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Schoolteacher Philip McCooley returns home to discover that his daughter Virginia has offered his resignation at Waterville High School so that the family can moved to San Diego and Philip can present his new invention, a lifeboat, to the International Research Bureau. On the train to San Diego, Virginia moves the family into the drawing room of multi-millionaire John Thompson Caldwell IV, and it is only after John is driven out of his room by the four noisy McCooley brothers that Virginia learns who he is. Faced with the severe housing shortage in San Diego, the McCooleys buy a rundown house, using Philip's life savings as a down payment, only to learn that the house comes with a live-in butler, Nelson, whom the McCooleys repeatedly attempt to dismiss, without success. Learning that Philip's invention may not be accepted by the IRB, which is owned by John, Virginia makes numerous attempts to convince the millionaire to finance the lifeboat, all with disastrous results. Later, John accidentally gives Virginia a black eye, and the two become friends when he takes her to a barbershop to have it treated and ends up in a fistfight instead. John and Virginia then hop aboard a city bus, and Virginia convinces the bus driver to leave his scheduled route and take a leisurely, romantic drive along the beach. That same night, spinster Sheila Jones enters the McCooley home, mistaking it for the boardinghouse next door, and refuses to give up her new room the next morning. Philip, wanting to return to Waterville, orders his young sons to follow their older sister while he attempts to sell their new home, and the four boys end up on a date with John and Virginia at the San Diego Zoo. Later, Virginia finally gets John to test Philip's lifeboat, but when the raft sinks with John aboard, the millionaire ends on up on the front page of the San Diego papers. As the McCooleys pack to leave San Diego, Nelson gives Virginia the rare rubber cement needed to repair the lifeboat, and she, in turn, attempts to demonstate the raft's seaworthiness by paddling it about San Diego Harbor. John and his cousin Percy then arrive at the McCooley home, and, upon learning of Virginia's plan, all rush to the harbor, for while Philip's raft is structurally unsafe, the power he invented for his flare gun is a priceless explosive. After being rescued, Virigina promises John that she will not cause him any more trouble, and he, in turn, proposes to her.