Sunday, October 14, 2018 / 10 miles /
Ever see Charlie Chaplin in “The Tramp”? It was filmed in the little town of Niles, California in 1915. Niles was Hollywood before there was Hollywood thanks to Essanay Film Manufacturing Company opening an operation where the weather was more favorable than Chicago. Starting in 1912 lots of the Broncho BIlly westerns were filmed here also, starring the A of Essanay, Gilbert Anderson, who is considered the first big star of westerns. Essanay only lasted 10 years but launched film or film-related careers of other future stars such as Gloria Swanson, Wallace Beery, and even Louella Parsons, who sold them a screenplay before her gossip career began.
Niles is now incorporated into the city of Fremont, but it still has its own distinct downtown. There are lots of nice little houses and cottages there that are getting fixed up. There’s a restored railroad that has short rides. There is a silent film museum and assorted Broncho Billy and Chaplin doodads around town. The wife and I have gone there for a Sunday drive many times. By bike you can get there easily on the Alameda Creek Regional Trail.
My Beautiful Wife (MBW) and I drove across San Francisco Bay to Coyote Hills Regional Park where she could do some fall migration birding while I rode the Alameda Creek Trail the 10 or so miles to Niles.
I stopped at the Niles Community Park to figure out a place to meet MBW and where coffeeneuring can officially occur. I found Devout Coffee on Niles Blvd. Right down the street from the silent movie museum but hmmm right next door to the biker bar. MBW and I exchanged texts and I wandered around town on my way to the coffee house.
The coffee shop was so different from what I was expecting. Very sleek. And full of Silicon Valley types although a group of coffee-swilling bikers were hanging out in the back. We could only get our espresso drinks made in a certain way, with double shots. We didn’t want even decaf coffee that strong. I couldn’t understand the process that made them do it their special way despite the explanation. Turned out to be good though, and good pastries that were not your Costco specials.
Edit: I’ve been falling down a rabbit hole following more about Chaplin and Broncho Billy and silent films. This was interesting, about the moment at the end of The Tramp that the Tramp became The Tramp, and where it was filmed in Niles Canyon: https://www.theatlantic.com/technology/archive/2014/02/the-moment-in-space-and-time-when-charlie-chaplin-became-the-tramp/283716/