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When Ronald Reagan Campaigned in Endicott

Presidents rarely show up in Broome County. But Ronald Reagan visited the Binghamton area 28 years ago this week.

Reagan made a campaign trip to Endicott on September 12, 1984.

Alex Wong/Getty Images

The president toured the IBM manufacturing complex on North Street.

Big Blue still employed thousands of people at its birthplace. Reagan toured a small museum that featured the highlights of technology developed and manufactured in Endicott.

After the stop at IBM, the president traveled a few blocks south to Union-Endicott High School.

Reagan was greeted by an enthusiastic crowd of more than 20,000 people who had waited hours in Ty Cobb Stadium for his arrival.

The president amused the crowd with his assertion the pilot of Air Force One may have strayed a bit off course. Reagan said the pilot claimed he was having some trouble finding Broome County. The president said: “I told him just to radio down and ask a simple question… Which way EJ?”
That’s said to have been the question often posed by job-seeking immigrants who wanted directions to the once-mighty Endicott Johnson Shoe Company.

After the applause died down, the president said “It’s good to be in Endicott, the very center of your beautiful Valley of Opportunity.”

Reagan provoked some laughter when he spoke warmly of the city of “Bingaman” in his speech, which was written by Vestal High School graduate Peter Robinson.

The president spoke for 22 minutes. Then hundreds of red, white and blue balloons were sent into the air to drift over the Susquehanna River into Vestal.

A chorus of high school students sang “God Bless the USA.”

During the song, one person in the crowd who was not a Reagan supporter hoisted a neon orange sign with the message: “You haven’t deceived all of us, Ron.”

The Union-Endicott tiger mascot then embraced the president and presented him with a black-and-orange school jacket featuring “REAGAN” and the number 1 on the back.

The high school football team captain followed that with the gift of a t-shirt with the words “THE GIPPER” on the back.

Reagan then left the stadium for the ride back to Edwin Link Field in the town of Maine.

A few months later, Reagan defeated Walter Mondale in New York and 48 other states, easily winning a second term.

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