Burnley Grammar School
Item #: 1607
Source: Lancashire Life Magazine, December 1959
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.
Biggles indeed you are coreectt. My school in Surrey was a boarding/day school private and had its own swimming pool and was nude in the prep school, aged 9-13. The embarrassment of swimming naked was not even as issue at age 9. As boys hit puberty the first ones were either embarrassed or proud, whilst a couple of boys like myself had to endure not hitting puberty at all so stood out by the final year as very much boys. Luckily it was only teasing rather than anything worse.
Boarding schools were very different from normal day schools in many ways, including the strict and more regular physical exercise regime like you describe.
It was the same for nude swimming for boys when very few public(non-paying) schools had the luxury of a swimming pool.
In private(paying) and boarding schools it was not unusual to have a swimming pool where nude swimming was the norm for boys.
Biggles, At the boarding school I attended the start of each day was marked with an early morning run around 5.45am which, regardless of the weather, we did stripped to the waist. From Monday to Friday there was a proper timetabled PE lesson at which could be in the gym or outside. Inside we were all skins while outside teams were either all skins or skins vs vests.
Although it may be of some interest to recollect, I don't think that PE lessons were of such importance since they were just a once or twice weekly one hour lessons in most schools.
I think there were more important issues, which unfortunately are not featured on this site, like wearing uniforms or corporal punishment which were the norm in most schools and how they varied.
Although I genuinely tried to give of my best in every PE/Games lesson, I regularly failed to meet the teachers' expectations.
Regarding me, and others like me, as 'no hopers', they diverted their efforts to the more athletically inclined.
This led to the axiomatic situation where youngsters like myself, who would have benefitted the most from skilled coaching and encouragement, were sidelined, laughed at and punished; while the 'natural athletes' got all the doting praise and extra coaching time.
Surely the situation should have been the other way round, with those who most needed the support being given more time and encouragement, so as to develop and improve their skills.
Experiencing this situation for years left me with a conviction that any form of games/gymnastics was 'not for the likes of me' and hence I've been much less fit, all my life, than I might otherwise have been.
From the large number of views and comments on this photograph (far more than for anything else on Historyworld) it seems that the old traditional strict PE depicted made a big impression on all involved and is of continuing interest. The many comments provide a store of recollections, opinions and experiences which would be very informative for younger people and future generations. Maybe it should be made into a book or documentary.
I certainly remember communal showers, I never imagined men's showers to be any other way as it was just what we got used to.
In all other regards too, I agree with the assessment of Wallace.
I was at school in the 60s and 70s. My experiences were very much the same as those I read here:
PE was in white shorts, bare chested wearing white plimsolls, PE included gym, athletics in summer and running all year round.
Rugby was boots, shirt, shorts and socks played in the winter and spring terms.
Underpants were not allowed for either PE or rugby and being caught wearing them resulted in a bottom roasting application of the strap or slipper and even the cane if a repeat offender. One bare bottom dose of the strap convinced me to obey the rule.
Forgetting kit resulted in a dose of the cane, no exceptions, no excuses and then being told to find shorts only in the lost property box for the lesson.
Swimming was naked, it was private with only male staff present. If you had forgotten your kit you just hoped it was swimming!
Showers were communal, often cold and always compulsory.
I appreciate that for some swimming trunks were permitted but I think the rest was fairly normal fir the time.
Does anyone for instance remember having shower cubicles back then? Even now at my gym although there are a couple of cubicles the norm for showers is communal and no one seems bothered except for a few of the towel dancing boyz.
We didn't have swimming at school, so I don't know what it would have been like to be made to swim nude as some posters describe.
More so when some posters describe that they had female teachers or instructors during nude swim lessons, although this seems to have only happened with junior boys up to 12 or so.
At least one or two posters even say that they were punished corporally by these female teachers if they misbehaved during these nude swim classes.
Other posters say that they had nude swimming galas in front of spectators, whether from inside or outside of the school.
I think some of these swim classes went too far with the boys being routinely humiliated.
I guess there is nothing wrong with boys swimming naked together, but when it goes as far as those described above it would have been a bit too much.
I wouldn't guess that Mr. Dando is a "weird troll," but I imagine that he had immodesty forced on him during his childhood and adolescence.
I also imagine that he wishes to provide for the current generation the protection which he himself had missed.
If my hunch is right, then I am in no position to criticize Mr. Dando.
I am tempted to take the opposite stance, but my motives are the same.
