Adapted from William Saroyan's novel, a boy gets a job delivering telegrams because his father died and his brother is in the army.
Tom Spangler (James Craig) hires Homer Macauley (Mickey Rooney) to deliver telegrams and gives him advice. Elderly Willie Grogan (Frank Morgan) asks Homer to wake him with water and coffee whenever he is drunk. Homer's brother Marcus (Van Johnson) is in the army. Mrs. Macauley (Fay Bainter) remembers her late husband (Ray Collins). Homer's sister Bess (Donna Reed) asks him if he understands the prayer he repeats daily. Homer delivers a telegram and tells Mrs. Sandoval that her son was killed in the war. Willie does not want to retire. Mary (Dorothy Morris) loves Marcus and lives with the Macauley family. At school Homer gives Helen a flower, makes a speech on noses, and quarrels with Hubert Ackley III. Miss Hicks (Mary Nash) keeps them after school. The coach favors the rich Hubert, but Homer wins the low hurdles race.
Diana Steed (Marsha Hunt) invites Tom to dinner to meet her parents. Tom takes Diana outside, and they say they love each other and kiss. Homer sings a birthday telegram to Helen from Hubert. Three soldiers (Barry Nelson, Don DeFore, and Robert Mitchum) pick up Bess and Mary on the street. The soldiers send telegrams and take the girls to the movies. While working in the army kitchen, Marcus talks to Tobey (John Craven) about his family. Tom tells Willie that he wants to marry Diana. The three soldiers each kiss the two girls goodnight. Homer asks his mother not to worry. Lionel (Darryl Hickman) takes little Ulysses Macauley (Jackie Jenkins) to the library, but neither can read. Boys talk about stealing apricots. Ulysses does not know what fear is until a man scares him. He runs, and Homer takes him home.
On a train Marcus plays the accordion, and soldiers sing the hymn "Leaning." Marcus and Tobey pray. Willie asks Homer to read the letter from Marcus out loud, and Homer is afraid Marcus may be killed. Tom and Diana see different nationalities, and Tom tells her he is going into the navy. On a weekend Homer wakes up drunk Willie, who dies. Homer sees the message from the War Department that Marcus was killed. Tom consoles Homer. Tobey arrives and meets Homer in front of his house. Tobey gives Homer the ring that belonged to Marcus. Homer takes Tobey inside to tell the others. The spirits of Mr. Macauley and Marcus say it is only the beginning.
This sentimental slice of life portrays various people
in a California town as Homer learns about working and real life
while he is still in school.