In Centerville, Connecticut, in 1906, the publisher of the "Centerville Globe," Nat Miller, wins a new fire engine for the town whose citizens celebrate the acquisition. With Nat as he is cheered are his wife, Essie, his sister Lily, and the rest of his family.
But as Nat is basking in praise, his middle son Richard is getting into trouble by plighting a passionate-but-pure troth to Muriel Macomber. Her starchy father overhears Richard reading passages from classics to his daughter and considers them extremely erotic. He drives Richard from his home, confines Muriel for a month, announces intention to withdraw sorely needed advertising from Nat’s newspaper.
There is gaiety at the town trolley station because Sid Davis, Essie’s brother, is returning from Waterbury, where he has a newspaper job. Essie has coached Lily on how to trap Sid into marriage and reform him from drinking. Sid’s homecoming is interrupted when Macomber storms into the house, demands Richard be punished; Nat throws Macomber out of the house.
Sid proposes to Lily—his first such offer while sober—and she accepts with his promise to stay sober, particularly at the Fourth of July picnic. As the whole town celebrates, Richard is despondent over receiving a note from Muriel breaking their engagement. Nat and Sid, both in their cups, return from the picnic and Richard leaves home for a night of carousing.
At the Pleasant Beach House, Richard drinks too much and falls into a nightmarish sleep. When he returns home, Sid tries to give him advice about drinking. Richard learns Muriel was forced to write her letter and still loves him. They secretly meet on a beach, and Richard promises to accept four years at Yale. Sid is given one more chance by Lily if he keeps his promise to return to his job in Waterbury. She leaves with him as the whole town cheers.
(4 female; 7 male)