The Original Hueytown High School
by Johnny Curry

On February 25, 1921, classes began in mid-term at the newly established Hueytown High School.  It had an enrollment of just 66 students (25 seniors).  Within two short years enrollment vaulted to 256 students.  The sparkling white stucco-covered brick structure was located at the southeast corner of what is present day Allison-Bonnett Memorial Drive and High School Road.   Now a fenced softball field occupies the site.  Only two reminders would tell us that a school once stood on this property.  All that survives is a portion of the sidewalk that led to the front of the building and the silver-painted flagpole from which students raised the American flag to begin each day.

The Hueytown community had a private grammar school before the Jefferson County School Sytem was founded in 1898.  However, even with the creation of the county school system, students who wanted to go beyond grammar school would have to travel to Bessemer.  There they could attend that city's Bessemer High School.  In the early 1920's the Jefferson County School Board began a major expansion program that resulted in the construction of several high schools, including Hueytown.

Mr. Harley F. Gilmore was Hueytown's first principal and athletic director.  He served as principal from 1921 until his retirement in 1956.  The school's football stadium, built in 1933 with WPA labor, is today named in his honor.  Originally the school had a staff of just six teachers including Mr. Gilmore.  Subjects available to students were French, Latin, chemistry, mathematics, and history.  Home economics was offered for females and manual arts (woodworking) for the males.  The school had several literary societies which fostered debating teams and production of comedic or dramatic plays.

As is the case with most schools, athletics played a major role from the beginning.  On September September 30, 1921, the as yet unnamed Golden Gophers played the schools first ever football game against Jefferson County High School (present day Tarrant).  Hueytown lost 41-0.  The next week would be the team's first ever victory, a 9-0 win over Alliance High School.  Hueytown would finish the season with a record of 3-4.  That same season, the boys baseball team posted a 10-3 record and the girls basketball team finished 4-1.

As the years passed, several phases of expansion added classrooms to the original structure.  Two clapboard-sided buildings, each containing four classrooms, were constructed on each side of the main building.  One of these white-painted and green shingled-roof buildings was known as the Home Ec Annex.  The school would suffer at least one major fire that destroyed the second floor that was over the front central section of the building.  A gymnasium was added about 1940.

Since the school served Hueytown, Concord, Pleasant Grove, and several other communities, overcrowding from growth was a constant problem.  Seven different grammar schools fed into Hueytown High by 1947:  Cottage Hill, Concord, Dolomite, Hueytown, Rutledge, Johns, and McNeil.  The last year the old building served as the high school student enrollment had swelled to 1273.  As a result the county school board approved relocation to the present site on Dabbs Avenue.  The new school's college-like campus design opened in the fall of 1958.  Following Mr. Gilmore's retirement after 35 years, the school was led by Mr. Charles Vines, who took the reins as principal beginning with the 1957 school year.

The original school building was then renamed W. I. Pittman Junior High School (after a county school board member who served from 1931-51).  By the late 1960's the old school building was very much showing its age, and once again, was hopelessly overcrowed.  A new junior high school, still in use today, was built on Sunrise Boulevard.  During the structure's final years as a Junior High School, the principal was Mr. Richard Farrar.  The old building was then abandoned following the close of classes in May of 1970 when only sixth and seventh grade students attended school at the site.  Its gymnasium was used sparingly for community functions (such as Ben Montebano's boxing league) until the entire site was razed in 1972.