Just saying the words “back to school” can stir excitement or dredge up a sense of dread worthy of a visit to the principal’s office. And there’s something about those first-day memories that won’t quit. They become the stuff of long-lasting memories, sometimes even family lore.

On the day before most Minnesota students head back to classrooms, we’ve asked readers to share their best (and worst) school stories.

A year in a day

Our 5-year-old son was so excited about going to kindergarten that he could talk of nothing else the summer before. The first day of school, he bounded out of bed, anxious to get ready.

The next day, I nudged him from sleep saying “Jake, it’s time for school.”

He replied “What? I have to go again?”


Judi Tomczik, Shakopee


Falling for it

I was living away from home for the first time in Gage Towers at Mankato State University. One day, I was in my dormitory room when I heard a male’s voice in the hallway announce, “Man on floor!” I thought, “Poor man, he must have fallen.”

A few days later, I heard the same voice call out again, “Man on floor!” I peeked out of my dorm room and saw a maintenance worker walking down the hallway. All of a sudden it struck me: This was an all-girls dorm. The worker was just announcing his presence.

Chalk it up to being a naive 17-year-old — and living in an all-girls dormitory.


Barb Sorensen, Minneapolis



No reading, or ’riting

September 11, 1944. My first day of kindergarten had arrived! When I walked down the front steps of our St. Louis Park bungalow, I wore the toast-brown sweater Mother knit for the occasion. She thought it complemented my carrot top and freckled face, but my thoughts were far from clothes. I’d readily given up full days of play for the discipline of a school desk because I was told they’d teach me to read — and that was magic beyond fantasy.

After school, my little sister Cathie came running down the sidewalk to greet me. She looked up expectantly and demanded, “Read to me, Shaw!”

I was both perplexed and angry when I responded, “They didn’t even try to teach me to read!”


Shawn O’Rourke Gilbert, Bloomington



What’s in a name?

In 1964, I selected a college by reading a brochure, filled out an application and subsequently received a small scholarship.

In late August, I got on a bus in Louisville, Ky., and spent a day and night traveling from bus station to bus station until I arrived shortly after dawn at Park College in Parkville, Mo., a small river town near Kansas City.

There was no bus station in Parkville, so I was left on a street corner with my footlocker, a suitcase and a heavy typewriter. In the distance I could see a lane winding up a steep bluff and a big, spire-topped stone building. That must be the campus, I thought.

A panel truck came up the deserted street, heading the way I was going, so I stepped off the curb and stuck out my thumb. When the truck stopped, I saw lettering on the side that read, “Park College.” The driver appeared to be in a hurry.

“You a new freshman?” he asked. I nodded and he pointed up the hill. “The campus is that way,” he said. Then he paused. “What’s your name?” he asked.

“Hawley,” I replied. “David Hawley.”

Without another word, he pulled the brake, got out of the truck and helped me load my stuff in back. He not only took me to the campus, but drove me to the building for incoming students and even helped me unload. Then he shook my hand, saying, “Glad to meet you.”

Hawley isn’t a common surname, but it was the name of one of the school’s first presidents. A building and a lake on the campus were named in honor of him and the alumni rolls contained the names of lots of Hawleys.

At this little liberal arts college, I had — for the first and last time — an unforgettable name.


David Hawley, Minneapolis


Hi, Dad!

I started first grade in a new school, St. Boniface Catholic School.

My mother asked me how my first day went. I told her a man with a lot of kids came and talked to us.

Mom wanted to know how I knew he had a lot of kids. I told her all the boys and girls said “Good morning, Father” when he walked in the classroom.


Jean Seward, Fridley

And who are you?

After my first two years of college, having satisfied all of the general ed requirements, I was eager to begin my major classes in psychology. The first day of that first psychology major class, I got there early and set up, only to notice a very young, rosy-faced person walk in and immediately go up to the lectern and look around.

Being young and cocky and very much full of myself, I approached him and “Excuse me, but that’s where the professor stands!”

He then politely informed me that he was, in fact, the professor. The one with whom I would go on to have all but one of my psychology classes over the next two years.

Fortunately, he forgave me. We’ve been friends now for 31 years.


Jeff Seiler, Minneapolis


Who’s on first

More than 60 years ago, aware of either being led astray by an older student or looking really stupid searching for my assigned homeroom, I decided to be proactive. (Of course, we didn’t use that word then.)

On the first day of high school, I walked through the main entrance, into the school office and right up to the counter, where I asked, “Room 211 is on the second floor. Right?”


Don Anderson, Chicago

First-day runaway

My first day of school was in January of 1938, back when the schools had January and June graduations.

My mother took me to the afternoon kindergarten class at Miles Standish in south Minneapolis. All was going well until I looked around and discovered that my mother was gone!

I caught up with her two blocks from the school. It was January, but I’d slipped out without overshoes or a coat. My mother wrapped me up in the warmth of her coat — and promptly returned me to class.


Erling Jaeger, Edina