A wall of the Holy Cross cemetery abutted my backyard on E. 42nd St. near Snyder Ave. We lived on a dead end with yet another wall of Holy Cross at the end of the block, which was our stickball backstop.
Yeah, we played “Chestnuts” all the time. Heck, I’ve still got a 10,068 Killer in my freezer from back in the 1960’s.
Now, you didn’t want a fresh chestnut, it needed to be somewhat hardened from laying around on the ground for a while. You poked a hole in it with a long carpenter’s nail. Then you took your long shoelace and knotted one end and slipped it thru to anchor the chestnut. The defender held their chestnut straight down on the long string and the offender wrapped their string around their fingers with enough left to strike held through the index and middle fingers.
No laquering allowed!!!
From reading all the posts here, it seems like this game has it’s roots in antiquity.