As a kid, I always wanted to play in sports, but I had to work at my parents’ businesses, County Appraisal and Adjustment Service, located at 3345 Webster Avenue in the Bronx, New York. My family’s business was created by my parents’, Frank and Ruth Nicodemus.
The nature of the business was insurance company appraisals, investigation and accident investigations. County Auto Body was a division of County Appraisal. The nature of that business was auto repairs, cars from the 1950’s and 1960’s restoration. We had 2 large accounts: Tremont Chevrolet and ARGO Buick were both located in the Bronx, New York.
My older brother Freddy Nicodemus and I were raised in a body shop started by my parents back in the 1930’s repairing Cadillac’s, Buick’s, Chevrolet, Plymouth and Ford.
When I was 8 and Freddy was 13, the business was known as Bronx County Collision on Boston Post Road (US1) Bronx, New York.
At 8 years old my earliest memory is sweeping up the lead filings that were used for auto body repair. We had no fiberglass at that time; cars were repaired by sheet metal panels being removed and straightened and repaired using lead, which was in the form of 12” lead bars, consisting of 70% lead and 30% tin. The lead was melted onto the panel with the aid of a torch then filed into shape. Those filings would fall to the floor and I swept them up and put them into a smelting pot where it was melted down back to a liquid and then poured into a lead mold to be used by the body men the following day.
In the late 1950’s my father allowed me to have a larger role in the shop. In 1962 I was painting my own car, a 1957 Ford Thunderbird Convertible. My very first car was a 1956 Ford 4 door sedan.
I worked full time at County after graduating St. Michael’s Academy in 1962. I went onto to Hunter College, majoring in Business, in the Bronx 3 nights per week and worked full time at County. I dropped out of Hunter College after 1 year and enrolled in the College of Insurance located at 110 Williams Street, New York, New York. The purpose of that was to study insurance contracts and policies and for preparation for the New York State exam to be a licensed and independent appraiser and adjuster.
My father had so many cars – he was always buying and selling – the family was always involved in buying salvaged vehicles, repairing them and selling them for retail.
While still working full time at County Auto Body, I took and passed the appraiser and adjuster exam and became a licensed appraiser.
Repairing new cars damaged in transport and also was an authorized repair shop for Statewide Insurance Company and General Accident Insurance Company. During those years it was not considered to be a conflict of interest, appraising, writing and repairing damaged vehicles.
In restoring the cars back then I disassembled all damaged parts and replaced with new; removed dents; straightened, repaired and finished dents.
My older brother Freddy Nicodemus was in charge of the towing service, County Towing – Bronx, New York. Freddy later went on to open up his own business branching out in Yonkers, New York, opening County Commercial and Towing in the 1960’s, with one truck that emerged into 15 trucks heavy duty equipment, serving both local towns and New York State. He has a full scale restoration facility is a selected repair shop of GEICO and several other insurance companies.
I appraised and settled losses of several major insurance companies – GEICO, Statewide, Traveler’s, General Accident, INA, to name a few.
My father, Frank Nicodemus, in addition to all of his businesses, turned his photographic talents into the commercial industry, whereby insurance companies used his photographic talent to freeze the facts, whether it be an auto accident, slip and fall case or personal injury. His photographs were used for evidence and testimony in court.
My mother, Ruth Nicodemus, was in charge of the appraisal office and ordering parts for the repair shop and oversaw all of the daily operations of County Towing, County Appraisal and County Auto & Universal Commercial Photography ran smoothly.