The whole time I was growing up, I was never seen naked by any female outside my own family.
I grew up wondering what it felt like to be naked outdoors.
So I like for boys of the present generation to get more corporeal acceptance than I got.
If I were to write up a phys ed kit, I would probably err in the opposite direction from Mr. Dando and write up something like what we see in the picture.
And I'd probably get arrested for it.
I suspect Mr Dando is just some kind of weird troll who would be best ignored
To John and Biggles,
In the experience of several posters on this site, a pair of trunks wasn't even needed for swimming.
I'm not sure what Mr Dando is trying to achieve by pursuing his diatribe on websites that are dedicated to reminiscing & discussing of what used to be. I think he seriously needs to find other sites to vent his strange views on. The fact that he seems to copy & paste p.e kit from all over the country is very weird in itself - quite obsessive in fact. I really wonder what motivates such an obsession!!
I totally agree with everything that you’ve said. I was perfectly happy doing PE in shorts and pumps, barefoot would have been ok if it had been the rule. A pair of trunks is all that is required to swim in.
If boys were required to take all that PE kit you suggest to cover themselves from neck to feet, including for swimming, they would have to carry a large army sack on their shoulder to carry it all on PE days.
Boys don't need more than a pair of shorts for PE.
That is all we took with us to school on PE days.
Your other suggestion that swimming should be done in tops and long pants, where are they going to leave those wet clothing after swimming?
So you see that your suggestions are not even practical, not to mention ridiculous.
No these were not "Care free days" and if by the fact that "rules are far to restrictive" we no longer have male PE teachers with paedophilic tendencies entering the educational system, that is a price society must pay.
Even today there are still schools that "expect" pupils to shower. Here is one institution:http://stonydean.bucks.sch.uk/uniform-order-form/
All pupils require:
black shorts and/or plain black jogging pants,
white t-shirt (plain or with school logo*),
football boots and trainers.
Burgundy Stony Dean sweatshirt*
A swimming costume and towel will be required by Y7 and some older pupils for weekly
All pupils should bring a towel and expect to shower after PE.
All items with an* can be purchased through the school office.
All clothing should be clearly marked with the pupil’s name, particularly those items of clothing
Let us all learn from historical examples of child abuse detailed in these threads to campaign for better privacy rights and gender neutral kits.
As Edmund Burke once said "The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.
When bad men combine, the good must associate; else they will fall one by one, an unpitied sacrifice in a contemptible struggle.People will not look forward to posterity, who never look backward to their ancestors."
It is time we campaigned for a national ban on compulsory school showers!
Thank you for your contribution. I am sure they were more care free days. I know that there has to be safe guarding for youngsters. During my time as a leader we had compulsory training which included y this subject, but nowadays I sometimes think the rules are far to restrictive and that is why it is difficult to get people to volunteer to work with youngsters.
Danny,Josh i was in all boy scouts in the 70s in Hampshire and have great memories of traditional camps as well as mountaineering trips when as an older teen we went to the Lake District and Cairngorms.
On camp everyone took showers first thing in the morning and in the evening.
On summer camp standard clothing was, if the british summer was kind , shorts and nothing else. No one cared about being bare chested it was nice to feel the sun.
Swimming was always with trunks though we did as a troop use a pool sometimes during term time for activities - if a boy forgot his trunks he just swam nude. Tough but didnt forget next time!
When I was a Scout aged 11 to 15 it was an all male organisation. with all male leaders. At camp as you say it was open showers and no privacy in the Latrines(toilets)We also swam in rivers (no health & safety worries)The only trunks available were the briefs style and some lads who had not got trunks swam in their pants which were really the same design. There were some occasions when we swum naked ( I think as a dare) although he leaders always wore trunks.
In time I became an assistant leader and then took on the role of leader within the same group that I had been a scout and so just carried on in the same way. The normal wear in camp was shorts and in that era they were short. Sometimes lads would just run around in their briefs. This was mainly first thing in the morning when they woke up because that was what they had slept in being too manly of course. to wear pyjamas. I had no doubt at the time that some of the older scouts goaded each other into sleeping au natural.
It was in my latter years as I said that girls became scout and this did change the whole situation. Whether at a weekly meeting or camp we had to have female leaders present, and of course at camp strict regimes on dressing appropriately and it also meant additional work in providing separate toilet and washing facilities and male & female tents, well separated for not only the scouts but leaders as well even though two of the leaders were husband & wife. It was soon after this that I retired as a leader but my son is now an explore scout(aged group 15 upwards) and they are a unit of male & female and all activities are run as mixed events. I suppose they are used to it as the majority of schools are co-ed where as I went to an all boys secondary school.
