The Nobles lose their home at 31 High Street to mortgage foreclosure in 1939, and widow Minnie Emerson Noble has to "win the bread" until June 1942 when her son Jerry finishes high school. During those three years, animated movies, art, bicycles, blueberries, church, dancing school, friends (one with ESP), music, even murder, impact the lives of mother and son until they board a train bound for Fresno, California on the day after 16-year-old Jerry's graduation.
Staying a few months with Minnie's sister and her capable, one-armed Welsh husband until Jerry can become breadwinner, the Nobles embark on a new world of adventure in a strange city. They live independently in rented cottages and explore wartime California by bicycle and friends' automobiles, seeing the sights from Fresno to Los Angeles, Sacramento, San Francisco, and Yosemite National Park. As clerk, doorman, draftsman, and student, Jerry encounters optometrists, preachers, projectionists, sailors, singers, soldiers, usherettes. People from all backgrounds and all walks of life help him and his mother depend upon and build their faith in uncertain times.