As a product of the Oklahoma City Public Schools, specifically Gatewood Elementary and Classen Junior/Senior High, I participated in regular gym classes and was an athlete, playing basketball and tennis in my sophomore through senior years. The old school building of Classen was built in the early 1920’s, and has a rich and deep history. The famous Mr. Henry Payne Iba, know to the world as Mr. Iba, the foremost college and Olympic coach of his time, led my school to the National High School championship tournaments in the late 1920’s. Other notable people, such as actors, politicians, and military leaders attended the school at various times.
One item of interest that I have thought about over the years was the large swimming pool that was in the inner confines of the building. A pool that saw various great athletes take their swimming skills to greater heights than just state swimming championships. With that pool, the general student at Classen was given the opportunity to learn to swim in the course of their daily physical education program. As I was already a swimmer in 1965, my first year at Classen as a seventh grade student, I still participated in the weekly swim classes that both the boys and girls were required to take. The classes were segregated according to gender, so the boys would swim without the girls and vice versa. As the custom of the day, and I am sure back to the days of Mr. Iba at my school, we had the option to swim in the nude or wear a swim suit. That option was given to both the boys and girls, and no pressure was ever put on anyone for wearing or not wearing a suit.
Classen PE teacher and head boys basketball coach Harvey Tedford was our teacher and the girls had a female PE teacher that supervised the pool activities for the females. I have had discussions on this subject with other friends that do not believe me. But it did happen that way. Nudity was the norm.
Today, I don’t think this could happen as we have not progressed as a society with our morals in many respects. Our screwed up beliefs and attitudes today toward nudity has taken us to a place of making many of us feel negativity toward our bodies and nudity. One example where we have not improved our society in America from the past.
40 thoughts on “Nude swimming back in the day at school”
I can remember a similar rule at YMCA pool downtown OKC. Back in the 60’s. It was a uncomfortable situation but widely practiced
I swam there too. Nude. I remember the locker room more….as a small kid and all those grown men without clothes…..you felt like a little man among the trees.
I guess my question is Why?
why not would be a quick answer to a simple question. I would have to know the background of a question. Are you in favor of nude same sex swimming? Is there a moral issue with it? The last time I researched the issue, same sex swimming has been no issue for thousands of years.
Fred, I must be a year older than you. I started 7th grade in 1964 at Classen and, yes, several guys participated in the swimming activities in the nude. One classmate was pretty much a (insert dork, nerd, or your favorite term here) but was very well “endowed”. As you are aware, the girls had the advantage of being able to stand on benches, lockers, etc. and see into the pool while we were in there. Every time he went off the diving board that screen would explode in shrieks and gasps. He would get some dropped jaw looks when we were dismissed and made it out to the hall.
nice recollection….My first year at Classen was 65-66. I finished all 6 years there….I had a great junior/senior high time as a Comet….
I graduated NWC in 1965. We did not have a pool and our swim team practiced at Taft Jr. High. While at Taft as a student, swim trunks were NOT optional for male. Females were issued school owned swimsuits. As a youngster at OKC YMCA, swim,trunks were NOT optional for males.
Hey Fred…. long time no see. I just met a lady through my church who taught at Classen when it was a fifth grade center. When she was setting up her class initially she was told she had to get her own desks and they were some dumped in the old swimming pool. She went down to the area and found the pool stacked with old desks. Apparently the pool we spent so many enjoyable hours with mr Tedford had been condemned and so they used it for storage. Good to see you are still alive and kicking!
Ben, how are you! You were a great buddy for my school years starting with our experiences at Gatewood and through Classen. I have thought of you at times during the years and all of my friends I went to school with. As of that pool, I was able to see that dump of a pool after they started crapping it up with stuff. And for you, it is great that as we get into the third part of our years we are both still kicking…and alive!
Correct. As I too would swim at the downtown YMCA it was something ‘all right’. I made shark which I think was the highest you could make at the Y. I could swim like a shark I guess.
Hi Fred… barbee stueve here… there was never any nude swimming in any of the classes I had in that pool although those horrible swim suits once they were wet just hung off our bodies..I was told it was mostly the boys that swam nude… but it was not an option for us… we were always told to have swimsuits on… I was there for 6 years also… graduated in ‘70…
It’s interesting you would post this subject. When I tell friends and acquaintances I swam nude all my life they can’t believe it.
I actually started swimming nude when I was in Linwood Place School starting in about the 4th grade by going to the YMCA in downtown Oklahoma City. Adult men and boys all swam naked together sat the Y and no one thought anything about it. They’d really make something out of it nowadays. One of your respondents asked why we swam nude at the Y. The Y always said it was to cut down on bacteria from dirty swim suits.
Then I went to Taft Junior High and swam naked there for three years and continued on swimming naked when I went to Classen 1952 – 1955. We all got to thinking this was the only way to do it. And yes, the girls could get up on something outside the swimming pool area and peek in on the boys if they were so inclined. My wife, from the Class of 1959, told me about this.
