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.