The year was 1943.
Maxine Webster, then 15 and newly-arrived in Ellensburg with her widowed mother, was petite, pretty and possessed of a ready smile and quickly found herself at home in her new community.
In her sophomore year of high school, a boy named Sam Webster caught her eye. Good-looking and good-natured, he was the same age as Maxine but two grades ahead of her because her start in school had been delayed by tuberculosis.
One day Maxine, a jitterbug fan who loved to dance, invited Sam to a tolo and before long, they were a couple, dancing at the local YWCA or at Playland, a large dance pavilion in Selah that drew packed crowds. Sam enrolled at Central after graduation only to be drafted into the Army. Three days later, the war ended. Sam was shipped off to post-war Japan to run a PX. Maxine wrote regularly “to keep his morale up.”
With Sam back home after an 18-month enlistment, the romance that had budded at tolo resumed. Sam enrolled at Central and worked in his family's business. In December 1948 he presented Maxine with a ring.
“I get to choose the month,” he told her, designating August. “You choose the day.”
Laughing, Maxine immediately suggested the first. Her mother was thrilled. It had been her own wedding day. “When I checked the calendar, it was a Monday,” Maxine says. “But I couldn't disappoint her.”
They wed on Aug. 1, 1949 at St. Andrews Catholic Church, exchanging vows that would endure 58 years until Sam's death in 2008.
Sam's family owned several businesses, among them the popular Webster's Cafe and Smokehouse, originally a candy store founded by Sam's grandfather William Webster in 1907. The Smokehouse area of the business was a place where a mostly male clientele gathered for coffee, conversation, cigars and a quick meal while sharing news of the day. When his father retired, Sam took over the Cafe and Smokehouse which closed in 1986 after nearly eight decades of operation.
While Sam ran the business, Maxine turned to running a family. It would be no small task. The couple had seven children, the first three born at the old Ellensburg General Hospital, the next two at Valley General Hospital and the sixth at Ellensburg General.
In 1964, Maxine was pregnant again. On Dec. 31, just before midnight, their youngest child - a boy they named Kent - became the fourth baby born at KVH Hospital. Opened just two days earlier, the brand new hospital was a study in modernity and “much better” than its predecessors, Maxine says.
With a dozen beds, no fewer than 11 staff members, labor rooms separated from other patients and a separate waiting room for fathers, the obstetrical wing marked a new era of obstetrical care in Ellensburg. Patient rooms, described as light, airy and comfortable, were equipped with electrically operated beds, a two-way communication system between patients and nurses, phones and TVs and pipe oxygen and suction at each bed. Three nurseries were each equipped with four bassinets plus a state-of-the-art incubator. The hospital also offered disposable, pre-packaged formula.
“I was only there 45 hours but if I remember right, there was wallpaper on some of the walls and it felt homey,” Maxine, now 86, says. “It seemed like the personnel was better and the equipment was better. It was a well-run hospital.”
“There were some in the community who liked the old hospital better,” Maxine says. “But I liked the new one. It was time.”