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Soft-spoken Homer C. Fitch works his first day as manager of the Windsor Arms, a posh apartment building, and that night shares his problems with his wife Sybil, their daughter Patricia, adopted son Joe and Butch Smiley, an orphan whom they want to adopt. They also discuss Butch's future, for although Homer has written to Butch's grandfather concerning the adoption, they have received no response. Later in the evening, police officer Flannigan brings in Butch, whom he caught trying to run away. Butch reveals that he was having difficulty with his homework and did not want to disgrace the family with his poor schoolwork. Although Homer is so meek that he cannot stand up to bullies like Mr. Turk, the building's rude engineer, he is a good father, and so he, Sybil and Flannigan help Butch with his homework. While they are acting out the math problems, Butch's grandfather, Smokestack Smiley, arrives. Smokestack is an old-fashioned steeplejack who believes that a man must be aggressive and tough in order to be a real man, and he insists on staying with the family for a few days to determine if they are good enough to adopt Smiley. The next day, Smokestack realizes that Homer does not fulfill his idea of masculinity, despite Sybil's claim that he was nicknamed "Bulldog" in high school because of his ferocious behavior. Smokestack's poor opinion of Homer worsens upon learning that he is afraid of heights, and so Sybil advises Homer to act more aggressively. The next morning, Homer pays Turk to let him hit him in front of the family, and the contented Smokestack then takes Butch and Joe to the roof to show them his steeplejack rigging. While they are gone, a newly arrived tenant reveals himself to be Bruiser Brown, the bully who tormented Homer in high school. Homer, Sybil and Patricia are forced to have dinner with Bruiser that night, and after they distract Smokestack with a lie about going out with Homer's boss, they go to Bruiser's apartment. There, Bruiser spikes Homer's lemonade with gin, and the teetotaling Homer makes a fool of himself when Smokestack appears after finding out where the Fitches really are from Patricia's fiancé, Windy Wilson. Smokestack discovers from Bruiser that Homer's real nickname was "Wishy Washy," and despite Homer and Sybil's pleas, Smokestack decides to take Butch to California. The next day, Butch sorrowfully prepares to leave. A crisis occurs, however, when little Joe climbs into Smokestack's rig and is suspended helplessly from the roof. With no regard for his own safety, Homer climbs out on a ladder to save his son. Homer almost plummets to the ground after rescuing Joe but is saved by Smiley and Windy. Bruiser appears and calls Homer "Wishy Washy," after which Smokestack proclaims that he will be proud to have the Fitches adopt Butch, and that from now on Homer is to be called "Bulldog."