It’s just interesting so many people find it hard to believe we swam nude. I don’t know whether they think there’s something wrong with it or what.
yes, society is really screwed up with regard to nudity There are no more “problem” humans to day as there were in my youth back in the 50’s and 60’s or in any time in the history of the world. It is just today we seem to think differently and we have a somewhat “problematic” attitude towrd the subject. And that is not for the advancement of the human condition. We are currently living in a sick society, a culture of death and evil comsumes us. Nudity is not evil and withing the same sex, normal thorughout history.
I cannot tell you about the “women” and what they were required to wear. But for the “men” we had an option. I did wear a suit at Classen but many did not and I never wore one at the YMCA.
Seems odd so many people would have so much to say about it
How old are you Richard? Did you go to the OKCPS? Thanks for reading my post.
The famous coach was Henry P (Hank) Iba, his brother or cousin was Clarance.
while at Classen, I had to rub that National championship ball as a member of the Key Club. I must have had a major brain fart calling the IRON DUKE Clarence. Thank you for noticing my mistake….appreciated!
When I was at Classen ( I graduated in 1054)..neither sex was given an option about nudity…boys were required to swim nude and made to feel like some kind of weirdo if they didn’t want to, and girls were required to wear swimsuits furnished by the school…This always seemed a little strange to me..just saying..lol
Thanks for sharing Janie.
My public school system required high school boys to swim nude in PE pool class back in the day. I did so from the fall of 1960 when I entered the 7th grade to the spring of 1966 when I graduated. Collectively, during that period encompassing the HS classes of 1961-1966, roughly 900 male students total would have been involved. My belief is that this practice likely began in my school system with the construction of the 1st HS pool in 1938, and ended with Title IX in 1972. That amounts to thousands of young men – half of each HS graduating class enrollment for 3 decades. I took swimming lessons at the local YMCA back in the mid-1950s, and swam nude there also. Now the rest of the story. I write articles for our local historical society newsletter, and planned to write one on nude swimming in the public schools, so I contacted our Board of Ed for input. They claim to have no knowledge of the practice and no pertinent documentation. At that point, I knew I was being stonewalled, so I abandoned my research project. How soon we forget.
I haven’t a clue where you attended school but in OKC it was common and there was absolutely nothing wrong with it. Today’s society has issues with almost everything that happened in the past, yet, except for racial issues that, yes, were terrible, the general run of the mill stuff we did in the 50’s and 60’s provided a healthy culture to raise children. Today, not so much as of the way our society today has gone to the dogs with regard to many things. I see a continual downgrade with our lives in what I call a “death society” as we murder the unborn humans, watch violent and immoral shit on TV and in the movies, not to forget what video games we play are abhorrent to children and adults alike. We will be lucky for this country to celebrate it’s 300th birthday in 2076. I don’t expect it to take place. Thanks for the post.
Today we do not have nude swimming as the boys used to swim at public schools and the YMCA. Instead we have replaced this with numerous sexual harassment problems at school, universities and in the workplace nationwide and the problem in increasing everywhere. This is resulting in various university degrees not being completed and in greatly increased unemployment in the workplace, not to mention bankruptcy from the legal fees. Married men want to have sex with the single men at the hospital and so on and so on. It is not just about people like Trump that will fire his secretary. So I think that if society were more physically fit and used to nudity such as nude swimming it would be a better place. Instead laws not essentially make this illegal
we live in a rather sick society with a culture of death overriding everything…..
I have read now many articles about history of school swimming and honestly I never realized why there was a difference between boys and girls if only one gender had to swim nude in lessons and other not. For example in DDR (it is a socialist part of the Germany) there was never any difference. I mean they didn’t use nude swimming in schools, but if they swim in summer camps or sometimes at the sea then nude were always equally boys and girls. Never happened that only boys were nude if there was a nude swimming. Of course in many cases they both wear swimsuits, but nude appearance especially among middle school age was quite common and never there was done exception that girls should be dressed.
appreciate your words…..thanks for sharing.
But explain me why only boys were nude at schools? That was a reason of my post. As I said in Germany hardly there was any nude lessons after II World War, but if there were any circumstances which allowed or required nudity there was never a rule: you are boy you can go nude, you are girl, you can not. If schoolchildren were involved in some sort of nudity this always applied to both genders equally. That is my point.
It goes back to 19th century Britain, back then all the boys and men would bathe together nude, but there was a strict protection around female modesty, when swimming pools were first built, this attitude transferred over there.
thanks for the post…..appreciate you reading my article….actually the nudity issue goes back to ancient Greece and ancient Rome…..and yes, the girls at my high school could swim in the nude too….
I have read some comments on other sites where people talk about boys swimming nude at school with females sometimes openly watching. It is difficult for me to imagine such a thing. I never even heard of it until a week or so ago. Mind you, I fully approve of open nudity, but just find it difficult to accept as truth that this was allowed in schools.
