In 1956 Jim Copeland, at the age of 18, married his child bride Saundra age 14. The two of them took up a very new sport at the time - scuba diving.
In 1957, they started a local dive club called the "Pescadores Dive Club". Texas only had two dive shops at the time, “Village Sporting Goods” in Houston and “Dallas Meyer Co.” in Dallas. The only way to get a tank filled was to take it to a local construction company, “Beck and Sons” and it took about two hours to get a scuba cylinder filled with a small compressor.
Jim set up a training program for his friends to learn how to dive. At the time no certification agencies had been established so Jim sent a training outline to “The Los Angles County Board of Park and Recreation”(they had a scuba training program) to be approved. He then began issuing his own card "Coastal School of Scuba Diving" certification card.
Saundra gave birth to their first born son later that year. In 1958, Jim and Saundra purchased an Ingersoll-Rand #3321 bare compressor and built a trailer mounted scuba filling station, and began selling air and scuba equipment from their home. Jim still worked for the highway dept., which left Saundra behind to answer the door at all hours for divers wanting equipment while caring for the baby.
In 1959, baby no. 2 came along (that's me) and by 1960, the Y.M.C.A. became the first national organization certifying scuba diving training. The very first certification course by the Y.M.C.A. was held in Chicago and the second in Dallas. Jim and one other diver were certified to teach instructors at that Dallas course.
Then baby no. 3 came along and the dive shop moved from their home to a retail location at Six Points. This was the same year N.A.S.D.S. certification was established, later to be merged with the certification agency S.S.I.
While the dive shop relocated from home to a retail shopping center, Copeland nursery also had to relocate from home to the dive shop as well. The front counter had a very large deep drawer which when left open made a very comfortable crib. Saundra took care of 3 kids while Jim worked for the highway dept on the ‘graveyard shift’ from 11pm to 7am , ran the store in the afternoon and taught scuba lessons in the evenings and on weekends.
Copeland’s then became Corpus Christi’s first ‘Surf Shop’, started making ‘Copeland Surfboards’, set up ‘rental surfboard trailers’ on the gulf beaches and opened a second location in Port Aransas.
In 1963, baby no. 4 was born and soon after Jim quit the highway department. Copeland's moved from the Six Points location to Padre Island Drive in 1970, just weeks before Hurricane Celia hit, completely flattening both businesses on each side of Copeland's but left us completely intact. I am sure there were many guardian angles working that day. One of the businesses that Hurricane Celia leveled was a plumbing company. Another fatality of Hurricane Celia, the surfboard plant was completely leveled by the hurricane. The plant was never rebuilt and Copeland boards were no longer manufactured, the Port Aransas location was also destroyed.
1970 was also the year snow skiing was introduced to Corpus Christi by Copeland's. The wooden foundation of the plumbing company was raised on one end to create a ski slope for training called Mount Padre, later to be torn down in 1997.
In the early 70’s Jim bought a 39 passenger Greyhound Bus. The bus ran dive trips in Texas, one trip to Crystal River in Florida to swim with the manatees, many trips to Media Luna Springs in the Mexican mountains, many weekend skiing trips to Ruidoso,New Mexico and one ski trip to Purgatory, Colorado.
In 1991 Jim purchased an 85' dive boat, The Adventurer. This was not Saundra's idea however and the boat sold 9 years later in 2000 after an ad ran in the paper stating - "Boat for sale due to illness…my wife is sick of it."
Today, two of the four children are still working in the shop (myself and Debbie). Jim still dives and trains instructors. It's now over half a century, Copeland's and the marriage of Jim and Saundra are still going strong.
Copeland's is celebrating over 60 years in business and stands to be "Texas' Oldest Dive Shop."
Copeland's sincerely Thanks You for supporting us - Your local Dive & Ski Shop.
-History written by Denise Copeland-