Philly councilman’s wild, wild, Wildwood days

    So here I am in Wildwood Crest, enjoying my morning coffee and flipping through the most recent edition of the Five Mile Sun-By-The-Sea, a local island paper now celebrating its 10th year of publication. There, on page 99, was a familiar face, sort of. 

    I’ll admit I didn’t recognize him with that awesome head of hair, but the caption confirms it is Philadelphia First District Councilman Mark Squilla rocking the red swimming trunks of a lifeguard: 

    “Joe Rullo (owner of SHOOBIES Good Eats) and Mark Squilla (Phila. Councilman) at their summer job at Wet n’ Wild Waterslide on Morey’s Pier 1984.” 

    Knowing how many Philly folks spend their summer in the Wildwoods, I figured I wasn’t going to be the first person to ring Squilla up to rib him about his totally tubular ’80s look. Of course, I did it anyway.

    “Yes, it’s me and Joe Rullo,” Squilla said, adding that his daughter tipped him off. “She was down there reading the paper and she called me up. She was hysterical—look at all that hair!” The gold chain-crucifix combo is a nice touch, too. But, what, no Italian horn?

    Squilla said his family vacationed every summer in Wildwood on Bennett Avenue, and as he got older, he stayed down for the whole season to work boardwalk jobs with friends. He oversaw the slides at Wet n’ Wild—then a much-smaller version of today’s Ocean Oasis on Morey’s Surfside Pier—from 1981 to 1985. 

    “It was a pretty happening place. A lot of South Philly girls used to come down there to Wildwood,” he said. 

    Speaking of girls, that savage tan (“Hey, they didn’t call me ‘Dark Mark’ for nothing,” Squilla said) and the money he saved from working all summer weren’t the only things Squilla took with him when his days as a freewheeling dude-about-the-Wildwoods ended after graduating college in 1985. He met his wife, Brigid, in a North Wildwood bar, and the rest is history.

    “I met her at Harry the Hats—that’s now Keenan’s—and took her over to Moore’s Inlet,” he said. She was down visiting some cousins and made a few more trips to the Shore that summer. They married in 1989. 

    So which is the more difficult job, keeping watch over a pool full of obnoxious teenagers or serving on City Council?

    “You know, there’s a lot of similarities,” Squilla said. “You gotta put up with a lot of people. It was good training ground for City Council.” 

    Here’s a link where you can read the latest edition of the Five Mile Sun-By-The-Sea, which is chock full of nostalgic photos and first-hand stories from longtime Wildwood residents and fans and is well worth a look. The paper takes its name and masthead design from the original lithograph of the 1910-1915 Five Mile Beach Sun, which then served Holly Beach, Angelsea and the rest of the Wildwoods from offices in the Seacrest Hotel at Oak and Pacific avenues. 


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