Police chief Robert Hendry doesn’t chase many bank robbers. “We don’t have any banks,” explains the laconic 20-year-old lawman, in all probability the country’s youngest chief of police. Indeed, keeping the peace in Laurel Hill, Fla. (pop. 700) hardly requires the services of Dirty Harry. About the worst crime in town, aside from drunks bothering shoppers at the local market, is motorists exceeding the 45 mph speed limit. Even then, Hendry hangs loose. “I let them go up to 60,” he says. “I don’t want to be known as a speed trap.”
The son of a policeman, Hendry dropped out of high school in Pensacola at 16 when “my dad got hurt in a prison riot.” Hendry got a job as a police dispatcher. Last year, having obtained his equivalency degree, he applied for the Laurel Hill job (“I decided it was just as good to start at the top”). Since being chosen by the city council over seven other applicants, Hendry has settled into a tiny office he shares with the fire chief. He recently hired a deputy, a man three years his senior. “I won’t have to worry now if I get sick,” he says.
So far his age hasn’t been a problem for Hendry, who lives in a trailer with his cat, Baby. Still, he hit a snag recently while trying to buy refills for the .357 Magnum he totes: The shopkeeper declined to sell bullets to the underage police chief. Admits Hendry: “I had to get my dad to buy them.”
Earning pin money as a keypunch operator in the summer of 1978, Susan Dunn, now 32, realized she was lousy at the job. “I’m not meant to do productive labor,” she decided. “I’ll be an opera singer.” In truth, it was not a new idea. While earning a graduate degree in vocal music at Indiana University, Dunn had failed four years in a row to catch on in the Metropolitan Opera’s regional auditions. But the keypunch fiasco later impelled her to ask her former teacher, John Wustman, to coach her personally. Recognizing “a world-class voice” in the rough, Wustman, who is Luciano Pavarotti’s accompanist, agreed. Within a few years Dunn had succeeded in the Met audition and virtually every other major vocal competition in the U.S. as well. “Susan Dunn is the real thing,” says Pavarotti, who will star with her in Florence next June.
The daughter of a forklift-truck operator and a housewife, Dunn grew up in Bauxite, Ark. and made her singing debut at age 5 at the local Methodist Bible school. She’s still a down-home diva. Last April she was asked to make her debut at Milan’s famed La Scala two nights earlier than planned. She agreed, but fretfully. Butterflies? No. Mom was flying in from Arkansas for the premiere. Worried Dunn, “She’ll kill me if she misses my first night.”