BOSTON -- President Reagan took a first-hand look Wednesday at the high technology industry he called a 'vast frontier of opportunity' in his State of the Union speech, and attracted up to 2,000 booing protesters along the way.
Reagan visited a computer assembly plant in the predominantly black Roxbury section and spoke to industry leaders in suburban Bedford during a visit that included a brief, unscheduled stop to shake hands with patrons at a traditional Democratic pub in the Dorchester section.
'A lot of people have mixed feelings,' said Don Mumford, 28, of Boston. 'It's not every day that a president comes to Roxbury. Unfortunately, he doesn't see the part he should.'
Reagan's first stop was the Digital Equipment Corp.'s assembly plant, where most of the demonstrators gathered.
From there, a heavily guarded motorcade whisked Reagan to the Opportunities Industrialization Center, where he spent about 20 minutes. Two doors away is a burned out storefront littered with old tires and broken glass.
'Most people feel honored he came and picked our center,' said Melvin Seegars, 28, of Boston, a computer programming trainee who says placement prospects are 'practically nil.'
Reagan stopped briefly to answer questions from reporters about the public-private job training program he promoted in his address.
'This is what we meant last night and what I was talking about - using the federal funds in collaboration with the private sector, with the community, and all, and what our job-training program is all about,' Reagan said.
About 300 people outside, mostly curious bystanders with a sprinkling a sign-carrying protesters, milled behind police lines reinforced with rooftop surveillance. They burst into boos and jeers when the motorcade sped past.
'It's an insult for him to come here,' said Charles James, 25, a Boston firefighter who recently returned to work after a one-year layoff. 'People are struggling. None of the teenagers have jobs.'
'Our people are starving right here in Boston. People here don't know where the next meal is coming from. They have to choose between heating and eating,' said demonstrator Rick Courtney, 27, of Boston, an unemployed father of four.
The motorcade then made a short detour to the Erie Pub, a traditional gathering place for Democratic politicians, where Reagan shook hands and chatted with a radio talk-show host who called the bar.
'I thought it was a joke,' said one man as he watched the president walk down the bar shaking hands. 'I was next door at the American Legion hall and they told me the president was coming and I thought I was the fool of the week.'