games that were mandatory.
As regards showering he told me that it wasn't mandatory at his schools but he did shower as he prided himself in his appearance and wasn't afraid of being seen naked in the changing rooms or showers.
The only naked swimming I did was in the local river and a couple of secluded lakes in my boyhood and like you said I do envy those who had to do it at school.
I have read the last few pages of comment here with interest and it has made me reflect on my experience of various aspects of PE in schools between 1990 and 2002, much later than many here. Obviously I never had to endure corporal punishment and am very grateful for the fact. That said, I don’t feel other changes represent progress.
I attended a state primary school and honestly, I don’t remember much about PE. I don’t remember what the PE kit consisted of other than “pumps” and the fact that those who forgot their kit had to do it in vest and pants.
I moved to a small independent mid way through term at the age of 7. The school uniform was grey shorts - all year round, a shirt and blazer. For PE we wore white shorts and a T shirt, bare footed but there were no restrictions on underwear. For football, white shorts were exchanged for navy blue.
At my senior school the uniform shorts were exchanged for trousers, socks and trainers added to PE kit and a reversible rugby shirt worn for football and rugby.
PE lesson content
At primary school I really remember nothing of PE. I can’t say I ‘got involved’ at all.
After that, PE was mixed with a single year group, while boys and girls separated for ‘games’ but joined other year groups.
At the junior school equipment was very limited and PE consisted of gymnastics moves on the mats or using the box as in the photograph. We did not have ropes or wall bars. Games lessons were football in the autumn and spring terms, cricket in the summer.
From the age of 11 again, the gymnasium was pretty limited and while we did have ropes and some wall bars, rarely used them. Basketball, hockey and rounders were introduced at PE and occasionally we did cross country runs. Games lessons were rugby in the autumn term, football in the spring and cricket in the summer.
My view on this is that the curriculum is flawed. Having found strength and conditioning training and the importance of flexibility some two decades later I firmly believe schools should focus on bodyweight training particularly for younger boys and introduce weights as they get older focussing more on that kind of physical education and less on ‘games’ - football, rugby and cricket are specialised areas for those with an interest, skill or just a desire to play.
I saw a documentary recently on the La Sierra Physical Educational programme and it certainly looks to tick all boxes in terms of getting all included and active.
Changing and shower facilities
My Junior school didn’t have changing facilities. for PE we would change in the corridor outside the hall while for games lessons our classrooms were used. There were no showers.
When I moved to the senior school I was quite shocked. The 11 year old me first, inadvertently walked into the older boys changing rooms which contained a changing area at either end of an open shower with 12 shower heads. I then found the younger boys changing room with 3 changing areas and an open shower room with 6 shower heads.
The majority of my classmates had come from the junior section of the same school so knew each other and had been showering together for 4 years. At 11 and somewhat shy I found it embarrassing after the first games (rugby) session to strip off and shower - ironically because my development had come earlier - a fact I should have revelled in.
That single experience put me off communal showering and I avoided it over the next few years. It was never mandatory and though some boys showered after every session the majority didn’t. The showers were only full after an inter-school rugby or football match.
I was however always jealous of the ease at which some boys would strip down and shower. Now, after a gym session I am perfectly at ease with my own nudity in the changing room.
Modern day policies against the old
As I say I wish I had not let nudity with my classmates bother me. Had I started showering with my class at the age of 7 rather than 11 I don’t think it would have become a problem and so it is my belief that mandatory communal showering should come back.
When I think back to my day and PE uniform at the schools I attended it was far more minimal and so affordable. Parents now have to shell out for branded tracksuits and such, for me it was just a few pairs of shorts and a t-shirt/rugby shirt.
Finally, for those of you who were able to enjoy naked swimming, on balance I think you were really pretty lucky!
Michael, I tend to agree with you. baasic gymnastics, foreard rolls, star-jumps etc. were OK, and I would happily go up the wall-bars of even a rope, but I never mastered hand-stands, especially on a horse or box, and forward/backward circles on a beam, or even walking along a beam at altitude, scared me witless. Somehow, I survived, as i expect most of us did!
As a cautious, forward-thinking boy I could never see the point of putting myself at risk of breaking my neck, by performing gymnastics for which I had little enthusiasm.
