I first moved to Tulsa from El Paso, Tx. in the summer of 1994. It was hot, humid and I wasn't sure how I felt about my new city yet. My mother had sent my brother and I to come live with my Father because we were in need of discipline. Well, I was.
My first impression of Tulsa was not that of a hustling, bustling, vibrant city. On the contrary, I couldn't figure what had I done to deserve to be sent to this middle of nowhere, last cow on the left, end of the road haven with nothing to do, town. It was definitely a culture shock.
My father had served in the Marines and had moved to Tulsa to get his A&P license from Spartan School of Aeronautics. He worked his butt off to provide for his boys. Working at Webco in Sand Springs and at the old Wal-mart that was by the traffic circle on Admiral, all the while going to school. He certainly set the tone for initiative in the household.
I was angry as a kid. I didn't want to be here. I hated it. I didn't think Tulsa had anything to offer. I felt like everything was backwards here. I didn't appreciate the fact our neighborhood didn't have sidewalks. Nope. Asphalt to grass, seamlessly. I felt like everything was 10 years behind. I didn't think I got a fair deal. I hated that my mom sent me here. I hated that I didn't have any cousins here. I hated the fact that I wasn't where I wanted to be, which was in Texas. To cope, I hung out with like-minded people. I wasted time. I thought hanging with the homies was “life”. It seemed to help, even though all I probably did was complain.
1998 was my senior year. I wanted change. I had caused so much trouble and threw away the first three years of high school academically that I told myself, I am going to do whatever it takes to graduate. I'm not sure of the exact moment when I decided that I wanted “better”, but it was around this time. I started taking notice of my surroundings. Seeing my peers with smiles on their faces loving life. Dressed like young men. Not in oversized jerseys and Dickies. Most had a decent vehicle to drive. My first assumption was rich parents and spoiled kids, but once I actually stepped out of my comfort zone and started talking to them, I quickly learned that was not the only case. A lot of my peers were working jobs after school. It was a cool thing! It was not a bad thing! You can start your journey of independence at 16, God Bless America!
My perception on life had completely changed at 18 years of age. I was out of high school and I wanted “better”. I worked two full time jobs without having my own car. I learned the bus routes and I would read the book that changed my life, Think and Grow Rich by Napoleon Hill. I would have to wake up at 5:30am to catch the bus from 66th and Peoria at 6 so that I could make it to work at 61st and 129th by 7am. I would work at the steel shop from 7-3:30 then race to catch the bus at 4 so that I could make it to the pawn shop on the corner of 61st and Peoria by 5. I would finish my night closing at 9 p.m., then walk home. I did this for about a year. It was tough but the amount of money I was making and saving due to not having time to hang out was quickly adding up. I bought a new car that year. A 1998 grand am GT. I still remember the feeling of driving to work that Monday morning with the windows down and my stereo blasting Tupac’s “Picture Me Rollin”. That day is still one of my favorite days. The feeling of grinding day in and day out and accomplishing a goal. My goal was to buy myself a car. I didn't know what kind of car I wanted. I left that up to the Lord. I just did my part by staying faithful and consistent. God did his part by providing the blessing.
A lot has happened in my life since that day. I own Big Daddy's Glass Co., Big Daddy's Detail Co., Big Daddy's Carpet Co. and my newest venture, Big Daddy's Realty Co. I changed my perception and just like that, the city that I thought I hated, embraced me with open arms. Tulsa has changed a lot too. We're rated as one of the best cities in which to start a business. Tulsa’s love for the small business owner shows from all of the support we have earned. Competing against corporate giants is not easy in any industry, but this statement is especially true in the automotive sector. Yet, here we are. Supplying quality Autoglass to Tulsa’s finest dealerships, body shops, and of course our loyal customer base. I think, if you want good things to happen, you must learn to be resilient. It doesn't matter your age, color, race, or gender. I am a firm believer in hard work. It builds grit. I believe in quality. News flash, you will make mistakes, but you must learn from them and spare no expense to make it right. Consistency and laser like focus on your goals are also key.
With this being written, I'd like to say, once again, Thank You Tulsa for giving this kid a shot. Thank you for your support and thank you for embracing me as one of your own. I am an Okie.
Lots of love,
Gabriel J. Bernal