Trying to earn money, abide by his grandfather's rules and attend school, something had to give. After getting a start at Capitol Hill High School, Oklahoma City businessman and developer Jim Brewer dropped out. To this day, he does not have a high school diploma. His start up the ladder began with a job at an uncle's salvage yard, where he worked several years before getting married and starting his own family. Working with the old cars, he learned to rebuild transmissions. And with a family to care for, he started his own shop — Jim Dandy's Transmissions — along Reno near Harvey. "I was aggressive, I was a hard worker,” Brewer said proudly. "And I did fairly well at it.” An acquaintance who worked at a nightclub then approached Brewer with a deal to invest with him in buying the operation. "I backed him,” Brewer said, laughing. "Well, he got in there, and he didn't know how to run a club. I took it over. And I really liked the nightclub business. And I made a lot of money. I was a personable guy. People met me and liked me. When you came in my club, I met you at the door and made you feel welcome.”
Knack for businessBrewer then opened three more nightclubs. Brewer did what just about everybody else in town was doing in the late 1970s — he bought an oil well. The first well was a bust, but the second one did "very well.” Brewer admits that time after time, much of his career involved luck. He lucked into the nightclubs and he certainly lucked out in the oil boom. He began consulting with more experienced oilmen and soon gave up the nightclub life. In one day, he said, he took in $600,000 from the Tom Cat well in western Oklahoma. Calls came in from across the country from investors looking to buy any parcels near Brewer's big discovery.
Timely exitHis next deal would be the clincher that would finance his next phase in life — a contract with Oklahoma City to drill on leases at Will Rogers World Airport. Brewer could have kept on going. It was the early 1980s and fuel prices were supposed to continue climbing without end. But he sold his interests, bought some rigs to work over existing oil wells and continued to prosper after the oil bust hit in 1983.
Reflections on the businessmanJim Brewer's classmates at Capitol Hill High School included several future power players, including the late city councilman Jim Scott, developers David Yost and J.W. Mashburn and attorney Harry Merson. Merson, who was student president at Capitol Hill, said Brewer was not a standout in social circles at the school. "He worked, and he wasn't involved in any of the school activities,” Merson said. "I just can't remember him being involved.” He suspects Brewer had it "worse off” than other students, which at the time consisted of only whites and American Indians (the school was integrated) who were children of working-class families. "The parents were typically government workers — firemen, police, Tinker Field, Will Rogers World Airport,” Merson said. It was Scott who declared Brewer the "mayor of Bricktown” during a council meeting in the early 1990s.