McNeil Junior High School
by Esther Caine Towers

McNeil School was named for the superintendent of Jefferson County Schools, Mr. P. M. McNeil.  The building cost $38,350 on a lease-buy basis.  The contract stated that the Jefferson County Board of Education would pay Bessemer, Coal, Iron & Land Company $2500 a year for 15 years.  The board had the option to apply the amount they paid for leasing this building and property, toward purchasing it in a designated period.  The board decided to buy the property within the fifteen years.  By 1926-27 McNeil School had 468 students enrolled in grades one through nine.

McNeil was organized in 1923 at which time classes were held in unfinished shotgun houses near West Lake while the new building was being erected.  The first principal was B. E. Lee.  The first teachers were Elma Thomas, Elizabeth Mayes, Mildred Glidewell, Ruby Lee, Lucy Gwen and Lelia Sturdivant.

There were ten classrooms.  The principal and register's office was the first door on the right as you entered the front of the building.  The lunchroom was the first door on the left.  Mrs. Diffley managed the lunchroom at that time.  When a larger lunchroom was built this space became the Library.  Most children brought lunches in brown paper bags from home.  They bought milk in little half pint glass bottles and usually ate at their desks. 

The restrooms were strategically placed, girls on one side of the building and boys on the other side.  Behind the main brick building was a long narrow wooden building for first to third grade classes.  In the school yard between the two buildings was a concrete fountain that was three feet high.   This is where the entire school got there drinking water.  Near the fountain was another little house where coal was stored for firing the large coal-burning heaters in each room.

In 1934 the school underwent drastic changes.  Seven new classroom were added to the building.  For the first time boys were offered Shop and the girls Home Economics.  Other principals included Mr. Kuykendal during the Great Depression, Mr. Dwight D. Riley who served for many years into the 1960's.  Also serving as principal were Mr. Louis Bagwell, Mr. Robert Bumpus, who later became Superintendent of Hoover City Schools, Mr. George Yarbro, and the schools last principal Mr. Hugh Colston who was there when the school closed in 1989.

In 1954 eight more classrooms were added.  At that time the school had 27 teachers and a band instructor, Mr. Robert W. Moore.  After the building was closed, the old school stood silent and neglected with only its happy memories lingering.

In 1971 grades eight and nine were reassigned to Pittman Jr. High School in Hueytown. 

In 1995 the Western Mental Health Clinic of Jefferson County made plans to utilize part of the building as a day clinic.  However those plans never came to be and the building was demolished in 1998.  Today a fenced vacant lot is all that remains. 

Each year a dedicated group of alumni get together to plan the annual reunion of McNeil students.