Jim Filson has always loved the water and teaching. The 1942 Altoona High School graduate found a way to combine both of them in a lengthy career.
Filson, 86, taught for 25 years at Huntingdon Area Senior High School after getting a bachelor's degree in biological science and a master's degree in education from Penn State University.
In 1946, with an initial investment of $500 for the purchase of land and four used rowboats, the Altoona native opened Jim's Anchorage on Raystown Lake.
(Mirror photo by J.D. Cavrich)
Jim Filson stands at his Seven Points Marina at Raystown Lake in Hesston on Wednesday. Seven Points Marina received the Large Marina of the Year Award for 2010 by Marina Dock Age Magazine.
"To get into the marine business, I needed a job where I had the summer off," Filson said. "My teaching salary subsidized building the marina."
The first Jim's Anchorage consisted of one small, 15-by-25-foot wood building, a steep dirt launch ramp and six docks, all reached by a dusty red shale road.
By 1960, Jim's Anchorage had expanded to include a boat and motor dealership, three different areas for campers and trailers, three additional boat docking areas, a 140-slip marina, rental cottages and 35 acres of land. The original marina was about three miles north of the current marina.
At that time, the old lake was only about eight miles long with 30 miles of shoreline. However, in 1970, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers purchased the original marina in order to build a larger reservoir called Raystown Lake - the largest inland lake in Pennsylvania with 118 miles of shoreline.
"The old site is now 120 feet under water," Filson said.
The news was difficult for Filson and his family, which has run the business since its inception.
"It was like your whole life was ripped out from under you," Filson said.
"The government said we are going to take your dream away," said Steve Prosser, captain of the Princess tour boat. "[Filson] could have turned bitter, but he turned resolute and thought, 'How can I get back on the water?'"
In the meantime, Jim's Anchorage was moved to a nearby site in a barn where Filson could still provide service and sales, but he had no marina. Prosser said.
It remains operational today, run by Jim's son B.J. Filson, his wife, Ellen, and their children Ben and Melissa.
Jim Filson didn't give up and became the successful bidder to construct the new Seven Points Marina at the new Raystown Lake.
"I was elated. Then we had to start building," Filson said. "We started in 1976 and we were operational that summer, but had to work out of a construction trailer. It gave you a great feeling to get back in business."
After 25 years, Filson retired from teaching to devote full time to his business ventures.
"He quit teaching in the classroom but never quit teaching in business. He was a constant teacher on the marina," said daughter Pauline Filson Hetrick, general manager. "He has taught, taught, taught."
Today, Seven Points Marina has 661 docks that are rented seasonally, 20 transient docks and 265 rack or dry storage docks. In addition there are 19 houseboats, nine pontoons and six utility boats that are available for rent daily. A restaurant and store are also on the property as well as the largest breakwater on the lake.
"We can accommodate a total of 946 boats," Hetrick said. "We have a waiting list of about 250 people for dock space."
Seven Points Marina received a special honor early this year when it was selected to receive the Large Marina of the Year Award for 2010 by Marina Dock Age Magazine, the premier voice of the marina industry.
"Seven Points Marina has a rich tradition on Lake Raystown, beginning as the first marina on the lake in 1946. Still family-owned nearly 65 years later, the marina has spent years serving customers perfecting the practices of good hospitality," Anna Townshend, magazine spokeswoman, said. "The marina is an integral part of the community as both a place of social gathering and an economic engine for the local tourism industry."
The award was very important to Filson.
"Pam (Filson Prosser, sales manager and marketing director) and I know this had been one thing on Dad's bucket list that he wanted to attain. We worked together and submitted the application," Hetrick said. "It was a great honor for dad to be recognized by his peers. It was always a goal in the back of his mind. It was well worth the wait."
"I was elated with it. It was an unbelievable event," said the low-key, down-to-earth Filson.
Matt Price, executive director of the Huntingdon County Visitors Bureau, said Filson and his family almost are the tourism industry in Huntingdon County. "His history with the current lake and the old dam have put him at the center of the activities that are Raystown Lake. His vision from the original Jim's Anchorage on the old dam to Seven Points Marina has led the way to Raystown Lake being the tourism destination that it is," Price said.
The economy hasn't had a significant impact on Seven Points Marina. Hetrick said there has been a steady increase in business over the last six years.
"We are working with Dad to see his goals accomplished today. Our goal is to fulfill the mission of what he had for this place," Pam Prosser said. "The pressure is on to maintain what Dad laid the foundation for."
Filson said hard work has been the key to success.
"The key is working and just staying ahead of things; working seven days a week and satisfying the demands of the customers," Filson said.
He remains active in the business with no plans to retire.
"I loved working on the docks but age caught up with me," Filson said. "When you retire, you die."
Mirror Staff Writer Walt Frank is at 946-7467.