Sitting at his southwest Oklahoma City home, Jim Brewer admits he's in declining health. He's no longer able to drive and often is dependent on a walker and the service of a home health aide to get around. Brewer, 71, suggests his long-running act is drawing to a close — and he's ready to show what's been behind the curtain all these years. "Everybody thinks I've been rich all my life,” Brewer begins. "But I was actually born illegitimate. I didn't have any father around.” His mother, Evelyn Brewer, took care of Brewer and his four sisters by ironing clothing and sewing quilts. They lived in meager accommodations in southeast Oklahoma City. Barely scraping by, Brewer was still in elementary school when he started working odd jobs and mowing lawns to help ends meet. But at age 11, Brewer made the heartbreaking decision to leave his family after a new man had entered Evelyn Brewer's life and household. "My so-called dad, the head of the household, he had four daughters with my mother,” Brewer said. "I loved them a lot. I'd be sitting at a table, eating dinner, and he'd say, ‘Where's the rake?' Well, I didn't know. And he'd say, ‘Well, somebody should know ...'” It was at random moments like this, Brewer said, choked up with tears, recalling that he was repeatedly beaten. He fled home and moved in with his grandfather. He was a good man, Brewer said, but also strict: he required everybody in the household to get up at 5 a.m. for breakfast, no exceptions. Brewer couldn't make that hour — he was working until midnight or later at the Play More Bowling Alley at NW 4 and Broadway and then having to walk several miles to his grandfather's house at SE 28 and Central. The only way to live within his grandfather's rules and still work was to live in the chicken coop behind the house. And Brewer said he did just that.
Jim Brewer is held by his mother, Evelyn Brewer, outside his grandfather's home. PROVIDED by Jim Brewer