The following two example were taken from F2F course workbook with answers included but there is no reasoning in the workbook. In both of them, I feel the past simple and the past continuous are possible, but the workbook chooses one tense only. By the way, one example has past simple while the other has the past continuous.
In your opinion what is the answer to each one and most importantly tell why you chose one tense over the other?
Note that there are two action one could be progressing and the other is short that interrupts the progression or just happen at a point during the progression of the other. If this is the case then non-short action would be the continuous.
The situation might not be as described above. It could be two complete actions (events) that could be described as one follows another like in narrative mode. This would suit the past simple. I don't know if this is true but in the past simple sometimes there is a cause-effect relationship between the two events. I know that in past perfect you can use past simple for the two events if the order is clear esp. with after/before. With for/because the order is clear but you bump into the possibility of using the continuous tense if you could interpret one action as continuous not as a completed event.
In 1959, a teacher threw a 16-year-old Jimi Hendrix out of school because he (held/was holding) the hand of a white girl in his class.
Fans (queued/were queuing) overnight at a Hollywood music shop for the chance to get Lady Gaga's autograph. While they were waiting, Gaga saw their tweets. She immediately ordered 80 takeaway pizzas and sent them to her fans in case they were hungry.
Update: Adding more context to Gaga's text after reading DT's comments below. Hope it might help get better guess. As for the first text that is all the context there is. Note that Gaga's text doesn't start with a point in time as compared to the first one, i.e. 1959. This is in case it might help.