Santo Petruzzello is a veritable encyclopedia of information and odd “facts” about subjects and sights having to do with Mount Desert Island. He can spend over two hours talking with you and still not cover all the information he knows about the area. But for a tour guide, that’s a good thing.
“One thing I want you to be aware of — you aren’t required to laugh at any of my jokes,” says Petruzzello at the start of today’s tour. “But there is a law in the state of Maine that says you’re not allowed to throw anything at the driver.”
Oli’s Trolley tours in Bar Harbor are a unique and humorous way to see Mount Desert Island and Acadia National Park — and to learn a little bit about the history of the area, with a few tall tales thrown in for good measure. The trick is to separate the jokes from the facts.
Did you know: The most common death of beavers is to be crushed by the tree they are chewing down? The fire of 1947 on Mount Desert Island started in a cranberry bog near the town dump? A train ran to the top of Cadillac Mountain from 1883 to 1890? These are just a few of the tidbits you’ll be offered while taking an Oli’s Trolley tour ride.
“A lot of the stuff comes from people who live here,” says Petruzzello about the information he includes. Other facts and stories come from books, other tour guides, periodicals and a script of basic material to cover developed by the company.
“The first time I did the two-and-a-half hour tour, I ran out of information and wasn’t even done with the tour yet,” he says. “I didn’t know what to say. I said ‘I’m not going to get caught like that again.’”
That was a couple of years ago. Now Petruzzello studies or reads any book he can get his hands on and paces and embellishes his tours in certain spots to keep it going as long as possible. And now he knows so much that he could probably do the two-and-a-half-hour tour twice before he exhausted all the information he has, says Petruzzello.
In the mid-1980s, Oliver Parker started Oli’s Trolley with one trolley car. In 1988, Bill and Mary Sweet purchased the tour company and added three custom-built trolleys to the lineup. This fall, they’ll be adding another trolley to the fleet for their busiest time of year — the cruise ship season.
“We like to say Oli’s Trolley is a fun way to see the island,” says Denise Morgan, operations manager for the trolley company. “The open air trolleys provide great photo opportunities.”
The trolley company is a concession of Acadia National Park. That means they are regulated by the Department of the Interior.
Back on the tour, Petruzzello is pulling the big red and green trolley that looks like it came straight from San Francisco into the Cadillac Summit parking lot. The 27 passengers file out for a few minutes to explore the mountain-top.
“The most popular stop is Cadillac Mountain,” says Petruzzello. “But during stormy weather, the most popular stop is Thunder Hole. Thunder Hole becomes extremely popular when you have a little action.”
Oli’s Trolley has two different tours, an hour tour and a two-and-a-half-hour tour. The hour tour goes to the top of Cadillac Mountain and the two-and-a-half hour tour goes to Cadillac Mountain, Sieur De Mont Springs, Thunder Hole and on occasion, the Jordan Pond House.
Today Thunder Hole is a dud and Petruzzello decides to stop at the Jordan Pond House. Along the way, we hear the story of how some of the first lobstermen in the area didn’t even need boats or traps to catch their lobsters.
At the Jordan Pond House, Petruzzello points out some of the dozens of books he’s read on the area. “Steam to the Summit: The Green Mountain Railway, Bar Harbor’s Remarkable Cog Railroad,” “The Story of Acadia National Park,” “Lost Bar Harbor,” the titles pile up.
The trip back to Bar Harbor brings another story, this one about the Jordan Pond House, how it was started and about the first “rusticators” to come to the area. Like a master storyteller, Petruzzello makes history fun and interesting. It’s a job well suited for him. He loves to talk and loves working with people.
“It’s just a great job,” says Petruzzello. “Where else can you drive people around and get paid for it?”
Other tidbits you’ll learn on the trip include how George B. Dorr established Acadia National Park over 75 years ago and some background on John D. Rockefeller Jr.’s carriage roads. For more information, call Oli’s Trolley at 866-9Trolley (866-987-6553).