The Marine Corps Birthday Party at Cookie’s Tavern

-Maria Merlino

Oregon Avenue, from 10th Street to 12th Street, was wall-to-wall with uniforms, muftis and black leather jackets as Cookie’s Tavern once again hosted The Marine Corps Birthday Party.

It was 244 years ago, on November 10th 1775, that University of Pennsylvania educated Captain Samuel Nicholas formed two battalions of Continental Marines at the Tun Tavern as navel infantry. The original Tun Tavern, located between Walnut Street and Locust Street by the Delaware River, has been swallowed by the water but its memory lives on in the minds of every Marine past, present and future.

The first Marine Birthday was celebrated in 1923 at Fort Mifflin, but that was all. Then, just a few years out of the Marine Corps, James “Daddy Wags” Wagner sat in his Uncle  Bill “Cookie” Cook’s bar and morosely drank a beer. It was November 10th 1969. His cousin walked in and he joined him in a toast to the Marines.

“Let’s do this again next year,” he requested. “And tell everyone.” It went from two to 2000 people in just a few years. In 1977 Wagner bought the bar, but kept the name in honor of his uncle. He immediately and officially declared the birthday party as an annual event. After his passing, daughter Marion continued the tradition. She later sold the bar to Sal DiNubile who is dedicated to keeping the event alive.

Shouts of “Happy Birthday, Marine!” and “Semper Fi!”  filled the air this November as 3000 Marines converged. Since the nativity of the Corps began in a colonial Philadelphia bar, it is so very fitting to have this remarkable annual event take place in a South Philadelphia bar.

Marine Corps Birthday Party 2019 color guard
The Marine Corps Color Guard solemnly walks the flags before the singing of “The Star Spangled Banner”.
Marine Corps Birthday Party 2019 Tom Lamaine
Former Air Force pilot and KYW meteorologist Tom Lamaine, who has hosted the party since its inception more than three decades ago, addresses the crowd of enthusiastic Marines and their friends and family.
Marine Corps Birthday Pary 2019 Michael Grieco and Tom
Michael Grieco, his father Michael (a WWII veteran who served in the Pacific), and nephew Tom Grieco enjoy the camaraderie of the day.  
Marine Corps Birthday Party 2019 David Oh Kenneth Janine Brach
Republican Councilman David Oh is greeted by Marine Scout Sniper Kenneth Brach and his wife Janine.
Marine Corps Birthday Party 2019 David Oh DiNubile
Having served in the 82nd Airborne, Republican Councilman David Oh is happy to be part of the Marine Corps Birthday Party. Sal DiNubile, co-owner of Cookie’s Tavern where the party is held every November 10th, continued the tradition after Marion Wagner, daughter of the Jimmy “Daddy Wags” Wager, sold the property.
Marine Corps Birthday Pary 2019 Mel Meszaros and Bill Giulian
Marine Mel Meszaros, who keeps the spirit of the flag raising at Mt. Suribachi at Imo Jima, and Marine Bill Giuliani, who was a 1st Sargent during the Korean War.


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