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From Our Vault: McVey Avenue named in honor of one of area's first firefighters

'Red' McVey volunteered in 1911 and served until his death in 1960


SUBMITTED PHOTO - Lake Oswego firefighters pose in front of City Hall circa 1946. That's Gene Vinson seated in the fire engine. In the back row (from left): Earl Hughes, Bill Daniels, Verle Gump and Bill Ravenaugh. In the front row (from left): Jack Baker, George Rogers Jr., Hueston Reynolds, Joe Nemec, Arthur Red McVey, Neil Cooper, Dick Goodrich, Al Bean, Bill Asplundh, L.S. McKay and Bill Knowles.  SUBMITTED PHOTO - Firefighters Arthur Red McVey and Joe Nemec sit in a fire engine for a photo taken around 1946.Arthur “Red” McVey played many roles in Lake Oswego, including janitor, power-plant construction worker, citizen advocate and preservationist. But his first love was fighting fires.

McVey became a volunteer firefighter in 1911 and remained active in the Oswego Volunteer Fire Department — where he not only fought fires but also served as secretary-treasurer — until his death in 1960 at age 83.

Serving with McVey in that original group of volunteers were George Prosser, George Miller, Edgar Davidson and William Cook. Earl Hughes, Don Farmer, Bob Montgomery, and Rocky DeBellis also served with McVey as firefighters, but they weren’t part of the original quintet.

During those first few years, the original five were no more than a bucket brigade that manned equipment consisting of 12 leather buckets, two axes and two 24-foot wooden ladders. The equipment was hung on poles at Second Avenue and A Street.

DeBellis said “Red” (a nickname inspired by his flaming red hair) was instrumental in getting the first ambulance for Oswego. He was inspired to start a fundraising drive to purchase the ambulance, DeBellis said of his longtime friend, when G.E. Chaney suffered a heart attack at Al Hughes’s service station and it took an ambulance “an hour and a half” to arrive from Portland.

McVey managed to raise $1,000 at the annual Fireman’s Ball.

The first ambulance purchased was a Ford panel truck, which was later traded in for a Cadillac ambulance. The first piece of firefighting equipment that was self-contained and on wheels was a prohibition-confiscated, unclaimed Studebaker sedan, which the volunteer firefighters bought from the city for $1. They converted it into a truck for $555.

At a City Council meeting on Feb. 8, 1952, then-Mayor Charles Needham declared an official change in street names to honor McVey. The road known as “Old Country Road,” which led from Oak Street (in what was then known as New Town) west over the bridge and past the dam to State Street, became McVey Avenue.

“From Our Vault” is written by Nancy Dunis for the Oswego Heritage Council, using materials she’s found in the council’s archives and her own research; look for it on the third Thursday of every month. Have something you’d like to add to the vault? Leave a message for Dunis at 503-635-6373 or email her at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..