But, like the boys in the picture, I was regularly forced to do handstands on top of a vaulting box, climb ropes to the lofty ceiling and perform many other gymnastic routines which frankly terrified me.
My PE master was ex-forces bully, who regarded any hesitation to comply with his demands almost as an affront to his authority, and punished accordingly.
My fear of him outweighed my fear of breaking my neck, so I got into the habit of doing as I was told as quickly as I could, whilst still nervous of the potential hazards.
But years of this amounted to a scarring experience which has defined my attitude to exercise/sport ever since.
It starts with the feminisation of schools. No stripping to the waist for PE even indoors. This was a ritual the majority of boys would experience. Boys do not need a top to exercise in and I'm sure a lot of today's youngsters would enjoy stripping down and showing their masculinity and physique.
It is clearly the "British Reserve" that we are so obsessed in covering up so much. It would be nice to have the freedom to be "more free" Sometimes i can do this when in my garden, but it is not very secluded and I always have a pair of shorts with me to put on very quickly if necessary.
Even our Gym does not have segregated times when users could perhaps indulge in a bit of freedom.
@Josh H @Bernard. Agree i have travelled a lot across Europe in the last 20 years or so and can readily confirm speedo style / tight short trunks are de rigeur in french pools. I've just returned ( early March pre lockdown) from 3 weeks in Germany and Holland.
Germany all the wonderful spas are swimwear for the pool and then naked for the spa.
In dutch spas 100% naked throughout. Young and old welcome no issues for anyone.
In hotel leisure areas often it is clothing optional. I was in hotel sauna in Arhnem naked. Older couple there too she costume,he naked. In walks Dad and two daughters aged approx 12 and 10 with costumes. Not an issue everyone just nods hello and carries on.
In Denmark all beaches are clothing optional. It is only in the UK we are obsessed with the belief that nudity isbad, as the dutch website listing all the spas says: nudity iis natural and normal.
My childhood of nude swimming both at school and on holidays led me to really enjoy clothes free swimming without hang ups.
I did not realise that in France they still insist on men wearing swimming briefs. They are prepared as you say they haver them available for those who are unaware. I wonder what our fellow countrymen think of that. When and why did the fashion in Britain turn to shorts,(including underwear?)
Josh H, IME nudity is normal in saunas in Scandinavian and Nordic countries. A few posts back someone cited a pool in Helsinki where naked is normal though on different days for men and women, I've swum there and can attest to the accuracy of what was said.
Swimming in France requires Speedo style briefs, in anything longer or larger you simply will not be allowed in to the pool and it's in line with a national regulation. Frenchmen and others in the know turn up with the correct trunks, in the main places have a supply to loan for Brits and others who are not in the know.
Personally I prefer swimming naked which was what was required at school and for me nothing beats it.
Josh - you make a very valid point about vitamin D. For some years the hysteria about sun exposure has led to a situation where a large proportion of the population in Britain is deficient in this important vitamin. As well as being important for strong bones vitamin D is required for a healthy immune system. I wonder how many deaths from coronavirus in people with no known underlying health issues are, in fact, because the unfortunate people have poor immune systems, possibly due to vitamin D deficiency. Perhaps the authorities should be a little more sympathetic with those who wish to indulge in a bit of sun-bathing as long as social distancing is being observed.
Yes Stuart I understand that in some parts of Europe there are places where one can swim naked. Furthermore nudity seems accepted in saunas etc in Scandnavia. I feel restricted because I prefer swimming briefs which for some reason is frowned upon in this country, yet it is acceptable for ladies to wear bikinis. However when I holiday in Spain many men wear briefs although you can always tell the Brits in their long shorts, and youngsters almost completely covered up so that they get no vitamin D
FrankC yes the move to wear trunks was restrictive indeed. As soon as i could i reverted to naked swimming wherever possible usually on holiday in the far more relaxed societies of europe.
To this day i still prefer to swim nude.
In he midst of lockdown, I have just turned the pages of Men's Health, I'm a bit past that these days!
I was very interested to see that all the men demonstrating exercises and there were many were dressed in shorts and trainers and all were bare chested. Needless to say all were ripped with six packs but bare chested none the less.