Accept that children (under 19) swam nude at high and junior high schools and the YMCA back in the day. I did (1953-1968). Boys with boys and girls with girls and at the Y, Men with boys. I will not comment on the YWCA as I did go to the YWCA as of being a male. As for females openly watching, that is a new one that I have not witnessed or have knowledge of. As of boys trying to get a sneak view or visa versa, girls the same with watching the boys, well, boys will be boys and girls will be girls. In my experience, I was not aware and did not take part. I will say that back in the day, IMO, the environment was heathier then than today. Today, as a full male, dressed as a male, I can go to my local Target Store and enter the women’s rest room, do my business, and walk out, legally and with the full acceptance of the laws of the United States.
Despite my seeing a note on a site that listed when American public schools around the country stopped nude male swimming in each and every school, one notation was definitely wrong. Jamaica High School in Queens, N.Y. continued with nude swim classes for the male teens until the mid seventies even though a notation on line claims it ceased in 68. We were also required to take a swim test in the pool on the fourth floor. If one failed the test, one was programmed for an all male swim class the next term. (And you practiced with your classmates, at swimming, naked, although the teacher was in a suit). If you passed the swim test, you remained in the regular gym class…also all guys. They would have around three classes of 30 boys each…a total of approx 90 of us male teens, take the swim test…again…totally naked. You were told that suits were not allowed, and that it didn’t make any difference. At first, it seemed awkward and some boys were upset about it. But most of us got used to the idea real fast, and we were lined up by alphabet and then each boy waited while the guy in front of him either swam across the pool….or sank. And in retrospect, it didn’t make one bit of difference that we were naked. When everyone is a guy and in that state, you see that everyone had the same things. Not one of the 16 or 17 year old guys made fun of anyone or made any comment. They all became very mature about the whole issue which was over in 45 minutes. Nobody died of shame….unless they couldn’t swim and sank ! And the faster that you swam….the more admired you were !
Thank you for your post. Appreciated. Please post again.
Yes, I understand – protect female modesty. But that was society’s will, nobody asked what girls think themselves. In German language or Northern Europe countries never had been difference. Actually in Sweden girls have been considered more open and willing about nudity – many old magazines have proved it or movies. There is a Swedish movie “Vagen till Gyllenbla” which is science-fiction – two about 12-year old children were sent to the other planet where laughing was not allowed. They had a mission to bring laugh back. When girl and boy landed in alien planet, they discovered a lake in beautiful place and went to swim. When boy stripped up to the panties he looked over shoulder what girl is doing. And girl took pants off then boy followed. That was always a tradition – no boy didn’t strip if girl didn’t, but sometimes (like is described in Swedish book “Bert’s adventures”) girl was only one nude. I am not talking too long, but my (not disclosed) experience in Estonia has also proved that teen girls are not shy about nudity. Of course not all, but considerable part of them
Hello. I am sorry you had to abandon the project. I think this is an important topic that needs to be researched and the results made public. I would like to know the true reason. No explanation ever given holds up to scrutiny. Please do not give up on it. I am doing my own research. However, I have no name of public awareness, so what I find would not be taken seriously. Thank you for your dedication.
Hello. I have read several comments about boys forced to swim naked in schools and YMCA’s. One thing that many have said, when the boys in classes or swimming meets were naked, they behaved themselves better. Several men have advocated for the return of this for that very reason.
I think there is nothing wrong with it and yes, maybe it would be good for the younger males to understand that nudity is not a negativity or bad in the proper places.
Swimming nude in all-male classes and the YMCA was indeed very common. It is the stories about females being able to watch that intrigues me. Of course in other countries than the United States it was not uncommon for females to be able to openly watch nude males of all ages swimming. It was quite common for females to watch pre-pubertal boys swimming nude. I think that this was a very healthy attitude.
Hi I’m new to this site
but found the comments fascinating.
I grew up in Toronto,Canada and attended Ryerson elementary school that bussed us to swim
in 4th grade around 1957-58
at the local high school Harbord Collegiate thar became my high school 1961-66. I had never seen another boy naked until swim classes that continued into my high school day days. My sister told me that in elementary school the girls were forced to shower naked after gym class and if they refused they faced severe corporal punishment including their hands being strapped in front of the other girls if they refused. As for the nude swimming classes in high school ,me and 2 other boys wore swim suits in protest of a class mate of ours who was extremely obese and very traumatized by other students taunting him while he was naked.
Although we could have been expelled,the school relented and made swim optional.As for my sister Barbara Price, she taught kindergarten for 50 years until she became number 1 in seniority out of 10,000 teachers in Toronto.She now teaches in Dublin Elementary where Howie Mandel from America’s Got Talent went. She is 72 and just decided to retire. I am 74 and still working full time in LA as
an endocrinologist having been a doctor 50 years. Your comments were great and can now put this dark side of the educational system to rest.
Appreciate your taking a look at my blog on swimming in the nude in high school. Your comments are also truly insightful. Thank you again.