There was a time not too long ago when downtown Erie was entirely different.  Stores were open late on Fridays.  Young people would cruise State Street and conduct what were called “Chinese Fire Drills” at red lights.   Those days are gone.  But, thanks to a local artist, there is a way to go back in time and see Erie as it was in the 1960s.

Kathie Kania loves to paint scenes of Erie.  She paints the city as it looked while she was growing up.  She used to paint portraits, but those paintings did not give her much joy as an artist.   So, about eight years ago, she decided to go back to a wonderful time in her life. She painted a scene from those years.  Her first new painting was about cruising downtown Erie...or in other words...Buggin' State Street.

"So, I did this one picture, “Buggin' State” and it was just so refreshing and people liked it,” remembers Kathie. “Someone bought it immediately and I thought, 'Well, this could be a good thing."  

More oil paintings of Buggin' State Street followed.  The paintings not only brought out the fun of those times, but also brought out the liveliness and brightness of downtown Erie in the 60s.  Who can remember the giant Koehler Beer billboard on State Street that actually showed a beer being poured into a glass?  State Street was lined with restaurants, taverns, and shops that were quite popular in decades past.  Kathie has brought most of them back to life.  Buggin' State Street was a wonderful part of growing up in the 1960s.  While viewing Kathie’s paintings, you can almost smell the peanuts. the pizza, and the water underneath the Public Dock.

"It was fun.  Everybody had their windows open and you could hear the radio, the music.  They were playing the same songs and it was wonderful,” says Kathie.  

Want to go back in time?  Kathie painted a classic McDonald's restaurant, the one that was located at Franklin Avenue. How about Jim and Lee's Restaurant on 26th and State?  The building is now occupied by Braendel Painting. Kathie painted the Boston Store as it looked in its prime. She painted someone called ‘Betty the Bird Girl.’ So far, Kathie has painted 61 works of art about nostalgic Erie. They are showcased at the City Gallery on State Street. Manager Steve Trohoske loves the collection for many reasons.

"One of them is nostalgia.  It brings back a memory of growing up,” he says.   

Kathie has been painting since high school.  She is truly happy these days to be able to show young people the scenes of Erie’s past.  And she's proud to share her memories with those who also loved to cruise the city.

Kathie is 75 years old and is still going strong with her painting.  Her works can be seen at the City Gallery at 1503 State Street Friday from 7 to 10 p.m.  Originals and prints can be purchased at the gallery. City Gallery is also open on Saturday and Sunday from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.