By Bridget Peery
Janice Dungee sat below the high counter of the Huntington Square Coin-Op Laundry in Mission Hill, a neighborhood she has lived in since “the Blizzard of ‘78.”
Many faces come through the ground-level laundromat, and that is Dungee’s favorite part of her job. She describes herself as “the mother on the corner of Huntington Ave.” Dungee loves the family-oriented community of Mission Hill.
Some residents resent the rising student population, Dungee explained, but she smiled as she talked about the students that she has met.
“I find, at my age, students are very helpful to me living here. I’ve met a lot of caring students,” she said. She worries, however, about what she sees as Mission Hill’s biggest challenge: rising rents. She fears that this, and commercialization of the area, will push all of the “little people”out of the community.
The heat from dryers makes the small room feel cozy and tucked away. The machines in the room whine and rattle, loud enough so that you can barely hear the TV.
In fact, you can’t hear much of anything. That is why, on one afternoon in January 2009, Dungee was shocked when someone ran in to tell her that a firetruck had crashed into the first floor of a high-rise complex just across the street. She rushed outside to see what happened. The brakes on an aging firetruck had failed on its way down the hill. A veteran firefighter – Lt. Kevin M. Kelley, who was riding passenger – was killed on impact.
“There’s a plaque there now,” Janice said. “I’ll never, ever forget that day. He said, ‘The firetruck is in the wall, Janice.’ That’s what I remember the most, not even the blizzard.”