I am pleased to say that my old scout group is still thriving.
When you were combined with the girls at camp did they or the female leaders see you in underpants during activities?
I was in the Scouts between age 11 and 13 and during Summer camps we spent much of our time in just underpants. We also had open bathing and shower areas, but since we were all boys it was no big deal and just fun.
On some camp sites where there was a stream running nearby we even swam naked. I don't know what it would have been like if we were combined with girl guides at camp, although in Cub Scouts for boys under 11 it was common to have some female leaders.
But this was way back in the 60s when Boy Scouts were separate from Girl Guides for most activities. I don't know if it is common today to have boys and girls combined in Scout camps.
I went to an all boys school from the age of 11 to 16. Furthermore, I was in the Scouts when it was an all male environment. Subsequently I became a leader and we had a camp every summer for 2 weeks. The complications arose when it was decided that in the interest of equality girls could become scouts rather than having to be Girl Guides. This of course caused logistical problems.
For a start a female leader had to be recruited and the simple things like your reference to having to train in briefs if kit was forgotten(which does not matter in an all male group) I had to remind the lads that any time they left their tent(especially in the morning when they need to rush to the toilet to make sure they were dressed. In the past that did not matter, and I agree sometimes the lads just wanted some tine on their own. This is true of today, whereas joint activities are good, sometimes, girls want to be alone and do "their stuff" and likewise men want their own time together.
Finally in this equality day and age I think both male & female teenagers need some almost military discipline.
GSB, thanks for your interest. There are a few fights that stood out, my first win came in my fifth fight and at the end of the 3rd round somehow I landed a blow and the other kid's legs just gave way. There wasn't any time for him to get up. Another was on my 15th birthday when we had boxed against kids from a nearby Army camp and won both my fights over the weekend.
This result put me in the regional cup event,a round robin event where you fought everyone first then progressed to the later rounds. I was totally hammered and the result was no surprise was no surprise. I was quite proud just to get through to the end of the fight. I did end up finishing 3rd overall which was pretty good.
There were always some kids you preferred to fight. One was my best friend but when we were in the ring it was anything but. Physically he was broader than me
I was skinny but we both really went for it. There were some you didn't especially if they'd best you before or if had been a really tough fight.
I had an ex girlfriend who said I wasn't worthy to be her boyfriend because I'd lost and slapped me across my face. It didn't matter it was a hard fight!
To be honest I was as nervous as hell before going in the ring to box for the first few times. I knew people were watching and had come to see me in the ring. Physically we were nearly the same weight and ability. For example you wouldn't fight a kid a year older or had more experience on the ring. When you did it was against someone with the same level of experience.
Being stripped to the waist was practical as well as a talking point. There's no other way to put it but you sweat and it's better to sweat freely.
Doing PE and Games and all the training sessions at school stripped to the waist meant that come your fight it wasn't a big deal but you were aware people wanted to see you stripped off and see how you handled fighting. I remember one my sisters friends saying she didn't like the fighting at least we did it stripped to the waist! Says a lot....
In my secondary school in Germany in the 80ies we had an after-school club that offered boxing for boys and was run by our PE teacher who himself had learned to box as a boy in the Hitleryouth. It was my dad who enrolled me in this boxing club without me having a say in the matter. In his mind, a real boy needed to know how to box.
While our PE teacher ran a fairly ordinary regime in the regular PE lesson, he changed his demeanour completely when teaching boxing. The first noticeable difference was that us boys all had to be shirtless all the time, not only for fights but also for exercising in the gym. We were only allowed black shorts and if you forgot them you were made to participate in briefs. Training sessions consisted of roughly the same elements that Peter R described, general fitness combined with boxing specific training and sparring but the discipline instilled by our teacher was a lot harsher than in regular PE lessons. During general physical training sessions, no talking was allowed, we worked according to his whistle code, i.e. one short whistle signal was push-ups, two short ones sit-ups, two long ones and we had to line-up according to height, stand to attention and await further instructions.
In my opinion the boxing session were his opportunity to enforce the kind of regime and discipline that he would have liked to see generally and that was most probably inspired from his time in the Hitleryouth. This might seem strange today but me and almost all of the other boys enjoyed these sessions very much, we found it great to be separated from the girls, to exercise stripped to waist and to be considered, in some funny way, as men who needed to be dealt with with almost military discipline.
