A vehicle is welded by robot arms as it goes through the assembly line at the General Motors Lansing Delta Township Assembly Plant March 10, 2010 in Lansing, Mich. - 

The Midwest was once the industrial heartland of America -- in many towns, local businesses and high schools were completely integrated into the industrial life of the region.

In his new book, “Nothin’ But Blue Skies: The heyday, Hard Times, and Hopes of America’s Industrial Heartland," author Edward McClelland explains how his high school in Lansing, Mich., represented the embodiment of industrial culture of Michigan.

“People could walk across the street and just get a job right out of high school,” said McClelland.

McClelland said a key moment in the decline of American manufacturing was during the Arab Oil Embargo, when gas prices skyrocketed.

“People wanted to buy smaller cars.  American auto companies didn’t want to make small cars and when they did they made terrible small cars. The Pinto, the Vega, they made my first car, the Chevette," said McClelland.

McClelland said the love people have for their old cars is a reflection of how iconic American manufacturing was during that time period.

Marketplace host Kai Ryssdal, above, drives his 1972 Oldsmobile Cutlass 442 convertible

“Manufacturing was so much of the identity and economy of these towns. Even if you can replace those jobs, you can’t replace them with middle class jobs,” said McClelland.

“When I was starting to look for a job in the early '90s and washaving a difficult time, I was fascinated by these factory veterans from the '50s and '60s who got right out of high school and within a year had enough money to buy a house,” said McClelland.

Follow Kai Ryssdal at @kairyssdal