Perhaps the tide is turning on being over dressed for gym.
Hi Stuart,I was twelve and a half when I started puberty so I was on par with much of my class of course with the thirteen year old lads able to cover up with trunks you would naturally feel vulnerable and exposed.I found trunks rather tight and restrictive at first after the freedom of previous years.
TO JOSH H Different times indeed. I suppose it is a shift in culture with child abuse issues. Although as a society we are more permissive barriers are put up to protect.
Hi Matthew, Yeh it would have been a good bonding experience!The other boys seemed a bit uneasy at first cupping their hands in front when we lined up in the corridor. As Stuart mentioned it was only like showering after games or football 95% we were in the water so it was something they had to get usedto
To Frank C.
Thanks to your father, at the start of term, you were quite prepared but were you aware of how the other boys felt? Did you eventually take part in galas in front of prospective pupils and their parents? Incidentally, it's a pity that you and your father weren't able to experience swimming together naked.
I wouldn't use the word uncomfortable or even embarrassing to be honest for me personally. Talking with a couple of old school mates I'm still in touch with they did however find it so especially in the last two years but then they were developing. For me being a "boy" throughout my time there meant it was pretty ok.
Regardless of what any boy felt it was back then just accepted and you did what you were told.
As well as the galas it was taken as being perfectly normal that there was nothing wrong in it. I recall one swimming lesson when i was about 12 . I was for some reason not in the water at the point the door to the pool opened and the head teacher walked in with a family showing them round the school. The family was mum, dad , a boy about 8 and his older sister about my age. The head even asked me a couple of questions. It was seen as normal. I didnt feel embarrassed in front of the adults,but a bit uneasy with the girl who clearly was looking with amazement!
I think it is one thing swimming naked between boys and swimming galas in front of spectators including women, whether school staff, parents or other guests.
Did you feel uncomfortable swimming nude in front of those guests during swim galas?
Also, were the boys' sisters allowed to watch the nude galas together with their parents?
FrankC. Sounds similar though i started my prep school age 9 in 1973. We happily swam naked at that age. The school had its own swim gala but that was just school and staff present including the very few female staff.
The gala allowed boys in the oldest year to wear trunks ( year 8s nowadays) and was held in the summer term so most were 13. It was a convention though that you only wore trunks if you had something to hide ( i.e. Had started puberty) so unfortunately for me aged still 12, august birtday, i was one of only a few naked boys in my year group. Not that i was worried about swimming naked more embarrassed that was still a boy and most of mates were not.
Nude swimming wasnt seen as anything odd, all boys, no different to showers after footie or rugby.
It is interesting how times have changed. I note your comments about going swimming and then changing in front of other boys and dads which helped you to get used to that situation ready for your new school.
nowadays it seems most municipal swimming pools have "Changing Villages" which accommodate male & female so changing of course is done in cubicles. It is interesting that when I go to the Gym, how many of the young lads and not so young males
perhaps in their 20's only undress so far in the communal changing area and then go into the toilet cubicle to complete their change. Whereas those of us always used to communal changing just get on with it.
However, I must say a school swimming gala with every swimming in the does seem curious, especially as you say it was put on for visitors of potential pupils.
Hi Stuart, I attended a prep school late sixties.We could never have envisaged such a dire situation the world would be in in our senior years.My parents attended an Open Day May '67 with a view to me attending in the Autumn.I sat an entrance exam never imagining I would pass it as it quite complex.We were treated to a Swimming Gala in the afternoon,All the boys swam naked right from the smaller ones to the oldest.It was then I realized that if I past the exam I would be swimming naked also.In the July of that year.The prep school wrote to my parents stating that I had gained a place.My Father was very supportive knowing that I had a shy and inward personality.In the summer holidays he took me to the local swimming baths for some basic strokes and get me used to being naked after in the showers with older boys and fathers.This made me more confident in myself.When I started in the September of that year I was already looking forward to the swimming lessons and was much less shy than I would have been otherwise. Keep well everybody,keep safe.
Biggles,Stuart My boarding school didn't have a swimming pool, in fact nor did the locality. The nearest would have been around 35 miles away. It never made any difference to us and we're happy with what sports we did play.