Last week’s issue of the News Letter Journal covered the early heydays of the historic Dogie Theatre, ending with the widowed Esther “Shorty” Brazell Cleveland selling the theater — located in block 7, lots 17 and 18 — to the Black Hills Amusement Co. in 1950. Black Hills Amusement began in 1924 and acquired theaters in Rapid City, Lead, Hot Springs, Newcastle, and Chadron.
Leonard Cash shared a bit of history regarding Cleveland’s influence on local theaters. A brochure made to honor the 50th anniversary of the Dogie Theatre included information on Cleveland, stating that she was born on May 27, 1896, in Iowa. Years later, she moved with her family to Wind Cave National Park in South Dakota, where she became the first female park ranger in the National Park Service. Her father was a superintendent of Wind Cave National Park, a position that was then passed down to her brother, according to the National Park Service website.
Cleveland then became a teacher and taught in rural schools until she married Ora S. Cleveland and moved to Newcastle in the early 1930s. Cleveland was known to most locals as “Shorty.” She and her husband became owners of the Castle Theatre, then located in block 10, lot 11.