The belching smoke stacks, the discoloured sea and the noxious smell became a way of life that was staunchly defended.
According to Burnie historian and former journalist, Kerry Pink, there were three reasons the big industries located there: the deepwater port, cheap electricity and an ocean to absorb effluent. And, in the case of APPM, the Van Diemens Land Company's vast hardwood stands at Surrey Hills.
Mr Pink, 69, who has just written a comprehensive history of Burnie for the City Council said the community considered pollution a small price to pay for job security.
But job security proved a faithless mistress.
Downsizing at APPM started in the 1980s and the autumn of 1992 saw a bitter industrial dispute that lasted three months.
In 1998 the unthinkable happened: "The Pulp" closed and 200 people lost their jobs. Paper making continues at the plant using imported pulp but many viewed the move as the beginning of the end of Burnie's industrial heartland.
The result is high unemployment: 11.4 per cent in the Mersey-Lyell region in September this year.
"There would be a lot of kids with families who see no real prospect of employment," Mr Pink said.
It is a far cry from the euphoric '50s and '60s.
"When I was going to school 60 per cent of boys, unless they had academic ambitions, would have gone to the mill," Mr Pink said.
"In those days APPM was very paternalistic. Gerald Mussen (founder) was ahead of his time in industrial relations and employee benefits. He was a trendsetter."
Employees enjoyed welfare packages, medical and dental care, hospital cover for nominal contributions, scholarship funds, marriage counselling and domiciliary care.
Mr Pink, 69, is a third- generation Burnie resident. His grandfather was a carpenter and joiner, his father a printer at The Advocate newspaper.
Leaving school at 16, Mr Pink began a career with The Advocate that lasted until five years ago.
The rhythms of community life were dictated by the pulp mill's shift whistles and its many social and sporting events.
Life was pretty laid back, according to Mr Pink. He spent a lot of time on Oakleigh Beach learning to swim. The beach has disappeared under port reclamation and is now the site of a massive woodchip pile.
"As kids we did not have entertainment provided - we had to make our own. We played a lot of sport and we all had ferrets to go rabbiting," he said.
Without its industrial base Burnie is a city looking for a purpose.
Information technology has proved an elusive dream.
The Farmers Supermarket call centre stood empty for a year before finding a tenant, Skilled Engineering, last December.
Attracting another major heavy industry has been similarly difficult.
Other industries like Dale B. Elphinstone's mining equipment manufacturing business are proving more successful.
The port has been the great success story and lifeblood of Burnie.
A push to promote Burnie as a tourist destination is bound for disappointment, Mr Pink believes.
"We've got a reputation as an industrial town to live down," he said.
"Early Burnie Councils thought when we had APPM and Tioxide we didn't need tourism.
"Now we're paying the price."