Peter R – Thank you once again for your reply and all the information about how it all worked. I really do find it all a fascinating glimpse into a time now long gone and one which I only just missed. A few more specifics, if I may, please…
How did it feel the first few times climbing into the ring for a proper contest against a kid you’d never seen before and had no idea how tough or skilled he was, whilst just wearing a pair of shorts and gloves, and with all your family and friends watching? It must have been the scariest but also the most exciting experience of your life – it certainly would have been for me! I’m sure I would have developed a sort of love-hate relationship with the sport!
I guess most contests were decided on points (did the ref decide or were there judges?) Were there many knockouts, and how did they occur?
I suppose minor injuries such as black eyes and nosebleeds were fairly common? Things that would send today’s snowflakes into fits of hysteria, but used to be just accepted as a normal part of the sport for boys.
Were there any ‘spectacular’ occurrences that stick in your mind (boys falling or being knocked out of the ring, for example) or any specific fights that you can remember (either as a contestant or spectator)? Please tell us about them in as much detail as you can.
And if anyone else boxed at school, I would love to know how your experiences compared to Peter’s…
GSB, I think we started out with 30 odd boys and some left after their first fight which was against someone in our group, others dropped out over time but 8 of us carried on to the end of school. We did fight clubs and a handful of other schools and they were roughly the same age ect but it was common to fight someone a year above but that was all. but usually after 2 to 3 months between fights. Our training comprised of shuttle runs, pull ups, sit ups and trying to skip which I was utterly hopeless at. We did bench lifts where a wooden bench was fastened to the wall bars and you were timed to see how many you could do. When we sparred or fought we were always stripped down to the waist and our competitors were the same. It was way more practical. There were parents, sisters, potential girlfriends in the audience when we fought against local clubs schools tended to be those who were competing. They all wanted to see how each boy handled the fight so being stripped to the waist was considered absolutely normal and essential, we were all sweating when we left the ring. While the school provided gloves you were expected to have your own gumshield. As ever hope this helps and feel free to ask questions.
Your reference to Coronovirus in relation to this topic is irrelevant.
With regard to compulsory PE,I would have thought that with the growing obesity crisis in the population generally, the last thing we should be doing is decreasing the amount of physical exercise pupils undertake in schools.
With regard to pupils of the same sex changing together for PE, I would suggest that the vast majority of pupils don't see this as a problem (I know that my son didn't when he was at school).
Hi Peter R. Thank you so much for your reply. You’ve stimulated my interest & curiosity even more now! I’m sure you are right – like you, I would have found it hard, but at the same time would have absolutely loved it!
So boxing was not part of PE but offered as an extra-curricular activity on a voluntary basis? Roughly what percentage of boys participated? What would a typical session consist of?
How frequently did you fight properly in the ring, and whilst that was going on, were the other boys watching or still training or sparring elsewhere in the gym? How many potential opponents did you have (ie, boys roughly the same age and size as you, I guess)? I assume there was a ring was permanently erected in the gym, and gloves and mouthguards were supplied by the school? How long were the intervals between the rounds?
How often were the competitions against other schools and clubs held? Were their boys usually of pretty much the same standard of skill and fitness as you, or were there some schools who were much better and you always dreaded fighting, and others who you knew would always be easy to beat? Presumably these contests would sometimes be refereed by your teacher and sometimes by their teacher or instructor? Was there any noticeable difference in refereeing by different individuals? Did the boys from the other schools and clubs always fight bare-chested the same as you?
We started boxing when we were 10. We were properly taught and it offered to all boys. Once we'd mastered the basics we had our first experience in fighting in the ring with 3 1 min 20 second rounds. Some gave up shortly after however a lot didn't. We did box against other schools or clubs and the girls and parents who came to watch saw both boys fight topless. When we turned 12 we started to fight for 2 mins for 3 rounds. The extra 40 seconds certainly made a difference and for me I'd start to show sweat at the end of the first round, my sisters both said girls would sit and make small bets as to who would sweat up first and who had the best upper body which changed during the fight! Our instructor really pushed us during training so we'd be more competitive and the older we got the more he pushed, some thought it was excessive but I always thought he was right to expect maximum effort. It was hard but it got me noticed by girls which was great. I think you would have enjoyed it. Anything else let me know
To be honest Mr Dando, what kids wear for PE is probably not the most important aspect of the coronavirus crisis...